Having sudden car trouble, whether it’s on a busy highway or a sleepy two-lane back road, is every motorist’s worst nightmare. Sure, you can always call for help once the dust settles, but knowing how to react in an emergency can truly be a life-saving advantage.
No matter what happens, remain calm. Be sure to use your car’s turn signals as you move to the side of the road, and engage your car’s flashers when stopped. In most cases, it’s advisable to stay in or near your vehicle until help arrives. Raise your car’s hood and, if you have them, use road flares and/or reflective warning triangles.
Here’s how to deal with five common worst-case vehicular scenarios, practicing this advice ahead of time will better prepare you in the event of a real roadside emergency.
- If your car suffers a tire failure while driving, avoid what might be your first reaction, which is to slam on the brakes – this could cause your car to skid out of control. Rather, take your foot off the gas pedal and let the car slow down steadily, working your way toward the road shoulder or, if possible, an exit. Brake lightly once the car has cleared the pavement and you can safely come to a stop well away from traffic. Do not attempt to change a flat tire yourself if the car is stopped on a narrow shoulder adjacent to fast-moving vehicles.
- If your car’s engine stops running, follow the same procedures as with a blowout. Since all four tires will be intact, though, you can brake more aggressively when it’s safe to do so. Braking and steering will likely become more difficult or feel “heavy” since the power assisting these systems can shut down with your engine. Do not turn your key to the “off” for any reason, in some cases it could lock your steering column and prevent you from turning your steering.
- If your brakes fail, take your foot off the accelerator pedal and work your way toward the right-hand lane. Shift the transmission into lower gears, one at a time, to help slow the car (but not in “Park,” to avoid damaging the transmission).
Once the vehicle is down to a crawl, shift into neutral, maneuver the vehicle away from traffic and apply the emergency brake. If you’re driving on the highway, head for the road shoulder; in an urban environment coast toward the curb if safely possible, rubbing the tires against it if necessary to bring the vehicle to a stop.
- If your car overheats, immediately turn the car’s heater on full blast, which will take some pressure off the cooling system. Pull off the road and switch off the engine. Once the engine has cooled down, open the hood and check the coolant level via the translucent plastic “overflow” reservoir; if necessary, refill it to the indicated level using a mixture of half coolant and half water.
If you see that one or more hoses have burst, summon a tow truck. Otherwise start the engine and monitor the temperature gauge while driving back home or to a repair shop; if the temperature gauge needle begins heading toward the red zone, or the temperature light comes back on, pull off to the side of the road and call for assistance.
- If your car catches fire, pull off the road as quickly and safely as possible. Once stopped, switch off the engine and get a safe distance away from the car. Notify the fire department, but never attempt to put out the fire yourself as you could place yourself in harm’s way should the fuel tank ignite.
If your vehicle needs repairs, consider stopping by one of Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care’s 14 locations.
Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care have been serving the Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley and Sierra Vista communities for more than 55 years. They were even voted “Best Auto Repair Shop,” “Best Tire Store,” “Best Locally Owned Business” and “Best Customer Service” in the Arizona Daily Star’s 2016 Reader’s Choice awards.
To find the Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care location nearest you, visit JackFurriers.com.