Whether it’s a blown tire or engine failure, no one wants to think about having their car break down. But in a matter of seconds you can go from making your way to your destination to limping to the side of the road.
According to AAA, 32 million people needed roadside assistance in 20151. The company reports that dead batteries, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle are its top requests for roadside help1. Read on to learn how you can avoid falling victim to these common causes of breakdowns.
Nothing will put you on the side of the road faster than a dead battery. While experiencing a dead battery may feel like a random act, many times there are signs leading up to its failure. There are steps you can take to ensure that your battery doesn’t leave you calling a tow truck for a jumpstart.
What you can do: Periodically check your battery to ensure that the connections are good. Inspect the case and look for cracks, bulges or other signs of damage. If you discover any visible damage, have your battery replaced immediately before it leaves you stranded.
When exiting the vehicle, make sure all the lights are off and nothing is plugged in that could drain the battery. If you leave your GPS, phone or other device charging all day while you are at work, you could be greeted by a dead battery when you are ready to go home.
The average battery lifespan is 3-5 years. Once your battery has reached this point, have it tested on a regular basis to ensure that it’s holding a charge. Your mechanic can check it or many auto stores will test it for no charge.
Whether you run over a nail or hit a pothole, a flat tire is a sure-fire way to end up in a breakdown situation. While a flat tire can be caused by forces out of your control like debris in the road that you can’t steer around, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t suffer a flat due to excessive wear.
What you can do: Check your tires for uneven and/or excessive tread wear on a regular basis. Be on the lookout for other signs of damage like bulges in the sidewalls, and if you notice any problems, replace the affected tire immediately and see your mechanic as soon as possible; there may be additional issues with your vehicle.
Use the penny test to check the tread depth of your tires. Insert a penny with Lincoln’s head facing down into the tread of your tire. If all of Lincoln’s head is showing, the tread depth is less than 2/32"; time to replace the tire.
Driving with under- or over-inflated tires can also cause problems. Ensure that your tires are inflated to the manufacturer-recommend PSI. Use a pressure gauge to check the tire pressure in each tire and make any needed adjustments using a portable air compressor or at the air pump at the gas station.
While the days of using a coat hanger to unlock a car door may be over, it is still possible to get locked out of today’s sophisticated cars. The keyless ignition systems that many of today’s vehicles use is a common culprit, but even those with a traditional key remote can run into problems.
What you can do: If you have a keyless ignition system, always make sure you have the key fob with you before exiting the vehicle. While most systems won’t lock the doors with the fob inside, failures can happen. It’s best to play it safe.
Don’t lock your vehicle from the inside; always use the key remote once you have gotten out of the car. Locking the vehicle once you exit ensures you don’t leave the key locked inside the car.
If your vehicle has keypad entry, take the time to program the code to something you can easily remember. You never know when it will save you a call to the locksmith.
Even with the low fuel alert feature on many of today’s cars, it can be easy to lose track of how much gas is in your tank. Before you know it, you can be crawling to the side of the road with an empty gas tank.
What you can do: Check your owner’s manual to learn how many more miles you have once the low fuel alert comes on. Keep in mind this is an estimate; based on your driving it could be a different number of miles. Play it safe and fill up when the light comes on.
Each time you get behind the wheel, be mindful of how much gas is in the tank. If you know you’ll need gas at some point of your journey, stop at the gas station before starting out.
If you are on a long trip, pay close attention to your gas gauge. You don’t want to get caught on the freeway far away from the nearest gas station with a dwindling fuel supply. Use your smartphone to plan out your fuel stops.
If you do end up on the side of the road, check out this article to learn safety tips and how to best manage your breakdown situation.
Additional Sources: 1AAA Break Down Data
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