In summary at 21.20 my vw transporter had severely overheated on the M4, with a red coolant light and engine oil pressure light stating stop engine immediately. I was very close to the M4 Membury westbound services so was able to stop the vehicle in there and contact the RAC. I completed the online breakdown report and was initially told a patrol would be with us within 60 minutes, which then shortly changed to a patrol estimated time of arrival at around midnight.
At 00.00, I rang for an update and was informed I have onward travel on my policy so could start looking at options, but was assured a patrol should be with us shortly. At 00.30 with no patrol likely to arrive soon, I contacted RAC to state we wanted to look at onward travel options. I asked to for the case to be escalated to a manager given the time delays already incurred.
At 01.00 I receive a call from the recovery team, who conclude that the vehicle is unlikely to be repaired at the roadside and that a flat bed recovery would be arranged to take us back to Exeter Devon.
At 03.00 eventually a manager phones back and advises that he will book a taxi to transport myself and the two passengers to Exeter and recovery will be arranged at a later time. A taxi was booked by no taxi arrives.
It is now becoming increasingly difficult to contact RAC and eventually I manage to recontact them at 06.00. Im informed that once the new daytime patrols start in the morning they will be sent out first thing and that they will cancel the taxi.
At 06.45 a taxi driver from Andover states he is on his way approximately 45minutes away. We inform him that we are told a patrol is expected shortly and as far as we are aware the taxi has been cancelled by the RAC.
At 08.00 first patrol arrives. Attempts to investigate and refills with coolant and we mutually agree to test drive the vehicle to the next junction with him following. The vehicle shortly overheats prior to reaching the next junction. We slowly pull over at the next junction layby. Further investigation concludes that the thermostat is faulty and recovery would be needed to Exeter as no garages locally have availability to fix the problem. The patrol informs that he is unable to recover the vehicle due to the passengers and distance and that he has passed us over to the recovery team. At this point we now no longer have any basic toilet or other facilities available.
After several phone calls we finally receive a phone call from an independent recovery firm stating they can recover the vehicle up to Taunton with an estimated arrival time of 14.00. There is discussion of a hire car being sent to us and leaving the keys at the services, but nothing is forthcoming.
Given the time and the service received so far we decide that we will make our arrangements to recover the vehicle and get home. We end up getting home at approximately 18.00 approximately 20 hours after the initial breakdown, after having had very little sleep, lack of essential medication and essential supplies.
Until the same, which hopefully never does, you cannot begin to understand the stress, anxiety of worry of being stranded a long way away from home, not knowing how and when you will actually be helped. The customer service that day was extremely poor, with no consistency , regular updates or real concern for our welfare.
I have contacted the RAC to complain and ask for an explanation of why we were left at the roadside for such a period of time. I received a rather insulting generic reply that they were sorry there services fell short of our expectation as a loyal customer they would send a £100 cheque as a gesture of goodwill. Given the policy cost £170 and they did not actually provide the service paid for on top of the stress and anxiety caused this falls far short of acceptable. I have therefore, not banked the cheque and wrote a letter to ask for reconsideration and further explanation. I eventually received an email after following up stating that the matter has been investigated and the matter is closed.
I will be escalating the case to the financial ombudsman.
I have written this page to highlight that to my understanding the RAC are no longer able to realistically provide a reliable recovery and onward travel service especially if you have passengers. Whilst I have no proof it appears that they no longer have a sufficient fleet of flat bed recovery vehicles and are heavily reliant on subcontracting the work to independent firms. I am no longer confident in driving long distances and remaining with the RAC as do not believe they will help me in my time off need. I would strongly recommend you to reconsider if you are with or joining the RAC and travel long distances with passengers.
I would be grateful if you could share and spread the story and my awareness. Equally, I welcome anyone else experience good or bad to try to gain and overall picture of the service they are offering
Thank you for your time