Few situations make you feel as helpless as the awful realization that your car is about to conk out in the street. Even as your mind whirs (and the car sputters), quick action can keep an inconvenience from turning into a danger. At the first sign of trouble:
- turn on your emergency flashers
- safely work your way to the road's shoulder or, better yet, into a parking lot off the busy road
- stay buckled up in the car and shut it off (if it hasn't already died)
- try restarting in a few minutes and limp your way to a repair facility
- call for a tow truck from the safety of your car if you're unable to restart.
The one thing you shouldn't do? Attempt to repair it yourself on the side of the road. Your risk of being hit by another driver is too high. If you're stopped in a lane, stay buckled in your car and call 9-1-1 to get help from a police officer.
Drivers often are surprised at how hard it is to brake and steer when their engine fails (no more power brakes or steering). Just give it more muscle as you coast your way to safety!
Another surprise: What caused the stall in the first place. Many result from a lack of fuel or air. Drivers often kick themselves when they realize they could have avoided the breakdown by regularly changing their air filter (especially after driving in dusty or smoky conditions) and filling their gas tank when the gauge drops to one-quarter full. Failing batteries are another common culprit. AAA recommends you inspect your battery for loose cables and corrosion at every oil change and test it annually if it's more than three years old. Other experts say simply change your battery every three years, especially if you live in an area with temperature extremes or you drive consistently short distances, which makes it hard for batteries to recharge fully.
A worry less, live more solution
Consider signing up for roadside assistance to get help during a breakdown. As long as you have a cellphone, you won't have to handle it alone.
Nationally, AAA is the best-known roadside assistance provider, and its membership gives you access to other perks you may enjoy, like a travel agency. If you just want basic towing and emergency roadside service, PEMCO offers it as a low-cost, add-on coverage to your policy. You get benefits like jumpstarting, flat tire changes, gas (if you run out) and emergency towing for about $10 per year, per vehicle, if you opt for $100 in towing reimbursement. You can add it as long as you have Bodily Injury and Comprehensive coverages on your cars. Call 800-GO-PEMCO or ask your local PEMCO agent for details.
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