You may not think about what to do in case your car breaks down until it happens. Be prepared and keep yourself and others safe with these tips.

Why Do Breakdowns Happen? 

You may suffer a breakdown for a variety of reasons. While some may be your own fault, other times it may be the result of an unforeseeable issue. 

Here are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the chance you’ll be stranded on the side of the road. 

Stay on top of car maintenance. Getting your oil and other fluids changed regularly, checking your tires and replacing them as needed, and replacing your battery on schedule (especially important here in Arizona, where batteries corrode in the heat) are all critical to preventing a breakdown. 

Follow the recommendations found in your owner’s manual and identify a place where you can track scheduled car care, whether it’s a binder or folder that you keep in your vehicle, or a simple note on your phone with scanned maintenance records. 

Pay attention to warning lights. Many vehicles these days are equipped to flash warning lights in case one of its systems needs attention. You may get a warning of low tire pressure, engine oil pressure, charging system failure, coolant temperature, or something else entirely. 

When you get a warning light, take the earliest opportunity (not while you’re at the wheel, of course) to confirm its meaning using the icons in your owner’s manual, then take the necessary steps to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Ignoring the warnings could lead to catastrophic damage to your vehicle and unsafe conditions for you and your passengers. 

Give your vehicle a routine once-over. Set your calendar for a monthly safety check, looking for fluid leaks, car battery problems, or worn tires. If you aren’t exactly sure what you should be looking for, ask a trusted friend or family member to walk you through your first inspection. Or educate yourself using YouTube videos or other online resources. 

What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down

Seconds can make the difference between saving your car and doing irreparable or extremely expensive damage. If your car is failing or a red warning light flashes on, keep your calm, and pull over to the side of the road, away from the flow of traffic, as soon as it’s safe for you to do so. 

Here are some tips for specific scenarios. 

  • If you’re on the freeway or a busy street, take extra care to maneuver safely out of the flow of traffic. Don’t forget to use your signal. 
  • On the freeway or highway, it’s a good idea to place orange warning triangles or flares at 100 feet, 200 feet, and 300 feet from the car. These will help alert oncoming traffic that you’re there. You should also turn on your hazards. 
  • If you see smoke, it could mean your car is on fire. If that’s the issue, move away from your vehicle and dial 911. 
  • If you have a tire blowout, don’t slam on the brakes. Gently lift your foot from the accelerator and pull over safely. 
  • If you run out of gas or your engine completely halts, coast to the right shoulder and wait to employ the brakes until you are at a safe stopping spot.
  • Call a family member, friend, or your roadside assistance service for help. 
  • Try to stay in your vehicle until help arrives. If you must get out, use the passenger side door or make sure there is no oncoming traffic. 

Learning to drive isn’t just about knowing the rules and laws of the road. Here at Stop and Go Driving School, we can educate you or your family members about complete driving safety. Learn more about our classes.