Nobody ever expects to shell out nearly $3,000 in a month to maintain and repair their vehicle but that’s exactly what just happened to us during October as we made our annual migration from the Rockies to the Southwest.
Putting major miles on our Dodge Ram truck is somewhat unusual for us. As a full-time RVer we don’t drive nearly as much as people assume we do. In fact, we only put about 8,000 miles on the pickup each year. That’s a lot less travel than the average suburban commuter. In fact, last summer, we didn’t drive more than 30 miles total between May and September. Our workamping job put us within 2 miles of a small town with all the essentials we needed, so between the local grocer and online shopping, we rarely had to drive anywhere.
Cutting out the daily commute is a huge cost-saver, but recently we discovered a downside of not driving your vehicle on a regular basis: when you do decide to pick up stakes and turn the key, all those little mechanical issues that quietly lurked in the rear view mirror will suddenly decide to make an appearance when the miles start adding up. Even if you’re good about regular maintenance like we are, there’s nothing like towing a fifth wheel trailer to put your vehicle’s integrity to the test.
For example, when we hit the road in October we first discovered we had two bad transmission sensors, one bad brake caliper and a worn-out rotor. A favorite mechanic in Fort Collins repaired those issues for about $1400 (ding!), but before we even left the state, our Check Engine light of doom lit up the dashboard again.
Since we were cruising through the middle of lonely Eastern Colorado, we had hoped to wait to have the truck examined by a mechanic in our destination of Midland, Texas. Unfortunately the Dodge had other ideas. While cruising down the interstate at 65 mph, we watched in horror as our voltage suddenly dropped to almost nothing. Luckily a Dodge dealer in the small town of Lamesa was able to quickly diagnose a dead alternator and two bad batteries, but we didn’t escape without spending another $850. Ding!
The last big surprise came when we finally made it to our destination to see some old friends, and our Check Engine light came on again! Thankfully our friends had connections to awesome diesel mechanics, but four days later we pulled out of Midland with a bill of $1100 for transmission work and a new fan clutch. Pow!
In less than 30 days we spent $3,350 on non-optional repairs to the Dodge. As painful as it was to pull that out of our rainy day fund, we were just grateful we didn’t have to fork over $5k for a new transmission, which is what one mechanic thought we might need to do.
Situations like this make you question your decision to go full-time RVing. Sudden financial challenges are stressful and exceptionally scary when you’re self-employed like we are, but in the end, Jim and I wouldn’t have life any other way. Full-timing’s great lifestyle more than compensates for any temporary hits to our savings account. By staying open to different ways of making money on the road, the options are endless for dealing with monetary losses.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.