Most of us drive our cars nearly every day.  We rely on them to get us just about everywhere.  Most cars are so dependable that the idea that they could just spontaneously break down is usually far from our minds–until it happens.  The car starts stuttering, making strange noises and then it just dies.  Or perhaps you go to start your car and it won’t start up at all.  Maybe you get a little orange blinking error light, perhaps a slight dinging sound–maybe not even that.  The questions race through your head (perhaps after a few choice words): What do I do?  Who do I call?  This is precisely why it’s a good idea to have a trusted local auto shop on speed dial (as well as a good tow service).

Well, here are a few tips to make sure that you are safe and to get the problem dealt with as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Car Towing
This probably won’t be the best day of your life… (photo by tylertate)
  • First, if your car breaks down while driving, immediately put your hazard lights on to alert other drivers and see if you can slowly coast to the shoulder of the road.  If you can, good.  Take a deep breath, you’ve completed the hard part.  If your engine dies or you can’t coast to the shoulder, immediately throw on your hazard lights and gently slow down to a stop.
  • If you are on the highway, do NOT get out of the car! Stay in the car with the hazard lights on and let others drive around you.  Turning on the interior lights will make you more visible as well.  It may make you feel vulnerable to be in a non-moving vehicle on the highway, but it is much more dangerous to try to dodge oncoming traffic to get to the side of the road (especially at night).
  • Pick up your phone and call a tow service to tow you to the local auto shop for car repair (if you have a smartphone you can look one up, if not you should keep the number for a local tow service in the glove box or somewhere safe).  If you are travelling, you should consider AAA Roadside Assistance as you can call one number and they can connect you with a reputable contractor who will come help you no matter where you are.  They will tow you to a local auto shop for repair advice.
  • If your car has had a complete electrical failure (which is rare) and your hazard lights are not functioning, it is a good idea to grab a white or brightly colored piece of fabric or paper to act as a flag that alerts drivers to your broken down status.  Crack your window, insert the flag and roll it back up.  Now, dial the tow service and wait for them to come bring you to the local auto shop for a car repair.
  • Once the tow service or roadside assistance arrives you need to be able to tell them where to tow your car for car repair.  This is why it’s a good idea to have a trusted mechanic on speed dial.  If you are not in your hometown, then AAA can help you find a reputable local auto shop, sometimes they can even come and give repair advice or do the repairs on the spot (best case scenario: you just ran out of gas).  Additionally, some insurance policies (the more expensive ones) include roadside assistance services.
Next time you break down on the highway, keep in mind these simple tips to keep yourself safe and get your car fixed and back on the road in no time.  Now, after you are out of that hairy situation all you have to is cross your fingers and hope that the repair advice that your auto technician gives you doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.