All RV Rookies Make These Big Boo-Boos
It doesn’t matter if you bought your RV to join the thousands of new full-time RV nomads who hit the road this year. Or, if you just want to be a weekend camping warrior. These two big RV rookie mistakes are made by nearly all RVers. Here are the two dumbest RVing errors we made that could have cost us our lives.
RV newbie mistake #1: RVing without roadside assistance.
We bought our first fifth wheel in 2008. Our goal was to enjoy a one-year road trip with our dog who had terminal cancer. But the adventure became a journey with no ending. Although our dog passed on, we are still traveling thirteen years later, and have no plans to quit. Looking back, I cannot believe that we spent our first few years on the road without a roadside assistance plan. Don’t ask me why, I can’t even tell you.
But someone was looking out for us, because nothing terrible happened on our travels during that time. Then one day after a friend’s RV roadside calamity, we woke up to the fact that we were pushing our luck. We enrolled in a popular RV roadside assistance plan and guess what? About six months later, that small annual RV expense paid for itself.
Roadside assistance can save your life—and your RV
We had our first RV tire blowout on Highway 50, the Loneliest Highway in Nevada. Thankfully we had cellular service and could reach out for help, which arrived in less than one hour. A second blowout happened a few years later on Interstate 25. The RV roadside assistance driver came to our rescue, instead of forcing my husband to put his life on the line to change a tire on the shoulder.
Our RV roadside assistance plan really proved its value when we traveled to Alaska. In June 2018 we were less than 100 miles south of the Alaska border when disaster struck. We hit a frost heave, broke a leaf spring, and blew a tire in the Yukon, near the aptly named Destruction Bay.
If you RV, you’ll need assistance someday.
Our RV axle and tire were trashed. The shrapnel also severed our electric over hydraulic brake line, leaving us stranded. Unable to crawl to the next town, we ditched our fifth wheel on the eerily quiet two-lane road and drove to cell service for help.
The next day a lowboy flatbed trailer arrived to tow our home on a whopping six-hour trip south to Whitehorse, the nearest town with services. I asked the tow truck driver what kind of charges we would be facing if we didn’t have an RV roadside assistance plan. “Oh at least three thousand Canadian dollars,” he said.
Our plan costs less than $200 a year. Need I say more? Get an RV roadside assistance plan if you don’t have one. If you RV, you will need it someday.
RV newbie mistake #2: RVing without a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
The longer you RV, the more lessons you’re hopefully going to learn. Our lesson about towing without a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) was delivered to us when we suffered a second RV tire blowout.
Our RV roadside assistance plan saved us from having to change our tire on the side of busy interstates. At the end of the day, the message is clear: a TPMS can prevent a flat trailer tire from becoming a catastrophic, potentially life-threatening blowout.
What is a TPMS System?
A TPMS system is an add-on device with sensors that attach to a trailer tire’s valve stems. Those sensors constantly monitor the pressure in your tires. They wirelessly relay real-time tire specs back to you while you drive, on a dashboard-mounted command center. You can set tire specs to certain warning parameters like PSI, heat and cold levels. Once reached, a loud beep will instantly alert you to trouble before things get really bad.
We have endured the kind of RV blowout that causes massive destruction to a rig. The kind that kills people. We were extremely lucky to survive blowouts without a scratch.
Tires can still lose air, but disaster can be avoided
We didn’t dare take our Alaska trip without a TPMS. A good RV TPMS system is not cheap. But the cost was minimal compared to the damage it prevented on that day in Destruction Bay. This is a clear example of how one RV TPMS is worth the cost. This photo was taken of our right rear tire on one of our two Alaska Highway flat tire experiences:
Notice how the tire is just . . . flat? The reason is because the TPMS went off immediately after losing pressure. We knew exactly what was going on, and were able to pull over in seconds. The tire never had a chance to shred.
The tow truck driver told us we were lucky—he often arrives on the scene to find that blowouts cause a trailer like ours to flip. When you tow a trailer without a TPMS, you will have no idea when your tire is failing. You will drive until someone is sharp enough to let you know you’ve got a flat, or when you feel the terrifying sway of a fifth wheel that’s about to ruin your day.
RV newie mistakes are natural—and preventable.
I could recite dozens of dumb RV mistakes we have made through the years, but these are the two most important ones for new nomads to remember: Don’t drive without RV roadside assistance or a tire pressure monitoring system if you tow. The absence of either can end your road trip—and your life—sooner than you’d like.
If you’re new to RVing, you may also want to check out these Three Critical Dry Camping Tips New RVers Must Know.