Driving home from Spokane last week, I passed a car broken down alongside I-90 with a flat tire. The driver sat inside with the hood up, waiting for help.
I'm unsure whether he didn't know how to change his tire, or if his car had no spare. According to AAA, 36% of new models don't – they're equipped instead with inflator kits to semi-repair a tire long enough to limp to a repair shop.
If that I-90 driver's tire had gone flat on a jammed Seattle freeway instead of outside Ritzville, he'd be cursed by others as "that guy" snarling traffic. And you never want to be "that guy," especially if it's preventable. With summer road-trip season upon us, take note:
- Don't run out of gas. It's almost always avoidable if you simply plan ahead. The Washington State Patrol says if you run out of gas on I-5, you could be towed immediately. A ticket is up to the trooper's discretion.
- Change your oil regularly, and use your dipstick periodically to ensure the level isn't low. Oil starvation kills motors.
- Maintain your battery. Clean corrosion from your posts and connectors, and secure them tightly. If the battery seems weak, get it tested.
- Carry a spare tire. Check all your tires' tread wear, and keep tires properly inflated. That means using a pressure gauge every month or two. Check your tires when they're cool.
- Top off your coolant. If it keeps dropping, you have a leak. Get it repaired or you'll risk an overheated engine – or worse, a blown head gasket.
- Keep a spare key, especially if you rely solely on electronic keyless entry.