How to Beat Top 5 Roadside Emergencies

We’ve all been stranded by some kind of car breakdown during our daily travels. Whether it’s a freeway flat tire blowout…or an overheated radiator on some back road. Regardless of your vehicle’s age…you’re always at risk for some kind of roadside emergency.

Since most of us are not auto mechanics…some things that can cause your car to break down… you simply can’t fix yourself. But several of the most common problems that lead to a breakdown…you CAN actually handle yourself…even if you’ve never tinkered with a car in your entire life. Check out the infographic below which serves as a handy cheat sheet you can use to learn how to fix some common car problems that might occur while you’re driving. You might even think about printing it out and taking it with you, or saving it to your phone, so you have it if you need it!


Step #1: Build Yourself an Emergency Kit

Do yourself a favor and do THIS before you even get in the car for your next trip tothe grocery store…let alone, your next vacation roadtrip. Whether your car is 9 days old or 9 years old…a breakdown can happen at ANY moment. Knowing how to handle that minor catastrophe and get your car back on the road…BEFORE it happens…is the biggest peace of mind gift that you can give yourself.

The exact contents of your specific emergency kit may be a matter of preference and your general mechanical aptitude…but a little common sense and 2 or 3 different opinions as to what it contains can go a long way to saving you some time and heartache. Here are two articles we’ve posted previously on constructing your own vehicle emergency kit.

Here are 3 of the top 5 most likely roadside emergency scenarios you might encounter:

  1. Engine Overheated – Immediately turn OFF the engine and pop the hood…letting any smoke/steam clear to better assess your situation.
  2. Flat Tire – Step #1: Turn the engine OFF, engage the hand/parking brake and turn ON the emergency flasher lights.
  3. Battery Weak or Dead – Turn the engine OFF (including any electronic devices) and secure a 2nd vehicle with a good battery to supply the jump.

Like to see all steps (plus scenario 4 & 5) in more graphic detail…in addition to the video above?

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U.S. Electric Car Market – 54 Choices Strong

While the U.S. is still the 2nd largest vehicle market (behind China)…Americans probably most known for their thirst for choice. Last year that thirst for choice produced a 25% increase in the number of EV models available to  North American consumers.

Here are the 3 broad categories:

  1. Battery-Powered
  2. Plug-in Hybrid
  3. Fuel Cell Vehicle

The chart below shows the growth and changes in vehicle model mix available in the US and Canada for the past nine years.  U.S. Consumers can now choose from 54 different electric car models, while in 2008, only four were available for purchase.

The number of car models with electric batteries, such as the Tesla Model S, continues to grow. But the biggest increase has been the availability of plug-in hybrid vehicles, which now account for the largest category of electric vehicles in North America.

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Infographic: Electric Vehicle Buyers Have the Agony of Choice | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista


The Agony of Few Choices

At the end of 2010, a meager 6 electric vehicle models (incl. plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles) were available to consumers in North America.

Here’s the latest from Bloomberg New Energy Finance for 2017 year end: 54 electric vehicle models…

  1. 25 battery electric vehicles
  2. 26 plug-in hybrids
  3. 3 fuel cell vehicles

Tesla, one of the very early movers in the market, is still the best-selling EV brand in the United States. In 2017, the company sold roughly 50,000 electric cars in the U.S., beating traditional carmakers like Chevrolet (43,669), Toyota (20,936), BMW (20,733) and Ford (19,589) by a significant margin.

Still accounting for little more than 1 percent of total passenger car sales, electric vehicles still have a long way to go in terms of mass adoption. However, the growing number of consumer choices combined with the steadily improving charging infrastructure will certain help move electric mobility forward.

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Prepping Your Vehicle for Emergencies

It’s Summer roadtrip season which means you may be traveling outside your normal area of civilization…to more remote places.  The question to ask yourself is if you’re ready for when things may go wrong…outside of cell coverage and roadside assistance accessible areas.  Let’s find out how to stock your trunk for emergency preparedness so you can take care of yourself.


For the average pragmatist, much of what follows may be elementary. But at worst, you might go through a little trouble gathering and stocking a few items in your new Preparedness Trunk Box…and nothing challenging ever happens.

