We’ve all experienced the disappointment and inconvenience of an unexpected car breakdown. One minute you’re ready to go, or on your way to your destination, and suddenly you’re stuck on the side of the road. We’ll just say it: common car breakdowns suck. The good news is that many of these common car problems that keep you from hitting the road are preventable. The bad news is that you’re stuck on the side of the road right now. Here’s what to do about it.
What to do: Try to jump start your car. Remember to BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery. Remove the jumper cables. Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.
How you can prevent it: Watch for signs of a weak battery, such as a car that starts slowly or dies suddenly for no reason. If you are concerned about the health of your battery, ask your mechanic to test your battery to see if it shows any signs of replacement.
What to do: Make sure your car is completely out of traffic. Apply your parking brake if you are on a hill. Locate your spare tire, owner’s manual, lug wrench (looks like an X), and emergency jack. Place the emergency jack under the frame and raise your car (your emergency manual has information on where). Remove the hub cap by prying it off with a screw driver. Position your lug wrench over the lug nuts and twist off each lug nut. Once you have all the lug nuts off, place your new tire on and start screwing your lug nuts back on by hand. Tighten each lug nut with the lug wrench. When done, lower your jack and place your flat tire in the trunk. Get your flat tire to a mechanic to see if it can be repaired. Do not drive around for an extended period of time with your spare tire on your vehicle.
How you can prevent it: You can’t avoid those tiny little nails that take your tire out every time, but you can take some common precautions. Check your tire pressure periodically (here’s directions how) and keep your tires at an optimum tire pressure (you can find this number on a decal in your driver’s side door). Watch for common signs that your tires are worn, such as a low tire tread, cracks, blisters, and consistent low pressure.
Out of Gas
What to do: Secure your vehicle. If you are near a gas station, safely walk to the station and purchase a container and gas. Otherwise, call for help. If you think you have a gas leak, get your car towed to a mechanic to get the problem fixed.
How you can prevent it: Don’t gamble on gasoline. Pay attention to your fuel warning light to make sure you know when it comes on.
Obviously you can’t prevent every car breakdown (remember that driver that turned in front of you?), but you can take steps to make sure your car stays in working order and so you have the supplies you need when you do break down. Pack an emergency kit appropriate for the seasons (you’re not going to need snow boots in your summer kit), and keep your town truck phone number (920-261-8111) in the contacts on your phone and on a piece of paper in your emergency kit.