Causes of Vehicle Breakdown
We already mentioned tire blowouts; here are a few more common causes of breakdowns:
* Battery and electrical system issues: Just like the tires, the battery also has the potential to “go flat.” A faulty alternator or loose connections at the terminal could cause your car to stop operating; a similar situation will occur if the alternator belt snaps. If you do not drive over long distances often, your battery may not be charging properly. If you drive a plug-in electric vehicle, an irregular and sudden discharge may lead to highway breakdown.
* Overheating: An engine shutdown due to high temperatures is a safety feature, but your car may refuse to start again if a sensor becomes stuck or damage at the same time.
* Fuel system failure: You may run out of fuel without realizing it if the gauge does not register proper feedback from the tank or if the fuel lines become obstructed for some reason.
* Transmission failure: A clutch cable breaking or becoming permanently disengaged will leave you stranded, and the same can happen if the temperature inside the gearbox reaches critical levels.
Managing the Breakdown
Safety is always first; you will want to look for a breakdown lane, an even shoulder or a median that you can maneuver to for the purpose of keeping your car away from the flow of traffic. Come to a full stop, park safely, engage the handbrake, and activate your parking lights. If you see smoke, sparks or flames, you will want to lead your passengers away from the car; do the same if there is a strong smell of fuel.
Smartphones have become lifesavers; in North Carolina, you can dial *HP to report the situation and wait for a safety patrol to assist you or tow your car to a safe location. You can also call your family, friends and anyone else who can help. If you abandon the vehicle, the highway patrol will tag it and issue a towing order, which may lead to impounding. You may want to check with your insurance company to see if your coverage includes roadside assistance.
Preventing Vehicle Breakdowns
As previously mentioned, there is no way to completely rule out a possible breakdown; what you can do, however, is to take certain actions to reduce the likelihood and to improve the situation when it happens.
Regular maintenance will go a long way in preventing a breakdown. Auto technicians always look for issues that may result in a breakdown if not addressed right away. If your car has not been in the shop for a few months and you plan to go on a long trip, tell the technicians about it so that a full diagnostic service can be performed.
You may also want to look into comprehensive or full auto insurance that includes extras such as roadside assistance, towing and the use of rental car if needed; this will give you true peace of mind on the highway. Another idea is to become a member of the American Automobile Association. Don’t forget to charge your smartphone battery and to carry cash if you are driving far from home or through an area you are not familiar with.