Learn how to stay safe and get help in the event of a breakdown.
One of the most common fears drivers have is that their car will break down. Often, the cause for cars’ breaking down is poor vehicle maintenance. In fact, 84 percent of vehicles are in need of parts, service or fluids, according to a study from the Car Care Council. And CarMD.com, a leading vehicle-care site, reports that 64 percent of U.S. adults who have leased or owned autos admit to putting off maintenance or repairs at least once, and 13 percent of auto accidents are due to mechanical failures.
Why do so many owners delay a repair or maintenance job? Primarily, it’s out of reluctance—or inability—to spend the money, according to CarMD. But by sticking to a proactive, preventive maintenance schedule, you can avoid costly emergency repairs in the future.
Of course, it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. Always have an emergency kit ready to go. Here are some essentials:
- Extra water (for drinking or cooling down an overheating vehicle)
- Full-sized spare tire, jack and lug wrench. Make sure they’re in working order and can be neatly stored inside
- Mobile phone programmed with insurance and roadside assistance numbers
- Pen and paper to jot down information if you lose access to your phone
If you find yourself in one of the following common roadside emergency situations, remain calm. Here are some tips to help you and your vehicle stay safe while you wait for assistance from professionals:
Overheating: While it may sound paradoxical, if your temperature gauge spikes—especially when going up a steep hill—turn the vehicle’s heater on high to remove heat from your engine. If it doesn’t work, pull off the road to a safe, flat spot. Wait for the engine to cool down and then check your antifreeze reservoir located near the radiator. At high temperatures, you should have some coolant in the overflow. Add more if it’s low. If you don’t have extra antifreeze with you, a half-cup of water can help. Call a professional for help getting your vehicle to an auto shop.
Flat tire: Make sure you decelerate at a deliberate, steady pace, then pull off the road with as much safe distance as possible from traffic. Put the vehicle in park. Turn on your emergency flashers, put out flares (if it’s dark) and raise the hood so motorists know you have a problem. Only after you’ve taken these precautions is it safe to proceed with the tire change or call for help.
Stalling: Try to coast, then get into the right lane and pull off the road, if possible. If you’re stuck in traffic, raise the hood and turn on the emergency flashers. If someone offers to help push the vehicle to the side of the road, put it in neutral and remember that a dead engine means no power steering and no power brakes—you’ll have to use your muscles. After this, call for help.