Lockouts and Roadside Assistance

In remote areas, simple issues can become major problems. You need to have a level of self sufficiency out there otherwise getting assistance can be costly.

I recently read on the Everything Caravanning and Camping Facebook Group a post by a lady named Wendy who, for the last 8 years, has worked in a call centre looking after breakdowns for caravans, motorhomes, trucks and looking after emergency response / accidents in the transport industry. As you can imagine this has given her a fascinating insight into what happens to people in the real world and the issue of being locked out of your vehicle/RV or losing your keys is the most common, often disastrous, issue she faces on a day to day basis. As Wendy puts it, “The most calls we get from caravanners and people with campervans is LOCKOUTS! You'd be surprised how often this happens, how it happens and how easily it happens and where it happens. Even the most thorough of persons can get caught”.

I was actually a little surprised by this. Kylie and I are very careful about ensuring we have keys to both the van and car available with us at all times. I found it quite challenging to imagine how we could lock ourselves out of the van. But Wendy’s evidence is impossible to ignore. As she puts it, “a really common call for assistance comes when people lock themselves out of their van at 2am in the morning after going to the loo. Those of us who are a little older (myself included) will be familiar with the 2am - 4am tinkle. Stagger out half asleep, the door closes behind you and then you can't get back in.”

The other thing Wendy pointed out was how a lot of the Toyota Hiace / Mercedes Benz Sprinter - and other brands - type campervans - the sliding door sometimes locks when the door slides shut and they are almost impossible for the roadside guys to get into. Apparently, many manufacturers are coming up with more sophisticated ways to stop people breaking in, which is great except when you’re the one trying to get in.

There has been many reports of automatic central locking on vehicles activating while the keyas are in the car. No matter what, always take your keys with you when you leave the vehicle.

Resolving these issues for her customers also presents Wendy with many challenges. Australia is a huge place, and in some of the more remote areas, there is little or no help available when this happens. Often, callers need to call a locksmith to get in and if they lose their car keys and they have a transponder on them, they will need to visit the dealer to get them matched up with a new key. This can result in the vehicle(s) being towed many kilometres with the huge expense and inconvenience that this entails.

Wendy kindly offered some simple suggestions to help avoid these situations. They won’t necessarily cover every scenario as every situation has unique circumstances but, for the most part, these tips might just save you a heap of trouble.

Keep a spare key for your car and your van but keep it outside the vehicle or van. Sounds simple but it happens so often. No good having spare keys if they are locked inside. Remember, A FULL SET. Even the little gas bottle door has a key on some units.

Take your phone and keys to the loo when you go especially at 2am. Nothing worse than locking yourself out and then having to wake people at the caravan park because you are locked out and don’t have a phone. If you do, and assuming you have mobile coverage, you can Google a 24hour locksmith. They will charge you around $200 more or less for an after hours or weekend callout. NOTE: They may want cash as well because they have been caught before by people they have helped who have then provided a credit card with no money on it. It happens! If you are in a remote area, you may have to rent a cabin for the night until help arrives.

The caravan manufacturer does not keep spare keys and even if they do, that's no help to you at 10.30pm on a Saturday night when you come back to your van after going out for tea! If you lose them, you will need a new lock if you can manage it yourself, or a locksmith if you cant. Get a FULL set before you go.

If you hire a motorhome in Perth and lose the keys in Alice Springs, be aware now that that most hire branches do not have a set of keys at every branch just in case you lose them. You lose ‘em, you sit until it can be sorted out and that can be days especially over long weekends and public holidays. Lockouts may not be covered under the hire companies cheaper insurance plans.

You can be the most careful person in the world but it wont protect you from others who may not be as careful as yourself. This was the result of a careless driver running into an inocent person on the Gibb River Road where assistance is miles away.

A lot of new vehicles have sophisticated alarms / transponders on their keys / cars / utes / SUVs. We had to tow a vehicle back to a dealer in Perth, a new transponder had to come from the UK, it then had to be programmed at the dealer - net result was just over $4000 and over a week off the road. Don’t laugh, it's so easily done. Towing in the outback can be as high a $3 per kilometre and you pay both ways for the tow truck to get to you, take you to the repairer and for it to get back to its depot. It’s pretty easy to rack up a 1000 kilometre trip in outback WA

Does your insurance cover lockouts? In the case above the person with the vehicle copped the bill. Check your insurance.

When you call for assistance, we will need to know the name of the caravan park "the only one in town" doesn’t help if the service provider is from another town. We need to know the site number so they can find you when they get there. Is there a contact person at the caravan park and what is the park contact number? The provider will need some form of payment guarantee, either cash or credit card. They want to know they are going to get paid. We need your number so we can call you, even if locked in the van, so we can call you after and make sure you are okay. A really nice gesture is to call us back and let us know you are in, and or mobile. You'd be shocked how many times we have called to follow up to make sure you are okay and people don’t answer or call us back.

If English is not your first language then please be patient with us as we try to understand you. Heavy accents coupled with poor mobile reception can make it almost impossible to understand you and locate you. If there is someone nearby ask for help.

** Note to others - if you see tourists who are in trouble calling us on their behalf is wonderful. You'd be amazed at how much easier it is for us to arrange assistance for them.

Australia has 3 Maryboroughs, 2 Mount Barkers, Aramdale and Armidale, Port Augusta and Augusta etc. We need to know which state you are in as well as most call centres will have been caught out by this at some time or other.

Almost everything goes through different call centres after hours. Call centres are often not the manufacturer and often look after more than one roadside program. That's why sometimes, we are limited in what we can do. The manufacturer gives us guidelines that we act within - anything outside of the guidelines - we have no authority and it will have to be referred to a dealer during business hours. Some manufactures have one call centre looking after their breakdowns and a different call centre looking after accidents. This happens because the roadside programs may be tendered out resulting in different call centres "winning different work"

Wendy has also had some experience dealing with tyre issues. Apparently these come up all the time at the call centre as well.

Incorrectly rated or poorly maintained tyres account for a high percentage of calls to roadside assistance. Many incidents can be avoided.

Car tyres. No one really provides car / caravan tyres after hours. There are a couple of reasons. One is the cost. A callout may cost in excess of $200 per hour plus the tyre if not repairable. The other is that the truck tyre companies are set up to change truck tyres on the road - not little car tyres. The fitters have access to a range of truck tyres a/h. I know this because we look after the tyre programs for 4 major tyre companies Australia wide. You may be lucky enough to be in a small town where everyone knows someone and they may be able to help - but don’t rely on it.

Hot weather kills tyres. Buy the best tyres you can afford. If going in to a remote area, take 2 spares - what the hell, take a third. Much easier to get a spare or two from the wreckers in a major town before you go and for a few bucks. Nothing worse than being stuck with small kids - as I did many years ago.

Wendy has one final piece of advice if you need to get help from your roadside assistance:

Call centres are there to help as best we can within the rules of the program. Some operators are more experienced, and some more helpful. Sometimes the assistance we offer depends on where you are and what is wrong. But by and large, we do our best. Sometimes it's dead quiet, and other times you would not believe how busy it gets  the phones can go nuts especially this time of year. Your patience will be appreciated.

 

Text reporduced from the original post with permission.

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