car being towed
CC Image courtesy of Travis S. via Flickr

Whatever the particular mechanical problem is, don’t panic. The first priority is to carefully get your car off the road, and out of the way of traffic. Firmly and carefully steer your car to the shoulder, or off of the road completely.  Think of safety first for yourself, as well as other motorists. Once your car is out of the way of traffic, then address the issue. Some things, like a flat tire or a car top carrier coming open while driving can be corrected without consulting your mechanic or a tow service. If the problem is mechanical, such as an overheated engine or a funny smell, turn off your car before popping the hood. In Fort Collins, most other drivers will be courteous and allow you to pull off the road, and might even offer aid. Fort Collins auto repair shops will often be able to send out a tow truck or mechanic, should you need those services. So remember, don’t panic, pull off the road, turn off your car, then assess the problem.

Check Engine Light

What should you do if your check engine light comes on? You probably don’t need to stop whatever you are doing and head straight for your Fort Collins auto repair shop, as many things can activate and trigger the stop engine light to come on. That light is not an emergency signal, more of an indication that something needs checking. Other dashboard indicators, however, such as a low oil light need to be addressed as soon as possible. There are numerous reasons for the check engine light to come on, and virtually none of those causes tend to be disastrous. Don’t panic.

First, check your gas cap. When fuel evaporates due to a loose or faulty gas cap, it will activate the check engine light. Pull over as soon as is safe and convenient, and simply check the gas cap to make sure it is tight. If the gas cap is cracked, loose or even missing, your car will continue to lose fuel via evaporation until the gas cap is replaced. Consequently, the check engine light will remain active until the faulty or missing gas cap is replaced. If you tighten or replace the gas cap, the check engine light will deactivate within 10-20 miles.

Apart from a loose or faulty gas cap, other issues triggering your check engine light or not as easy to diagnose and correct. There are several diagnostic apps available for your phones that will aid with diagnosing any mechanical problems by interfacing your phone with your car’s diagnostic computer. Try downloading an app, and see if it can find the problem. If it is something simple that can be easily corrected, proceed, and see if the adjustment you make fixes the problem. If your app advised you to check your spark plugs, or a vacuum hose, go ahead and set up a date with your Fort Collins auto repair shop, and get the needed maintenance. If your app gives you a number, it is a code identifying the issue as communicated by your on board diagnostic system. Don’t worry if you don’t know what the code means. Your Fort Collins auto repair shop or parts store will be able to check the number and tell you what the problem is.

When you see that check engine light flickering in the corner of your dash, it does not indicate an emergency, but rather a need for maintenance.It’s fine to keep going on your way, but advisable to take your car to the shop and get it checked out. Your mechanic can diagnose the problem and engage in needed maintenance or car repair in Fort Collins.

flat tire
CC image courtesy of ultrakickgirl via Flickr

Blown or flat tire

A good way to prevent this situation is to regularly check your tire pressure. Consult your manufacturer’s warranty or manual for recommended pressure. Keep in mind that different seasons and air temperatures affect tire pressure differently. If your tires seem worn down, cracked or have a bulge, they are in need of replacing. Uneven wear indicates vehicle wobbling, usually corrected by an alignment. If your tires are getting bald or out of alignment, it is best to replace your tires and get that alignment done when you switch out the old rubber for the new.

Make sure you have a spare tire, and keep it appropriately inflated along with the tires that are on your car.

In the event of  tire failure on the road, get a firm grip on the steering wheel and steer the car to the side of the road. Don’t panic and hit the brakes or stop in the middle of the road. Once out of the way of traffic, turn on your hazard lights. If you can change the tire yourself or apply a temporary fix, that will get you by until you can get the tire repaired or replaced. If the problem is not something you can address on the road, call your Fort Collins auto repair shop or service, and have your mechanic fix the problem.