Being prepared is a key rule when out on the road, and that includes those unfortunate moments your vehicle experiences a breakdown.  Each year, millions of motorists encounter vehicle trouble. Inevitably, that dreaded moment the check engine light shines after a harrowing noise from your engine strikes most of us, and we’re forced to trundle into the emergency lane. No one plans to have difficulties on their journey, but you can mitigate some of the headache by having some supplies and resources at the ready just in case. Know what to do and what to have in your car in case of an emergency to best consider the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the road.

Safety First
Safety should always be a key consideration when planning how to prepare for a breakdown.  Keep in mind the common conditions and weather you drive through during the year. An umbrella in the vehicle will be a little touch of comfort should you go out to inspect your motor or if you need to stand on the side while your car is inspected or towed.  A flashlight will help you navigate at night. Winters and snowstorms create difficult conditions even for your rescuers, and there’s no guarantee of when someone may be able to help you out. Running your engine may not be possible given the nature of the breakdown, so a blanket to keep warm is a must.  A simple step easily forgotten about in the age of GPS is knowing your route and which roads you’re taking throughout your journey, as you’ll be able to give an immediate location of where you are to more quickly get assistance from emergency services, roadside assistance, friends, or family.

What To Do
Before a breakdown, be observant of the road you’re on and always know where you’d go to pull over so you can quickly and calmly get out of the way of other cars on the road.  Remain calm when your vehicle stops functioning, and don’t slam on the brake in order to preserve enough momentum to navigate safely out of the way of traffic. Give sufficient distance between you and the roadway when parked so your vehicle doesn’t pose as an obstacle for other drivers.  If you’re unable to slow your vehicle due to problems with the brakes, use your horn to alert other vehicles and use your emergency brake after your vehicle has rolled down from higher speeds. Carefully use your surroundings to slow your vehicle if you need to more immediately slow. Grassed areas, bushes, guard rails, or water barrels more quickly and safely slow the inertia of your car, but avoid poles, trees, and rocky areas, as they won’t give to the force of your vehicle and you will more likely than not injure yourself in the collision.  If you’re unable to pull over off the road due to construction or lack of a breakdown lane, switch on your hazards and allow your car to gradually slow to a stop in the right-most lane. Our subject matter experts at Buhler Automotive of Hazlet, NJ warns you not to attempt to push your car, and if you’re cautious of your vehicle getting hit, safely leave your vehicle and stand a safe distance away.  This is also important to do even when pulled over in the breakdown lane, as other vehicles can lane-drift into your parked car. To minimize this potential danger, make sure you make your vehicle as visible as possible with flashing hazards and, if you’re able to, forewarn oncoming traffic.  Flares or pop-up hazard signs can easily store into an emergency kit.

Be Observant
Assessing your vehicle’s condition while you drive and after you’ve pulled over can give vital information to your aid.  Did you notice any grinding or screeching sound that led to your breakdown? Is your engine overheating? Is there steam or smoke, and if so, what color is it?  Did you hit any trash or pothole on the road, or experience any sudden steering difficulties beforehand? Every piece of information can better inform your assistance on the phone of the nature of the breakdown and more quickly get your car serviced either on the road or back at the towed-to mechanic shop.  Along with this information, your aid will need a general description of your car’s make, model, year, and license plate to locate you on the road. Should you exit the vehicle, always do so from the side away from traffic, and remain with your vehicle. If you swerved off the road, police can consider this leaving the scene of an accident.

Every driver should be knowledgeable of what to do in the event of a breakdown so as to best handle emergencies and ensure the safety of yourself and other drivers.  Take this knowledge to heart, and make sure your kids have an idea of the necessary steps so they don’t panic if they’re stuck on the roadway anywhere. Programming AAA and plenty of emergency contacts in their phone with all necessary information they need to get help are good precautionary steps to take should you be unavailable.  Be smart, be prepared, and be safe on all your future travels!

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