Do you know what to do if your car breaks down? If your answer is no, this article is for you. After all, CarMD.com, a leading car-care site, reports that 13 percent of auto accidents are due to mechanical failures—and 80 percent of vehicles are in need of parts, service or fluids. Plus, a 2010 CarMD survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 64 percent of U.S. adults who have leased or owned vehicles admit to putting off maintenance or repairs at least once. A reluctance—or inability—to spend the money is the prime reason they offer.
Create a Kit
In case your car leaves you on the shoulder, you’ll want to have an emergency kit ready to go. Art Jacobsen, vice president of CarMD, recommends including these essentials:
- Extra water (for drinking or cooling down an overheating car)
- Full-sized spare tire, jack and lug wrench—that fit your car and are in working order
- Mobile phone programmed with insurance and roadside assistance company numbers
- Pen and paper to jot down information if you lose access to your phone
Know What to Do
Jacobsen suggests these remedies for three common roadside emergencies:
- Overheating: If your temperature gauge spikes, especially driving up a steep grade, blast the heater on high. While the hot air may be unpleasant for you, it removes the heat from your engine and could prevent overheating. If this doesn’t work, pull off on a safe, flat spot on the road. Wait for your vehicle to cool down and then check your antifreeze. At high temperatures, you should have some coolant in the overflow bottle. Add more if it’s low. If you don’t have extra antifreeze with you, a half-cup of water can help.
- Flat tire: Slow down gradually and pull off as far as you can from the main highway. Put your 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. Proceed with tire change.
- Stalling on the road: This is a situation that no driver wants to encounter. Still, it happens. If you can coast, get to the right lane and pull off if at all 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 muscle power. Use your cell or smartphone to call a tow truck. And don’t exit your vehicle until help arrives, unless you feel in danger from high-speed traffic behind you.