Van Living Full-Time: How to Deal with Maintenance and Breakdowns

Van Living Full-Time: How to Deal with Maintenance and Breakdowns

Living in a van full-time provides the freedom to explore and experience life on the road. However, it's essential to be prepared for the realities of maintenance and breakdowns that may occur along the way. In this article, we will discuss strategies to effectively deal with van maintenance and breakdowns, ensuring that you can navigate these challenges while minimizing disruptions to your van life adventure.

Regular Maintenance

Establish a Maintenance Schedule

Create a regular maintenance schedule for your van to keep it in optimal condition. This schedule should include tasks such as oil changes, filter replacements, tire rotations, and fluid checks. Adhering to a routine maintenance plan helps prevent major issues and ensures your van is in good working order.

Learn Basic Maintenance Skills

Acquire basic maintenance skills to handle minor repairs and adjustments. Familiarize yourself with your van's manual, watch tutorials, and join online forums to expand your knowledge. Knowing how to change a tire, replace fuses, check fluid levels, and troubleshoot common issues empowers you to address minor maintenance tasks on your own.

Emergency Kit and Tools

Assemble an Emergency Kit

Prepare an emergency kit that includes essential items such as jumper cables, a spare tire, tire repair kit, jack, basic tools (screwdrivers, pliers), duct tape, zip ties, and a first aid kit. This kit will prove invaluable in case of unexpected breakdowns or emergencies.

Carry Necessary Spare Parts

Identify critical spare parts based on your van's make and model. Items like belts, fuses, bulbs, and common replacement parts specific to your van can be essential in resolving minor issues quickly. Consult with a mechanic or research online to determine the spare parts that are recommended for your specific van.

Build a Support Network

Establish Relationships with Mechanics

Identify trustworthy mechanics in the areas you plan to travel. Seek recommendations from local van life communities, online forums, or fellow van dwellers. Building a network of reliable mechanics ensures that you have access to professional assistance if needed.

Connect with the Van Life Community

The van life community is a valuable resource for support and guidance. Connect with other van lifers through online forums, social media groups, or van life gatherings. Engaging with this community provides an opportunity to share experiences, seek advice, and find recommendations for reputable mechanics or repair shops in different locations.

Preparedness for Breakdowns

Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

In the event of a breakdown, remain calm and assess the situation. Safely maneuver your van to the side of the road, if possible. Turn on hazard lights to alert other drivers, and use reflective triangles or cones for increased visibility.

Contact Roadside Assistance or Mechanic

If the issue is beyond your capabilities, contact your roadside assistance provider or a trusted mechanic for guidance. If you don't have a membership with a roadside assistance program, research local towing services in the area.

Have a Backup Plan

Develop a contingency plan in case your van needs to be taken off the road for repairs. Research nearby accommodations, rental services, or alternative transportation options to minimize disruptions to your van life journey.

Financial Preparedness

Allocate Emergency Funds

Set aside emergency funds specifically designated for van repairs and maintenance. These funds provide a financial safety net, ensuring that you can address unexpected breakdowns or major repairs without significant financial strain.

Consider Insurance Coverage

Review your insurance policy to determine if it includes coverage for breakdowns or roadside assistance. Explore options for specialized van insurance that provides comprehensive coverage for van-specific issues.

Learn from Experiences

Each maintenance or breakdown experience is an opportunity to learn and improve. Reflect on the situation, identify any patterns or recurring issues, and adjust your maintenance routine or driving habits accordingly. Keeping a log of repairs, maintenance tasks, and lessons learned can be helpful for future reference.


Dealing with van maintenance and breakdowns is an inevitable part of full-time van living. By establishing a regular maintenance schedule, learning basic maintenance skills, and being prepared with emergency kits and spare parts, you can address minor issues and mitigate disruptions to your van life adventure. Building a support network within the van life community and having a contingency plan in place further enhances your ability to navigate breakdowns. Remember, van life is a journey that requires adaptability and preparedness, and by embracing the challenges with a proactive mindset, you can continue to enjoy the freedom and adventure of life on the road.

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