Thursday, August 13, 2020
Breaking Down is Hard to Do
By Catherine Powell
If you’ve ever spent hours waiting by the side of the road for a tow truck in the dead of night because your car broke down, you know how frustrating and frightening it can be. All alone with cars whizzing by only feet away, your mind replays all the highlight reels of every caught-on-camera TV show you ever saw. As the minutes tick by and you realize how easy it would be for another car plow into the back of yours or how terrible it would be were another motorist to stop only to demand your wallet, the fear can become almost too much to take. That’s why I thought this week I’d dedicate this blog to helping you make a breakdown less likely to cause you to break out in a cold sweat.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The biggest issue with breakdowns is that 90% of them can be prevented. Most tire blowouts are caused by treads worn too thin. Many engine problems are caused by poor preventative maintenance or by drivers who fail to heed warning lights on their dashboard. Therefore, the best way to keep from breaking down is to break out your owner’s manual to perform the following tasks:
1. Learn the meaning of warning lights on your vehicle. Your manual will not only tell you what they mean, but if you need to heed them right away or can wait until later to do so.
2. How low can you go? If you drive a late model car, you can not only determine how far the gas in your tank will take you, but you can also find out how much pressure is in all four tires, as well as whether you have enough motor oil and coolant.
3. How often does your car need scheduled maintenance? Ignoring routine and preventative maintenance may save you some money in the short run, but when something does break, it’s more likely to cost you a lot more than had you heeded the recommendations listed in the manual.
4. What’s that noise? If your car starts to make squeaks, squawks, thumps or bangs that you don’t recognize, the manual can help you determine what is causing it and what you need to do about it. Ignore these noises and you’re likely to make a tow truck driver’s day.
What should you do if your car breaks down?
While poorly maintained motor vehicles are more likely to breakdown, even well-maintained vehicles do sometimes succumb to engine problems or a blown tire. If that should happen, there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with the situation:
1. First and foremost, you need to alert other vehicles to your situation. This means before you reach for your cellphone to call for roadside assistance you need to activate your vehicle’s emergency flashers.
2. Next, you need to coast your vehicle off the road to a safe, flat locale that’s as far from traffic as possible. While the shoulder of the road is okay, if you’re close enough to an exit that you can limp off the highway to a feeder road, this is even better. The last thing you want is to pull over only to be hit by another vehicle while you wait for help.
3. Never leave your vehicle unattended or you may return to find out that it’s no longer there. Even if the only problem you have is being out of gas, it’s much safer for you and your ride if you stay put. If you don’t have roadside assistance, a better bet than hoofing it down the highway would be to call a friend to ask them to bring you a gallon of gas.
4. Unless you’re changing a flat tire, it’s preferable to stay inside your vehicle until help arrives, especially if you breakdown on the highway. If you deem it necessary to get out of your vehicle, make sure you get out of the passenger side before deploying road flares or looking under the hood. At night it’s extremely difficult to see a pedestrian on the road. This increases the likelihood of your getting hit. It’s also a good reason to carry a flashlight in your car or use your smartphone’s flashlight app to let other drivers know you’re outside your vehicle.
5. When you call for help, be as precise about your location as possible so the tow truck driver can easily find you. If you have a GPS, use it to tell the driver the nearest exit to where you’re broken down.
6. Make sure that the tow truck that responds to your breakdown is the one you called. It’s all too easy for you to get bamboozled by a rogue driver who’s trolling the highway looking for anyone who broke down. Let this lad hoist your ride onto the back of his truck and you let yourself in for a shakedown of epic proportions. When you call for roadside assistance, make sure you ask the operator the name of the company that’s being sent to your rescue. Then make sure the name on the truck that arrives on the scene matches. If not, before you get taken for a ride, call roadside assistance back to clarify the situation. If the driver’s a rogue, he’ll drive off before you finish the conversation.
7. Consider adding roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy. Far from costing a fortune, adding this option to your existing policy will add only a few dollars a month to your premiums while providing a myriad of assistance to you that includes: fuel delivery, towing, jumpstarts, unlocking the door, and flat tire repair. Some auto policies include roadside assistance as part of their collision and comprehensive coverage. If you want to find out more about roadside assistance, call your insurance agent today.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/
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