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For Fort Collins auto repair, what do you do if you have a mechanical issue while on the road?  Some mechanical issues can be addressed easily, others will require an automotive intervention.

In Part 1, we looked at common but not catastrophic road problems, like a flat tire or the check engine light coming on. We will now look at some mechanical emergencies that are a bit more serious, and require a different kind of approach than repairing the problem yourself, or waiting to get some needed maintenance without interrupting your trip.

tow truck
CC Image courtesy of hyper7pro via flickr

Remember, safety first. Whatever the emergency, stopping abruptly in traffic, slamming on your brakes or turning off your car in the middle of the road will only create more of a hazard for yourself as well as other motorists. Get a good grip on the steering wheel, and ease your car out of traffic. Turn on your flashers if there are other cars around you on the road. Get your car to the shoulder, or off the road. If a shoulder is not available, move your car as far right as possible in traffic lanes, and again, put on your hazard lights. Turn off your engine if it is still on, and get out of your vehicle safely. In Fort Collins, most roads and highways, even the mountain roads, have shoulders, so getting out of the way of traffic should not be an issue. Most Fort Collins auto repair shops and services will have a tow truck, or employ a tow service, should you need assistance moving your car or taking it in for repairs.

One problem not unheard of in Fort Collins is brake failure. Our roads in Colorado do tend to go up and down, putting increased strain and wear on our brakes. What should you do if your brakes fail coming down Loveland Pass or while on 287 driving to a camping site? First, turn on your hazard lights, or flashers, then use your cars other decelerating tools apart from the brakes to slow the vehicle down.

1. Downshift. A lower gear forces the engine to slow the car down, allowing you to get some control over your vehicle if the brakes fail. Don’t jump from fourth gear to first, as this might stall your car, or put it in a skid. Downshift smoothly through year gears, getting down to first gear. This applies for both manual and automatic vehicles. Don’t put your car in neutral, as that will completely disable your engine’s ability to brake the car in the event of failed brakes. Likewise, turning off your engine will not allow your car to brake itself as will leaving the motor on and gradually downshifting to allow your engine to slow down your car.

2. Use the emergency brake. The emergency brake can help decrease speed, but it won’t stop the car the way conventional brakes will. Don’t count on the emergency brake as anything but a deceleration tool, it can help slow you down.

Mountain Lined Road
CC Image courtesy of Andy Arthur via Flickr

3. Work your vehicle into the right lane, or off the road as soon as you can. As you are downshifting and possibly using your emergency brake to decrease speed, steer your vehicle into the farthest right lane. Be on the lookout for a good shoulder or exit. In Colorado, there are numerous steep inclines on mountain roads and highways specifically for truck drivers who have lost their brakes or find themselves driving a runaway vehicle. Likewise, look for any natural or artificial incline, and head for it. Gravity will stop your car when brakes wont. Your goal is to not only slow down the car, but get it out of traffic where it is hazardous.

4. Stay off the gas pedal. Adding any extra acceleration to your engine is counter productive. Be aware of what you are doing, as using the gas pedal can sometimes be an automatic gesture.

5. Pump your brakes only if you have an older car without anti-lock brakes. Most newer cars are built with anti-locking brakes, and consequently, they will automatically pump for you. Firmly press the brakes without pumping if your car has ABS ( anti lock brakes ). If you’re driving a vehicle with standard brakes, then go ahead and pump them.

Once off the road and stopped, and it is safe for you to leave the vehicle, call your Fort Collins auto repair shop or automotive service and arrange for towing. Your brakes may have failed for any number of reasons, from overheating to mechanical failure, and it is best to hand your car over to your favorite Fort Collins auto repair shop rather than try to start the car up and see if you can slowly drive it home or to the auto shop. When it comes to auto repair in Fort Collins, brakes are a pretty common mechanical issue in need of maintenance or replacement, it is the nature of our terrain to be hard on them.

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