As you hit the highway for your morning commute, do you ever say to yourself, where did all of this traffic come from? Or perhaps you’ve packed up the family for a much-needed vacation and the roads are congested with other vacationing families, not to mention the usual mix of semis and other trucks, trailers, and cars.
Combine that traffic with bad roads, rough weather conditions, and distracted drivers, and you find yourself with the recipe for a potentially dangerous situation. If you drive a lot, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t these days, then you must prepare your car and yourself for the wide variety of situations you might face.
It goes without saying that you should always keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your vehicle. But beyond that, what are some of the situations likely to arise as you travel the roads, and how do you prepare to face them? Let’s take a look below.
Stay Ahead of the Problems
First, the best thing you can do to – as the article titles says, prepare your car for anything – is to perform regular checkups and set a maintenance schedule. Regular car maintenance is the first line of defense in avoiding potential car trouble that can leave you stranded or doling out hefty sums of cash to fix a larger issue.
Potential Road Scenarios
Now let’s discuss possible issues you may face while driving.
Battery Trouble – The best way to avoid a dead battery is to check it regularly, and to keep an eye out for warning signs of a dying battery, such as interior lights that are dimmer than normal, or power windows that go up and down slower than usual. If you notice any of these signs, have your battery checked. It may be time for a new one.
Additionally, make note of when you last replaced your battery. Batteries typically come with warranties, and you can almost count on the battery failing near the end of that warranty. With that time frame in mind, be proactive and replace the battery before it dies on you.
Engine Problems – The possibilities are many, but common issues include routine items like hoses and belts. Inspect these often and look for belts that have cracks or peeling, as well as softening of hoses.
If you feel like your engine may be experiencing issues, one way to check is by keeping track of your mileage from week to week and month to month. If you notice a drop in gas mileage, all else being equal, it could be a sign of an engine problem.
Transmission Issues– Ever notice that your vehicle feels like it’s jerking or slipping? This is a potential sign of a problem with the transmission. It could be as simple as low transmission fluid, or it could be something else. If you notice that your car isn’t running as smooth as normal, have a certified mechanic take a look.
Brake Problems – Your car’s brakes are obviously extremely important when it comes to your safety, and therefore you want to ensure they are operating at full capacity. A good rule of thumb is to check your car’s brake pads and rotors at least twice per year, and change the brake fluid every two to three years. Look for warning signs like a squeaking or grinding noise, as well as if your brake pedal feels too soft.
Flat Tires – Besides a flat, low tire pressure can lead to other car issues dealing, among other things, a drop in gas mileage. Inspect your tires regularly and look for cracks, low tire pressure, and smooth tread. Detecting an issue beforehand can help avoid being stranded along a busy road with a flat tire.
Prepare for Every Scenario – Car Care Kit
The best way to prepare your car for any situation you may face is by constructing an emergency car care kit that you can keep in your trunk. There are two ways to go about this. First, you can simply purchase a prepackaged car care kit that includes all of the essential items you need; or, you can build your own kit and include those items you feel are important and leave out anything that doesn’t fit your needs.
So what should you include in your car care kit? The following is a list of basic, yet highly effective tools, which should go in every kit. Again, based on your needs and wants, you can adjust accordingly by including items you may find useful and leaving out those you don’t need.
Jumper Cables– It’s best to have your own pair of jumper cables handy so that you don’t have to rely on the generosity of someone else. For a step-by-step guide, check out our article, How to Use Jumper Cables.
Flares/Reflective Triangle – Any time you’re stranded roadside, you’ll want to utilize flares or a reflective triangle for safety, to alert other motorists of your presence.
Spare Tire and Tools – Unfortunately, flat tires are a part of the driving experience. Always ensure you have a properly inflated spare tire, as well as a jack and wheel wrench so you can safely put on the spare.
Multipurpose Tool – As the name implies, this type of tool can be used for a wide array of tasks. A good multi-tool can prove invaluable in times of distress, and usually features tools like pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, a saw, and a knife.
Blankets – Stock a few blankets in your trunk in case you become stranded and need to keep warm. A blanket can also be used to help someone with an injury.
Flashlight – Although most of our cell phones have a built-in flashlight or a flashlight app, you may not be able to rely on it should your phone run out of power. Always stock a flashlight and extra batteries in your car care kit.
Fire Extinguisher – Stock a small fire extinguisher in your trunk in case a small engine fire breaks out.
Winter Weather Preparedness
Cold-weather months can be especially problematic for cars and driving, and extra tools are needed to combat the snow and ice. That’s the time to add a snowbrush and ice scraper to your car, as well as a shovel and extra blankets.
Also, carry a small bag of sand or kitty litter to help with tire traction should you become stuck. And don’t forget to keep your gas tank full so that it doesn’t freeze in extreme conditions. If you live in an especially harsh climate, install a good set of winter tires for better traction in the snow and ice.
Finally, a great way to prepare for any car emergency you may face is by signing up for some sort of roadside assistance plan. There are a number of great options available these days, including companies like AAA. In fact, car manufacturers and even your insurance provider may offer outstanding roadside assistance plans. Having the peace of mind that comes with knowing help is just a phone call away is well worth the investment in money.