A breakdown can affect drivers at any time during any season. One minute you’re driving your kids to school, heading to work, or running errands and the next your car is emitting smoke, forcing you to pull off the road immediately.
A total disaster? It doesn’t have to be. Remaining calm and being equipped with a few important tools and a bit of knowledge can turn a potential disaster into a mere inconvenience. Here are a few helpful tips on how to calmly and effectively handle a breakdown:
Pull over. When your vehicle shows obvious signs of distress (smoke, steam, overheating), pull off the road to the right side. If you pull over to the left, you can slow traffic and limit a tow-truck driver’s ability to assist you. With your car on the right side, you will also be more visible.
Turn on hazard lights. This may seem obvious to some, but it’s a crucial step in staying safe and visible to other vehicles. Your hazards can usually be found in an area on the console that is quickly and easily accessible. Hazards are indicated by a red triangle. Flashing your hazard lights will help ensure that fellow motorists slow down as they come near you and will help anyone coming to assist you easily spot your vehicle.
Consider your safety. Before you make any decision about staying with your car or leaving to seek assistance, Harris Garage recommends that you first consider what’s best for your personal safety. In most cases, it is best to stay with your car until help arrives. If you feel uneasy in your car and you see a gas station or business that is easily walkable, going there to wait for help would be a viable option.
Stay WITH car but not IN it. While it is best to remain with your car, we recommend that you do not stay in it. If the environment isn’t too dangerous and the weather isn’t extreme, you can exit the vehicle to the right side, staying away from traffic. This could mean that you need to climb over your car, which may or may not be exceedingly hot or smoking, so take great care in doing so.
In extreme cold, leave car running. If you experience a breakdown during severe weather, you may not be able to exit your car. If this is the case, we recommend that you leave the engine running – turning it off while your car is experiencing trouble could mean that you have difficulty starting it again. Without the engine to keep you warm, you could be stranded, and freezing, until help arrives.
Be prepared for winter breakdowns. To be best prepared for any unpredictable car trouble, your car should be equipped with a few essentials. The minimum you should keep in your car at all times are: jumper cables, blankets, flashlights, water and a first-aid kit. In the most severe weather, tow-truck operators may be busy assisting many stranded drivers. These supplies could keep a small mishap from turning into a dire situation.
Get to know your car. We always recommend that you know and understand your own car. This doesn’t mean that you should be able to diagnose what’s causing a problem on sight, it simply means that you can locate your spare tire and jack, know how to check your tire pressure, etc. During a breakdown, you’ll be comforted by being able to answer a few questions about your car and even solve minor problems yourself.
Please keep these tips in mind should you experience a breakdown this coming fall or winter. While they will certainly help keep you safe during an emergency, it is better to avoid any unforeseen calamity by keeping your car running safely. Drive your car in or give us a call today at Harris Garage and our staff put together a preventive maintenance plan.