So here’s a suggested list of items to equip yourself with:

  • Flashlight – LED based, heavy duty style. No cheap plastic stuff here.
  • Jumper Cables – even low-gauge cables can be practical, but the potential problem is finding someone to give you a jump, hence…
  • Portable Vehicle Jump Starter – great tool, but your challenge with this is remembering to keep it charged (Intelliboost, Weego & Gooloo are a few brands you can investigate for yourself)
  • Roadside Hazard Indicators – old school Flares and free standing Emergency Reflective Road Triangles are two options.  A modern version is what’s called LED Road Flares that look like orange flashing hockey pucks. Batteries are your challenge here again.
  • Fire Extinguisher – the “dry chemical” variety (rated A, B and C) is probably best in this case.
  • Quart of Motor Oil – just in case. (check your vehicle owner’s manual for proper weight)
  • Engine Coolant – Antifreeze –
  • First Aid Kit – go crazy here and invest a few bucks ($25-$35) for a quality kit.
  • Blanket – the Heavy Duty Thermally Efficient for Emergencies kind…as opposed to one that Grandma made for you.
  • Radio – FRS or GMRS type for Emergencies.
  • (keep watching…)
  • (…for more life saving items!)


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St. Patrick’s Day Safe & Sober Driving

Video: Make Sober Driving Your Lucky Charm This St. Patrick’s Day –

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17, lasses and lads. For many, it’s a day to don some green garb, eat a Rueben sandwich — and maybe get a weeee bit tipsy drinking green beer.  Beyond turning your teeth weird colors, there are far more serious risks to consider.

St. Patrick’s Day DUI fatalities are nearly double the daily average, with more than 50 in the U.S. Moreover, the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, and instances of drunken driving are already higher on weekends.  Studies have shown that roughly three quarters of fatal St. Patrick’s Day car crashes involve a driver whose blood alcohol content is twice the legal limit of 0.08.

A man of average weight will reach the legal BAC limit after three drinks in an hour; for a woman, it’s two drinks.

Just because you’re under the legal limit doesn’t mean you should assume you’re “OK to drive.” Even one drink can impair a driver’s judgment and reaction times.

Here’s a plan to get through your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

  • If you plan on drinking, plan on not driving. Designate a sober driver before the revelry kicks off.
  • If you have been drinking, do not drive, even for a short distance. Seriously, you have options: Just call a taxi … or an Uber … or a Lyft … or take public transportation; many cities have ride programs available.
  • Look out for others. If you see someone about to drive while impaired, confiscate their keys and help them arrange a safe way home.
  • If you see a driver on the road who appears to be intoxicated, pull over to a safe location and notify police. You could be saving someone’s life.

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St. Patrick’s Day DUI Patrols Planned In Sonoma County – Patch

“Police, sheriff and the CHP will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment,” Santa Rosa police stated in a news release.

The California Highway Patrol, the Santa Rosa Police Department and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office are among law enforcement agencies planning to be on the lookout for drunk and/or drugged drivers this St. Patrick’s Day weekend in the county.

From 7 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday, Santa Rosa police will deploy additional officers on special DUI saturation patrols specifically to stop and arrest drivers showing signs of alcohol or drug impairment.

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St. Patrick’s Day DUI Patrols Planned by La Mesa and Chula Vista Police – TimesOfSanDiego

The La Mesa and Chula Vista police departments plan DUI saturation patrols throughout the St. Patrick’s Day weekend beginning Friday evening.

Both departments announced extra patrols from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. the next morning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most popular holidays in the United States…heavily celebrated by most Americans with friendly pinches, bangers n’ mash, and green beer galore,” said La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez. “Sadly, all this merry-making can lead to dangerous driving conditions as party-goers head

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Roadside Assistance Services – Choosing Wisely

Roadside assistance services for your vehicle is similar to health insurance.  You may only need to use it once a year or so…but if you ever get stranded along side the freeway, or worse, on a country road…you know the pain of potentially not having any help to fall back on.  Especially during Winter months when the incidents of dead batteries, flat tires, and keys locked inside their cars seem to multiply dramatically. But only one such experience can be enough to create panic.

stranded stressed out woman roadside with broken down car

Here are some strategic questions to ask yourself when beginning to determine which service plan would prove best for your situation:

  1. Do I already have roadside assistance? – Yes, that’s actually possible more than you might think! Here a few of those potential scenarios:
    If you bought a new car or a certified used vehicle recently, your car may have come with a roadside assistance plan that lasts for the duration of the warranty, which for a new vehicle is at least three years or 36,000 miles, says Yu. If you’ve purchased a service contract—also known as an extended warranty—from an automaker or aftermarket company, you may also have coverage already. Always check the terms of your auto insurance policy as well. Some insurers, such as Allstate, Geico, and Nationwide, offer roadside assistance as an add-on to their auto insurance policies. Also check the fine print in your credit card agreements. Cards such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card offer roadside assistance.
  2. Complaints Frequency – Do a few web searches with the name of the plan provider plus “reviews” and “complaints.”  Complaints will typically revolve around wait times for the tow truck to arrive…or worse, if no one even shows up at all…and vehicles that may have been damaged during the tow itself.
  3. Service Plan Criteria –  Here are few guidelines to help you decide which plan is best.
  • More than one vehicle – a full-service plan may be your best bet in this case. They’re typically offered by AAA, National General Motor Club, Better World Club.
  • Multiple family drivers – consider a plan from an autodealer such as Good Sam Roadside Assistance, where the member fee covers the spouse and kids as well.
  • Recent Vehicle Purchase – whether new or certified pre-owned —and it’s the only vehicle you own—you can go with the automaker’s service, but make sure you know of any restrictions.
  • Frequent or Long Distance Driver (i.e. far from home) …choose a plan with the most generous towing allowance and trip-interruption benefits.
  • Fine Print – Some roadside assistance programs don’t cover the cost of towing as a result of flood, fire, and certain other calamities.

