You're driving down the road when your engine cuts off suddenly. Your tires collapse, and steam appears under the hood of your car. These strange occurrences are signs that your car has broken down. On-road breakdowns are extremely dangerous. They could pose accident risks, and lead to injuries or vehicular damages.
So, if your vehicle breaks down while you're in it, what should you do? Take some time to learn just some of the steps you can take to protect yourself. From start to finish, always keep your safety and the safety of your vehicle in mind.
1. Do Not Keep Driving
If a breakdown presents a clear and immediate danger to you and other motorists, do not attempt to keep driving. If you continue down the road, you run the risk of a major accident.
Immediately pull over. If you feel you can make it to a parking lot or other low-traffic area, parking in those areas is usually much safer than stopping on the shoulder. However, if the threat of catastrophic damage is imminent, don't risk it. Move your vehicle to the shoulder of the road, as far from passing vehicles as safely possible.
2. Arm Vehicle Warning Systems
Turn off your engine. However, you may want to leave your auxiliary (battery power) engaged to run a systems check. Arm your emergency brake, and engage your hazard flashers.
Your next step should be to make your vehicle visible. Your stopped vehicle represents an obstruction to a clear roadway. If another driver cannot see you, they might run into you, or have to swerve suddenly to avoid an accident. This is not safe for anyone.
Your hazard lights can help make others aware of your breakdown. Other methods include placing flares or emergency cones at intervals for a few hundred yards behind your vehicle. Other motorists also place something white, such as a cloth or t-shirt, in their driver's door window. This is an acknowledged signal that the car has broken down.
3. Check Your Passengers
Next, see if any of your passengers have injuries. If not, your passengers should get out and move away from the vehicle and the roadway. If possible, passengers should remain on a raised area or embankment. This can help ensure they are visible to others.
4. Assess the Damage
Look around your vehicle for what might be the cause of the problem. Start at your dashboard. Do you see any warning lights illuminated? They might signal what's not working. Check your manual if you are unsure of the meaning of a hazard light.
Also take this time to look around the outside of your vehicle for any debris or damage. This may signal where the failure occurred. If debris lies in the roadway, only attempt to remove it if you can do so without putting safety at risk. Removing debris from the roadway may prevent further traffic hazards.
5. Call the Authorities or Roadside Assistance
Some jurisdictions require drivers to call the highway patrol if they experience breakdowns on certain roadways. A policeman may be able to assist you with minor repairs, such as changing a tire or bringing you a tank of gas. They can also help you address how to secure the scene and seek proper assistance.
If good Samaritans offer to help, always take their offer with a grain of salt. Most people genuinely want to be of assistance. However, some people mean well, but may attempt to make quick repairs to your vehicle that can actually exacerbate the damage.
You also often have various ways to request roadside assistance following a breakdown. Your insurer, motorist club, repair shop and even your dealership may provide roadside assistance. These services may provide towing, engine and battery service, gas delivery, tire changes or other service.
If your insurer offers roadside assistance, this is often the first resource to contact. Your insurer will be able to dispatch help that meets the company's requirements. Receiving approved help may make filing an auto insurance claim a lot easier — as you won't run the risk of having your claim denied.
6. Take Care of Your Vehicle
Once assistance arrives, the professionals on the scene can help you get your vehicle working again. Sometimes, you may be able to make small repairs and be on your way. In other situations, you may have to call for a tow truck to move your vehicle to a mechanic for professional repairs.
Only attempt to make repairs to your vehicle yourself if you have the expertise to do so. For example, many Americans can change a blown tire and install their spare until they can get a new tire. However, many people may not know how to replace spark plugs or fan belts. Only allow professional, licensed mechanics to make major repairs. Doing so can help you avoid injury risks or the potential to add extra damage to your vehicle.
You should only leave the breakdown scene after you have clearance from a maintenance authority or the police to do so. Afterwards, take your vehicle to a mechanic for repairs immediately. Never continue to drive without receiving a clean bill of health on your vehicle.
Need insurance or roadside assistance coverage? Call Auto Insurance Discounters at (866) 288-6545 for an instant auto insurance quote today.