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March 01, 2019

A car breakdown can happen to any of us, and there is no convenient time for it to occur. From a faulty alternator to damaged tires or even running out of gas, vehicles are complicated and a myriad of issues can happen. The panic that sets in as you’re pulling over on the side of the highway can create chaos in your mind, and keep you from thinking clearly to understand the situation at hand and determine the best solution.

Hopefully you don’t have to face a car breakdown, but knowing prevention strategies and creating a plan may make your car breakdown just a little less stressful. Use this article to help create a checklist of potential breakdown scenarios that may occur, and what steps you need to take to ensure a safe repair and quick return to the road.  

Prevention Strategies

The first step in preparing for a car breakdown is to perform regular maintenance on your vehicle to help prevent a breakdown in the first place. Check the basics on a regular schedule.These include things like fluid levels, belts and hoses, and the car’s battery. Make sure to get regular oil changes as well. Refer back to your owner’s manual for when and how often you should perform these tasks.

A major cause of a car breakdown is a flat tire. Make sure to inspect your tires for uneven wear, cracks, punctures, and other damage on a regular basis. Buy a tire gauge and check the air pressure consistently, and have your tires rotated on a consistent schedule as well. All of these steps help prevent those issues that lead to a flat.

An often-overlooked aspect of maintenance is the vehicle’s windshield wipers.Remember that the windshield is your only way to see out, and ensuring a clear viewing area is vital to safe driving and avoiding an accident. Check the blades often and replace as needed. When using your wipers, look out for streaks, as this is a sign that your wipers need replacing.

Emergency Road Kit

In preparing for a car breakdown, it is absolutely critical that you prepare and carry an emergency road kit in your vehicle, usually the trunk. An ERK can include just about anything you need in the event of an emergency,but usually consists of essentials like blankets, road flares, a flashlight, jumper cables, a shovel, and especially a fully-stocked first aid kit.

You can actually purchase a fully stocked emergency road kit that includes these items, or you can also create your own based on your personal needs, or even supplement a pre-packaged kit with other items you may find useful.

Other items to stock include a multi-tool, duct tape, a funnel for putting in gas, and non-perishable foods like energy bars and bottled water.

For winter conditions, a scraper/snowbrush is an absolute must.And in case you get stuck in the snow or ice, sand or kitty litter are useful for helping extricate yourself from a slippery situation.

Stocking your emergency road kit with the proper tools and equipment is the ideal way to prepare for a car breakdown of any kind so that you’re safe and comfortable if you’re waiting for rescue assistance.

Sign Up for Roadside Assistance

In the event of a car breakdown or roadside emergency, having access to a roadside assistance service is invaluable. You can find a wide variety of good service programs that are worth checking into, several with national, brand-name recognition. These kind of programs generally provide services like towing, help if you’re locked out of your vehicle, battery service, and fuel-service delivery, among others.

An investment in a roadside assistance program—usually a monthly or annual fee—may be worth it, especially if you drive a lot for something like a long daily commute.Even if you never, or rarely, have to use the service, just knowing you have it at your disposal can go a long way toward your peace of mind.

And before signing up for a roadside service, double-check with your car insurance company, as many of them now offer some form of assistance program built into their coverage, or available as an add-in.

Additionally, remember that if you’re stuck on the side of the road, calling 911 is always an option. They can connect you with local or state police, or even a local city rescue service that can come and provide assistance to get you safely off the road or on your way.This is especially useful to remember when it’s late at night and all services are closed.

The Breakdown

A big part of preparing for a car breakdown is game planning and knowing what to do if it does happen. If possible, pull your vehicle over and away from traffic safely. Evaluate the situation and check to make sure everyone in the vehicle is safe.

Turn on your hazard (flashers) lights and turn off your engine, while turning your vehicle’s steering wheel away from the road so that your vehicle doesn’t accidentally roll into traffic.

Depending on the situation, it’s now time to call for help, be that your roadside emergency service, law enforcement, or a friend or family member.

You’ll now want to set up flares and/or a triangle to alert other motorists of your presence.In order to safely exit the vehicle, if possible, climb over the passenger seat and exit on the side away from traffic. If not possible, check for oncoming traffic and carefully exit the vehicle. Set up the flares or triangle at a safe distance around your vehicle.

Hopefully you’ve prepared possible breakdown scenarios in advance and have something of a checklist to review along with a plan on how to right the situation.

High Stress, Don’t Panic

A car breakdown is usually a high-stress situation. You automatically start to panic and mentally run through all the ways this puts a delay into your day, as well as taking a toll on your wallet. However, try your best not to lose focus. Take a few deep breaths and some time to gather yourself. What the situation, you will get through this.

Planning and preparation are critical in making a car breakdown a manageable situation. Knowing and understanding your vehicle, how it operates, and what it needs to run efficiently can help save you a lot of time and mental energy when a breakdown occurs.