From Thanksgiving through Christmas and on through the new year, motorists will be taking to the road to visit family and friends in great numbers. Unlike the summer’s heat, your car will encounter some of the coldest conditions of the year, what can put strain on even the best cared for car.
We’ve already looked at how you can care for your car this winter. Now we’ll take a look at what to do when faced with a predicament, such as a flat tire, a broken timing chain, a leaking coolant system or other breakdown problem.
1. Get off the road.
If you experience any problem requiring you to stop immediately, such as a blown tire or a flashing check engine light, endeavor to pull off the road. If the road has a shoulder, then move your car as far to the right as possible. Otherwise, move your car close to the curb and turn on your emergency flashers.
2. Determine the problem.
What exactly happened? Once your car is off the road, put it in park and keep it running, unless you see smoke coming out from underneath the hood. How you respond next will determine the best course of action for fixing the problem. Before you get involved in making a repair or calling for assistance, do the next step.
3. Warn other motorists.
You may think that other motorists see you when you’re pulled off on the side of the road, but don’t be too sure of it. Your emergency flashers are just one way to alert other drivers of your breakdown. You should also raise your hood, a clear signal that your car has problems. If you have road flares or reflective triangles, set these in place along the side of the road where your car is broken down. Triangles should be placed 10 feet, 100 feet and 200 feet down the road with each triangle placed further out in the road to warn drivers.
4. Get help.
Regardless of the weather, you and your passengers are safest if you leave the car and move as far away from it as possible. Then, call for assistance, especially if you are not able to handle the problem yourself. If you belong to a roadside assistance club, contact them and explain to them the problem and give them your location, a description of your vehicle, your license plate number, and other required information. If you don’t belong to a club, you will need to call for breakdown service from a towing company. For cars that have been in an accident, the police should be notified.
5. Stay with your vehicle.
You may need to get your passengers to a warm and safe place. Once you do that, then return to your vehicle immediately. An abandoned car might be towed and impounded, causing you extra money. Or, it could present a hazard to other motorists. Regardless, staying with your breakdown will ensure that you receive the help you need and as soon as possible.
When Help Arrives
You should be familiar with what your roadside assistance plan covers and does not cover. Some companies provide fuel, will jump a battery, and change tires. Others add in towing service, particularly if there is no other way to fix your car.
Your car may be towed to a service center or to a garage. In some cases you can have it towed further, such as to your preferred garage, but only if you pay extra for it or have a premium plan.
After the Breakdown: Back on the Road
Any kind of vehicle breakdown is a hassle and can pose a danger. The quicker you tend to the problem, the sooner you’ll be back on the road or your car and your family towed to a safe place. Finally, before you take to the road, ensure that your roadside assistance plan is up to date, your spare tire is ready for action, and your emergency kit is in place and replenished.