What do you do? Wait for someone to come along and pray they are not a serial killer? Walk back a few kilometres hoping to pick up cell service? Hope that there was a house you saw a few minutes before your tyre went flat?
Knowing what to do in case of a car emergency can mean the difference between getting back on the road quickly and nt getting back on the road at all.
While you may never have a flat tyre, having a working knowledge of your car and what do to when the check engine light comes on can save you both time and money in the event of an auto emergency.
Know how to change a tyre
Flat tyres are the number one cause of driving emergencies. Whether a blow out at 120km/h on the highway or a slow leak caused by a nail imbedded in the rubber, a flat tyre will derail your trip faster than you can say, “What happened?”
The key to changing your own tyre is to have the proper equipment. Most importantly, keep your spare tyre properly inflated and know where to find the jack and wheel spanner.
In cars with a boot these tools are usually found there. Many models have a hidden compartment in the boot or cargo area where the spare, the jack, the tyre and wheel spanner are neatly stored without taking up valuable cargo area.
You should always loosen the lug nuts on your tyre before you raise the car with the jack.
It will be easier to exert force on the nut while the car is planted firmly on the ground.
In the event your car has a hub cap that hides the lug nuts, keep a flat head screwdriver in your cargo area as well. Practice using the screw driver to remove the hub cap so that if you ever have to change your tyre, you are not struggling to find the lug nuts.
Learn where to place the jack in order to properly lift the car. Your owner’s manual should have both a description of the process and an illustration. Putting the jack in the right place makes all the difference when you begin to lift.
Follow the directions in your manual and you will be surprised at how easily you can raise the car to the right height.
After you have removed the damaged tyre and put on your spare, tighten the lug nuts as much as you can with your hands and then give them a little turn with the wheel spanner.
Follow a star pattern when tightening instead of going around the tyre in a circle. This will help balance the tyre and prevent one side from being over-tightened. After you have secured the tyre, lower the car slowly to the ground.
Once on the ground, use the wheel spanner to tighten the nuts as much as possible. Return your damaged tyre, jack, iron and any other tools you used to their proper storage area and now you are on your way.
If your spare tyre is smaller than your other three tyres (most cars these days come with that yellow tiny biscuit looking spare tyre) and only intended to be used as an emergency spare, it is important that you follow the directions in your manual and only drive at moderate speeds until you have the full size tyre repaired and placed back on your car.
If you had trouble fully tightening your lug nuts, find the nearest service station and ask someone to check to make sure they are completely tightened.
Know how to read both the gauges on your dash and the owner’s manual in your glove box.
The second most common driving emergency is a warning light on your dashboard. Examples of warning lights are the check engine light, oil light, ABS brake light or airbag light.
A sudden illumination of any of these lights can mean a serious problem is occurring and you should have your car checked as quickly as possible.
However, with the modern computers in vehicles today sometimes the lights come on without a serious underlying problem. Sometimes the lights come on due to a faulty switch in the dash or a circuit that isn’t properly functioning.
The most important thing to remember about warning lights is that they are your car’s way of talking to you and you have to be able to understand what it is saying. Read your owner’s manual.
Review the section on troubleshooting. Familiarise yourself with what the different warning lights look like when they are illuminated.
Know that when the ABS light comes on you might need to have your brake fluid checked. Know that when the airbag light comes on you could be driving with the risk that your airbag may not deploy in the event of a collision. Have it checked by the proper technician as soon as possible.
By knowing what your dash gauges mean and how to interpret them using the owner’s manual you can identify problems before they become serious, saving yourself money and potential lost time in the process.
Whether your car is five days or five years old, spending time getting to know the ins and outs of the owner’s manual, practising some basic maintenance techniques, and purchasing just a few basic tools and supplies will keep you safer and your car on the road longer.