Here’s What To Do When Your Food Truck Breaks Down

Advice straight from the mouths of people with food trucks, naturally.

Roaming Hunger Survey: We polled our food truck partners to see what they do when their food truck breaks down. Read below to find the best practices for your food truck, trailer, or cart! 

Here’s a scenario that will give you nightmares…you’re on your way to the gig you’ve prepped for the entire week. Spirits are high. Maybe you’re listening to a tune you love, rolling along the highway. Then something sounds a little off. Maybe there’s a lurch, or god forbid, a smoky aroma. You pull over. Your food truck is amiss.

For many food truck owners, this is a cause for real anxiety, and has real-life consequences. Not only does the issue with the truck need to be resolved (which often costs money), but if you’re on your way to an event, you risk losing money and damaging your reputation.

So we asked the navy seals of the food truck world (also known as our loyal, longtime partners) how they handle truck trouble.

Red and white food truck with a woman, boy, and dog in front of it.

1. If you have backup equipment, use it. If you don’t, find the next best thing

Do you need another truck if your vehicle is having mechanical issues? Among our lovely partners, responses were mixed on this question. Some are lucky enough to have backup vehicles, but for most of us, especially those who are just getting their start, a rescue truck is not yet an option.

From Jan Martin of La Cena LLC, “We have a secondary cart and vehicle. However, oftentimes, they are both active at events.” So if you get stuck stuck, time to turn to solutions. Most of the time you’re going to need two simple things: a hot plate and a generator. If you’re really smart, you’ll keep them with you just in case. Take it from the owners of Rocket Diner 321, who shared:


“We have a portable cooking setup that we can load into the box truck with the liftgate. The other option is a concessions trailer. Both need a generator, so we put that into the back of the truck and take it on-site to our events.” 


Backup equipment is like an insurance policy. If you know you’re having mechanical issues (which at some point, everyone does), look into renting a truck. If you have a pop-up set up, renting a U-haul can also be a short-term solution.

2. Take a cue from the ice cream truck and find your chill 

Sometimes, when someone cooks for you, and they’re mad, you can taste it. Our feelings come through in our food, whether it be joy or stress. So don’t let your anger, anxiety, or stress at the situation come through in the food you serve.

Food service is a performance, so put on a good show and get through the event. When you’re done, you can give yourself tons of time to feel your feelings. Don’t forget: it’s nobody’s fault most of the time. Even if it is, it doesn’t help the situation to try and hash it out in the moment. One of our vendors shared:


“Remember that your family or friends did not purposefully cause the damage. Do not yell at them or blame them.” 


3. Call in your backup, your favors, and your IOUs. 

Have a friend, Jeff, with a decently sized van? An unemployed pal with a car who’s definitely free on a Friday night? Perhaps other Roaming Hunger buds? Time to call them.

Sometimes, all you need is a fresh set of eyes, or a new set of hands to help get through the situation with your sanity intact. There’s no shame in the game. Running your own small business is something to be incredibly proud of, so be proud when you ask for help. One of our partners shared, “Have a food truck friend who can cover for you if the repair is not a quick one.”

4. Do you know who to call for assistance? 

You should have AAA and look into local tow and roadside assistance services. Have a backup as well just in case.

Hopefully, you’re not reading this advice from us for the first time when you’re already on the side of the road during rush hour, so let’s be proactive together. Open your browser right now and look up tow trucks, truck repair services, and roadside assistance services. Call them and see what their wait times and services look like in your area, so you don’t feel like a dummy on the side of the road when the time inevitably comes.

5. Embrace the DIY

Sometimes it’s best to empower yourself as much as possible. The owners of 142 Wood Fired Truck Pizza prefer a DIY:


“We try to be prepared for roadside fixes. We also carry the highest roadside assistance package AAA offers.”


Another hot tip we got is to watch the repair people do the repairs. Take notes. It makes it less scary to think about any hefty bill you may have to pay for emergency repairs when you learn how to fix your truck yourself the next time anything goes haywire.

6. If you’re on your way to an event, call the client

If you’re safe, call up the event host (or in our case, your Roaming Hunger agent), and let them know the situation as soon as possible. In our case, we can sometimes find a replacement with enough lead time. It’s better to be proactive than to have the client wonder why you haven’t shown up.

The best advice though is, apart from having friends and AAA on speed dial, is to be prepared for anything. La Cena LLC also says:


“An emergency cushion of time is the end-all-be-all. We often travel 80 miles from Milwaukee to Chicago for events. On one occasion, we were driving there in the rain, and all of a sudden our vehicle windshield wiper broke. We needed to pull of the highway and rig it with a temporary fix to make it there safely. It was a simple fix, but it absolutely needed extra time to accomplish. That’s why we always add an extra 20 minutes per 40 miles of travel — to allow for the unexpected. We built in this extra time above the 45 minutes set-up/arrival time. We don’t mind arriving to 99% of the jobs early. It also helps us chill and get our game faces on for the best food & service.”


So there you have it!

We hope tonight, after reading this article, you dream of safe journeys, with not a sprinkle out of place on your truck. We also hope you feel like you can fix anything, because you can. And when you need a helping hand, Roaming Hunger’s always there for you.