Vehicle maintenance can be expensive and many Americans take pride in taking care of their own vehicle. The days of being able to do this with a socket set have been and gone. Nowadays, the likelihood of fixing a car without a diagnostic computer is slim, problems can be completely electronic and fixed by software updates rather than by replacing parts. This does not mean that you are helpless if your car breaks down. There are still things you can do in an emergency as not all parts are controlled by a computer (yet).
As with most things in life prevention is better than cure. Before starting a journey you should check tire pressures, oil level, coolant levels, brake fluid levels and the condition of hoses and connections. Hopefully, doing this will give you the opportunity to fix problems before you become stranded on the highway.
This will not always work but being prepared is the best way to solve any mechanical issues on the road, without the tools to fix a problem, you’ll be able to do nothing. As a minimum before setting off on a journey you should have: spare oil, spare brake fluid, jumper cables, a gallon of water, duct tape, old pantyhose and a tire pump. This simple kit could allow you to continue your journey or make it to the next town if your vehicle breaks down.
If you are running low on oil you should get a warning light, if you ignore this you will potentially cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. When safe to do so, pull over, check the oil level with the dipstick and replenish from your kit if needed. It will then be safe to continue your journey. If you add more oil and the light stays on, have the car checked by a mechanic when you finish your journey.
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Having an issue with your brakes is very serious and could endanger you and others if you continue to drive. Replacing brake fluid can be a short-term fix, but you should investigate further as soon as it is safe to do so. If your brakes are not working you need to remain stationary and call for assistance.
Jumper cables will allow you to recharge a flat battery and start your vehicle. Having them allows you to be self-sufficient and gives you the power to assist others. Unfortunately it always requires a minimum of two vehicles for them to be useful.
Having water will allow you to add extra coolant to the radiator in the event of your car over-heating. You will need to allow the radiator to cool before adding any extra coolant!
Duct tape will give you the option of fixing any cracked/leaking hoses. This is a temporary fix but should allow you to continue driving to the next town or the end of your journey. You should check the quality of the fix at regular intervals to ensure your continued safety.
A pair of old pantyhose can be used to temporarily fix a broken alternator belt. This fix most likely to work in older vehicles, where the tension on the belt is not as high as it is in modern vehicles. The alternator charges the battery, so this fix may need to be used in conjunction with the jumper cables.
A tire pump is the easiest way to continue your journey after having a flat tire. Modern tire pumps can be electrical and they inflate a tire very quickly, meaning you spend the minimum amount of time stranded on the roadside. They can also be used to ensure that tire pressures are kept to the optimum pressure. Doing this will give you greater traction and increase fuel economy. Tire pumps are not just for emergencies, they should be used regularly to help improve your safety and save you money.
Many modern cars are doing away with spare tires in the search for greater fuel economy. Does your vehicle have a spare tire? Does it have a jack? Do you know where they are and how to use them? It is important that you know what you need, make sure you have it and that you know how to use it. This will reduce the chances of you ever getting stranded.
Cars are getting more complicated but properly maintaining your vehicle and conducting regular checks should minimize the risks of you breaking down. Remember, these tips are temporary fixes designed to allow you to continue your journey, or make it to a more convenient destination before fixing the problem properly.
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