Emergency situations sometimes arise that prevent your car from functioning properly. While these can be scary situations, it is important to remain calm, and know what to do when these situations arise. From brake failure to engine fires, always follow a few tips.
Avoid Vehicle Malfunction
Although some vehicle malfunctions may not be avoidable, routine maintenance helps keep the vehicle functioning at its best. Get oil changes every three months or after every 3,000 miles of driving. Also have your mechanic check brake fluid levels and power steering fluid levels. Pay attention to gauges while driving. If the oil light or “check engine” light turn on, drive slowly, stay away from heavy traffic and get your vehicle to a mechanic promptly.
Tire failure most commonly occurs when a tire blows or becomes otherwise detached. Focus on steering to keep the car on the road and avoid traffic obstruction. Do not slam the brakes. Steer the car and tap gently on the brakes, as not to create and sudden jolts that could throw the car off balance. Continue to slow down and tap the brakes until you have regained full control of the car and are able to safely pull off to the side of the road.
When brakes fail, pump the brake pedal as hard and rapidly as possible. This will most times build up enough brake pressure to bring the car to a stop. Try to get the car off to the side of the road to prevent accidents from traffic moving behind you. The goal is to bring the car to a stop. Shift the car into a low gear, which will ease acceleration and slow the car, and also pull the emergency brake if necessary. Hold onto the release button of the emergency brake handle, as you may need to release the brake if the rear wheels lock, causing the car to skid.
If the car engine begins to smoke or catch fire, pull off the road to a safe location promptly, turn off the engine, get out of the car, and move away from the vehicle. Engine fires can be very serious, as the car is fueled by flammable gasoline and can cause explosion. Stay as far away from the car as possible and allow emergency services to handle the fire.
If the accelerator becomes jammed, focus on steering and slam the accelerator petal hard with your foot. Many times this will un-jam the accelerator, but if it does not work, shift the car into neutral. This will most likely cause engine damage, but when facing the alternative of a high speed car crash, engine damage is the better alternative. Brake the car to come to a complete stop.
Running Off Pavement
When your car runs off the pavement, hold the steering wheel tightly to keep the car straight and steady. Slowly tap the brake, and ease back onto the road when it is safe. Do not slam the brake, as this may lose control of the car.
After the Malfunction
After you have safely stopped the car, turn on your emergency flashers and determine the next step. If you are a member of a roadside assistance service like AAA, call the hotline to have a tow truck or mechanic dispatched to your location. If you do not have your membership card on hand, call the toll-free number (800) AAA-HELP. Staff can look up your membership number by name and address, and you can also use this service if you are riding in a car that does not belong to you. This is especially helpful when you are riding with a friend that does not have membership to one of these services.
If you do not have these services, and your vehicle is still in a dangerous location, call 911 for immediate assistance. If the car is parked in a safe location, call your mechanic or local tow truck company, and have the vehicle towed to a repair location.
Do not try to flag down other traffic. Put the hood up on your vehicle and tie a white shirt or cloth to the your car antenna or window. If your car is safely removed from oncoming traffic, remain in the car with doors locked. If the car is still unsafe, move away from traffic and stand to the side of the car.