Your car breaking down can be just as scary as an accident, and can be downright frightening when you are alone. It’s also a potentially dangerous situation to be in. Knowing what to do if your car breaks down can help take the stress out of what is already a nerve-wracking situation.
Thankfully, new cars come with lots of great technologies that help keep you safer on the road, and many new Alberta vehicles come with roadside assistance included as part of their warranty. If you don’t have roadside assistance, however, we highly recommend purchasing a membership. It could even earn you a discount on your car insurance rates!
Signs Your Car is About to Break Down or Has a Flat Tire
What do you do if the “Check Engine” light suddenly comes on? Or if your car doesn’t seem to be accelerating properly? Or if you are hearing funny sounds? Or if it even just unexpectedly shuts down in the middle of rush hour?
Prepare to safely pull over and seek help if you notice any of these signs:
- Your brakes do not seem to be operating properly in any way.
- You hear sounds such as a high-pitched squeal, hissing or chugging. These may indicate problems with your fan belt, coolant, or your battery, respectively.
- The oil can icon, engine light or battery light comes on or stays lit while you are driving.
- Smoke coming from underneath the hood, or excessive smoke from the exhaust pipe.
- Unusual vibrations.
- Slow, lethargic starts.
At all times of the year, it is a very good idea to perform a spot check of your vehicle before you head anywhere in your car – especially in the winter. If you have never suffered a flat tire while driving, you may not notice it if you don’t know what to expect. Calgary’s snowy roads also have a habit of softening the tell-tale sounds of a flat.
Lots of newer vehicles have dashboard lights to alert you way ahead of time if there’s any problem with your tires. For those owning slightly older vehicles, here are some signs that one of your tires is going flat, or is already deflated:
- Your steering pulls heavily to one side.
- The road seems more bumpy than usual.
- Your car slows down rapidly when you are not pressing on the accelerator.
- You hear a consistent noise.
Pay attention! Other drivers on the road can notice things faster than you. If another driver seems to be trying to get your attention, they may have seen something wrong.
We also recommend winter tires as a smart purchase. They greatly reduce the chances of getting a flat in the cold.
Common Causes of a Break Down
Be sure to take your car in its regular servicing to keep its warranty valid. If you do not have a warranty, a quick check up can help you avoid any chance of you being stuck in a precarious – and dangerous – situation.
These are the most common causes of a vehicle breakdown. As part of a complete vehicle diagnostic, your mechanic should check the following:
- The condition of your battery. Older batteries or those with faulty connections will not retain their charge and cause your vehicle to shut down.
- The condition of your tires. A tire repair kit is an invaluable tool to carry in your trunk at all times.
- Your alternator. A vehicle’s alternator helps keep the battery charged, so if yours is not working you will notice such symptoms as dim dash lights and headlights, and frequent stalling.
- Your spark plugs. These can often break or wear, but are easily and inexpensively replaced.
- Your starter. The one positive about an issue with your starter is it won’t cause a problem while you are moving. A starter that requires replacing will refuse to engage the engine, making for odd grinding noises and no engine turnover.
Steps to Take if Your Vehicle Has Stopped Running
If your vehicle suddenly stops running or threatens to do so when you are driving, follow these steps to safety:
- As soon as you notice trouble, turn on your hazard lights to let other drivers know there is an issue with your vehicle.
- Pull over to the shoulder of the road if you are able. If you can’t make it to the shoulder, don’t panic. Allow your vehicle to come to a stop, but do not exit unless there is a safe area to move to. Do not stop on a bridge or in a tunnel.
- Exit from the door away from traffic, and never stand near the vehicle as other drivers may not see you.
- Make note of the exact location of your vehicle as well as what went wrong to inform roadside assistance.
- Keep your hazard lights on to make your vehicle as visible as possible. Also set up the emergency reflector triangles in your emergency kit if it is safe to do so.
- Do not try to perform repairs at the side of a fast-moving road.
A well-stocked emergency kit could save your life. Along with essentials like reflective triangles, blankets and spare clothing to keep your vehicle visible and you safe and warm, it should also contain jumper cables, a first-aid kit, salt or sand and a shovel to help dig you out if necessary, and maps for when you are out of the range of a Wi-Fi connection.
Car Insurance in Calgary: Safety Resources and Competitive Rates from Lane’s Insurance
At Lane’s Insurance, we want all Alberta drivers to enjoy better levels of safety and security while on the road, and hope your travels are always incident-free. We also want you to have the best Calgary car insurance coverage available for when something does happen. We are also always here to help you process your claim. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Alberta offices.