Read More – Consumer Reports


Consumer Reports Most Reliable Car Brands of 2018 & Decade

Consumer Reports seems almost synonymous with trust.  Still, almost like a football team, everyone seems to have a favorite car brand…and their own idea of what makes a reliable vehicle. For some, a car that starts every morning and just needs basic repairs every year will do. Drivers expect more out of expensive vehicles known for rapid-fire acceleration or high-performance towing. Then there are those who say a vehicle’s not reliable unless it tops 200,000 miles.

For the nonprofit organization Consumer Reports, the most reliable vehicles must pass (or ace) 17 different tests. Even if an automobile runs like a dream, testers will knock it down a few pegs if the electronics system is hard to use or the interior scratches easily. Likewise, a vehicle’s owners report problems they experienced every year, which factors into the equation.

In other words, getting a top reliability rating from Consumer Reports takes some doing. Those that land the top scores a few consecutive years deserve the fans and buyers they get.

Uncanny, but some automobiles seem to manage to post near-perfect scores for many years in a row.  Here is the beginning of the top performing brands since 2010…starting with the 2018 Nissan Leaf.  You’ve gotta click through to see the entire list of 20 most reliable vehicles of the decade.

Nissan Leaf #20 – Among electric cars, Leaf’s 4 perfect reliability scores in 5 years stand above the pack.

elegant driveway view of white 2018 Nissan Leaf

While Tesla has mixed reviews for reliability, Nissan Leaf proved long ago that electric vehicles could stay on the road with the best of them. The first-generation Leaf landed the top Consumer Reports rating for four of its first five years on the market from 2011 to 2016. As the new-for-2018 model makes its way to the market, it also comes with above-average predicted reliability.

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7 Winter Prep Car Care Tips

Old Man Winter is going to try to shake you down in the coming weeks!  Stick it to him and get your vehicle prepared.  Here’s a handy checklist to help you get it ready for the cold weather:

  1. Recalls on Your Vehicle? – Just how safe is your vehicle to drive in Winter weather? Discovering safety recalls on your vehcile is a good first step. Enter your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) here in NHTSA’s Recalls Look-Up Tool to learn if your vehicle has been a part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.
  2. Tune-Up & Routine Maintenance – Your trusted local mechanic  is the best next step for a seasonal tune-up and regular maintenance.  Leaks, old belts & hoses and any other parts and repairs should be your special request for them to check…especially your battery (e.g. for sufficient voltage, amperage and reserve capacity & tighten battery cable connections).
  3. Tires – Quick check for excessive wear and correct pressure. (Avg. mo. pressure loss is 1 lb.).  If you’re in snow country and need special snow tires…get ’em now!  Remember…spare tires lose pressure too…check it! Contrary to popular belief, the correct pressure is NOT the number listed on the tire. Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
  4. New Wiper Blades – Not being able to see through your windshield during a downpour is not a surprise you want to experience…old & worn wiper blades are dangerous.  Also…make sure your front and rear window defrosters are in proper working order.
  5. Fluids – Radiator (coolant system) & windshield washer fluid…Flush & refill as appropriate . Use high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer.
  6. Lights & Signals – Emergency flashers, brake lights, headlights, turn signals, interior lights test & replace as necessary.


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Halloween Driving Safety Tips

Here’s the scary truth:  Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for pedestrians…especially children.

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in general, reaching 5,987 in 2016, the highest number since 1990, according the Department of Transportation.

Parents and drivers can take these steps to reduce the risks.

“Halloween night is like a ‘perfect storm’ of risk because it involves darkness, a huge increase in pedestrian traffic, especially children, and all sorts of distractions,” ~  Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations – CR’s Auto Test Center.

Trick-or-Treaters Tips:
You can take these seriously…they’re from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation.

