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How to Prepare for a Car Breakdown

Posted By Jim On 09/27/2010 @ 7:08 am In Personal Finance | 9 Comments

You get into your car, cup of coffee in hand, and mentally prepare yourself for the grueling day ahead. As you turn the key in the ignition, it clicks. Then nothing. No roar of the engine, no radio tuned to Delilah from the night before… only a looming sense of doom as you realize your car isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.

Or maybe it does start and you make your way to work, only to hit a pothole and discover you have a flat tire on the side of the interstate. Either way, you’re stuck someplace you aren’t supposed to be with no way of getting to the place you planned on going to.

This article will help prepare you for when this happens.

This post is part of the Financial Contingency Plan [3] series where we discuss how to deal with the various financial “accidents” that threaten us each day.

Regular Maintenance

The key to avoiding such headaches is regular maintenance. Change your oil as often as your manual recommends, which is probably not every 3,000 miles but some number higher, check your fluids, tire pressure, tread wear, and all the other things the manual recommends but that you ignore because you’re “too busy.” Regular maintenance means worn parts are replaced while the car is in the shop, rather than breaking while you’re on the road.

Changing a Flat Tire

Of all the possible problems you could face while driving your car, the one that has the greatest chance of happening is getting a flat tire. All it takes is you hitting a pothole too hard or rolling over a nail and you’ll be down to three tires. Changing a flat tire is easy and I recommend learning how because it can save you a lot of time and perhaps even some money. I won’t go into the specifics of changing a tire, that will vary based on the type of car you own, but do some research and even consider practicing in your free time.

The benefit of knowing how to change your tire is that you save time, waiting for the tow truck, and money, paying for the tow truck or AAA membership. Also make sure, before you drive anywhere, that you have a good spare, a jack to raise the car, and wheel locks keys if you have wheel locks. I also recommend getting a kit with flares (and lights) so you can identify your car as distressed when it’s dark. The last thing you want to be is stuck on the side of a highway missing one of those key pieces.

Also, if you are changing a flat tire, don’t be like the fool in the above photo – ask your passengers to get out.

More Serious Breakdown

For anything more serious than a flat tire, your best option is to call a mechanic or tow service nearby. If you have a smart phone, it’s something you can probably look up. If not, make sure you have their contact information handy. If your car comes with roadside assistance, many do as manufacturers compete heavily for your business, make sure they’re you’re first call as it’s probably complimentary.

Finally, make sure you have someone you can call to help troubleshoot. What looks like a vexing problem for you may actually have a simple solution.

One word of advice – if it’s dark and you don’t have adequate lighting, don’t try to repair something yourself if you are on the side of a very busy road. Try to get somewhere safe before you try anything because drivers may not be attentive as they should be. If you are really in a jam, consider calling the authorities for assistance. They would much rather drive over, flash their lights, than deal with a vehicular death on their roads (they’re not going to be happy you are unprepared though).

(Photo: exalthum [4])


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