Stranded Roadside Motorists – 7 Traps to Avoid

30 million times each year, AAA receives trouble calls from stranded motorists that need roadside assistance.  The specific reasons that generate the calls are wide and varied, but aside from physical vehicle accidents, seven (7) categories of car trouble account for the majority of the calls.  Is there a common thread that is key to minimizing or avoiding most of the car problems on the list: Timely Maintenance.  David Bennett, manager of automotive programs at the national office of AAA says that “The best thing anyone can do for a vehicle is regular maintenance”.

1. Flat Tires
Bald or badly worn tires are plain dangerous because they can’t reliably bring your vehicle to a safe stop.  Inspect your tires regularly.  You can try the old coin test on your tires, but the wear bars or indicators built into the tire tread are the safest bet for an accurate reading.

Proper inflation is the second most important tire safety concern.  Get the correct pressure for your specific car from the placard visible on the door jamb when the driver’s door is open. You can boost your gas mileage by 3% or more and make the car safer as well by timely tire checks. Check the tire pressure when they’re cold for best accuracy.

2. Engine Trouble
Many things can cause engine troble. But usually they start with issues like a broken hose that’s leaking coolant…which in turn causes the engine to overheat.  So, proactively inspect belts and hoses, looking for cracks and peeling on the belts, or softening on the hoses.  Fluid levels is another vital sign of the engine to check regularly…i.e. oil, transmission fluid, coolant or antifreeze.

3. Battery Trouble
3 to 5 years is a general rule for expected battery life. But if you live and drive in extreme heat or cold…it could be less.  Best precaution for avoiding getting stranded by a dead battery is to make sure to have your battery checked during any safety inspection or other visit to a dealer or mechanic’s shop.  Warning signs include dim headlights or interior lights and power windows that move unusually slow.

4. Lockouts
The obvious, but simple solution: Get extra sets of keys and store them outside the car in your home and office.

5. Brake Trouble
Nothing is more critical to your safety than your brakes. Brake pads and rotors need to be checked at least twice a year.  Brake fluid does need to be changed every two to three years…RTFM…or check recommended time frame in your owner’s manual. Trouble signs: pulling to one side when you hit the brakes, squeaking or grinding noises and a brake pedal that feels too soft.

6. Running Out of Gas
If you like to live on the edge, you’re bound to go over a cliff every once in a while.  But when it comes to taking chances on making it to the next gas station when you’re driving at night or in a strange place…it’s not worth the risk to yourself and your passengers.


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