  1. Parents should accompany children younger than 12 years old.
  2. Children should walk—not run—from house to house.
  3. Children should stay on sidewalks instead of walking between cars or on lawns, where there could be tripping hazards.
  4. Remind children to look for cars when crossing driveways.
  5. Pedestrians shouldn’t assume they have the right of way, because motorists may not see them.
  6. Parents and children should consider choosing costumes that are a lighter color and are easier for drivers to see. Adding reflective material to the front and back makes a costume easier to pick out; it can even be part of the design.
  7. Avoid costumes that make it more difficult for the child to see, especially ones that include masks. If a mask is necessary, kids may want to remove it when moving between houses to avoid issues.
  8. Give children a flashlight to walk with in the dark so they can be more easily seen by drivers. Glow sticks can help, too.

Drivers Tips:
Children often behave unpredictably and can be difficult to see after dark…so drivers have a special duty to be alert on Halloween.

  1. Drive slowly in and around neighborhoods and on residential streets.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Drunken-driving incidents increase on Halloween. (In the past five years, such fatalities have risen from 17 in 2011 to 55 in 2015, according to the NHTSA.)
  3. Drivers should be responsible and understand that Halloween is especially dangerous.
  4. Watch for children who may dart out into the street, and always yield to pedestrians. When drivers see one child, more are likely to be ready to cross.
  5. If you’re driving children around for trick-or-treating, make sure they’re buckled up appropriately in a child safety seat or by using a seat belt. Do this each and every time they enter the car, and check to make sure they’re secure before driving to the next stop.
  6. Pull over at safe locations to let children exit on the curb, away from traffic. Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your car.
  7. Try to park in a spot where you won’t need to back up. But if you must, have an adult outside to make sure no children are in the way of your vehicle.
  8. Don’t use a cell phone or other mobile device while driving. Pull over safely to check voice messages or texts if necessary.
  9. By being cautious and mindful of safety this Halloween, you can make sure the holiday is a treat for all.


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Top 4 Driving Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

Sitting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle…with passengers or alone…makes imperative that safe driving becomes your top priority.  Contemporary distratctions are more abundant and sophisticated than ever before.  So knowing the basics of safe driving and practicing them every time you climb into that driver’s seat is crucial. Here are 4 high quality safe driving tips to guide you:

1. Focus on Driving

  • 100% of your attention MUST be on driving at all times – no multi-tasking.
  • No cell phone or any other electronic device usage while driving.
  • Slow down. Speeding gives you less time to react and increases the severity of an accident.

emergency first responder at auto accident scene

2. Drive “Defensively”

  • Defensively means being aware of what other drivers around you are doing, and expecting the unexpected.
  • Assume other motorists will do something crazy, and always be prepared to avoid it.
  • Keep a 2-second cushion between you and the car in front of you. Bad Weather = A 4-second cushion.

3. Plan Ahead

  • Schedule time to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business during the trip.
  • Adjust your seat, mirrors and temperature controls BEFORE putting the car in “Drive”.
  • Pull off the road to eat or drink.  Focusing on that alone takes only a few minutes to get back on the road.

4. Practice Safety

  • Secure cargo that may slide around while driving…you don’t need the distraction.
  • DON’T attempt to pick up items that fall to the floor.
  • Keep needed items within easy reach – such as toll fees, toll cards and garage passes.
  • ALWAYS use seat belts & drive sober and drug-free.


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Distracted Teen Driving – 4 Tips

Becoming a new driver as a teenager creates an exhilarating sense of fun and freedom…as well as a boatload of new challenges and dangers.  It can also be a little scary, to say the least.  While genuine guided practice and patience can offset many of those negatives…distracted driving poses an ongoing threat that everyone faces…especially new teenage drivers.  What can they do to avoid distractions?

backseat view of 2 teens driving down country road

  1. No Cell Phones in Hand or Within Reach Temptation – While undeniably useful and convenient, cell phone pose an incredible distraction for any driver.  If it’s out of sight while driving, everyone’s safer.  Driving should be like going to the movies…there’s very little it has to say that can’t wait.  Pull over if you absolutely must check messages or make a call.
  2. Embrace Technology If/When Engaging Devices is Absolutely Necessary – Yes, technology can actually reduce the  intensity of distraction in little ways…like controls for cell phones and music being available right on the steering wheel.  If it helps keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel…try it.
  3. Keep Things Quiet – Advocating total silence while driving is probably unrealistic…nevertheless…it’s a good idea to avoid any kind of major distraction.  If you know there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up in a “Sweet Caroline” moment like the Hyundai commercial…just don’t play the song you know you’ll get lost in.  Heated discussions, verbal romantic interludes and passionate Jerry Maguire moments are best left for driveways and parking lots.
  4. No Makeup in the Car – and no electric razors…for faces OR legs.  Personal grooming is a  documented primary cause of distracted driving for teenagers.  Just don’t do it!  It not only requires you to take your eyes off the road…it takes your hands off the wheel too!

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