If you are ever faced with a driving emergency, you will be grateful to have a plan of action. The fist things to remember are to stay calm, put on your emergency lights, and follow the plan. Here are five examples of possible emergency situations and how to handle them:
Emergency #1: Tire Blowout
A tire blowout may cause your vehicle to weave or pull to one side depending on which tire has blown and what speed you were driving at. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and gradually slow down. Do not slam on the brakes! It’s best to let the car slow naturally, but if you can’t then try to brake gradually. Put on your turn signal and gently pull over onto the shoulder or a side street. Replace the blown tire with your spare tire. If you are not able to change it by yourself then call for assistance.
Prevention: Check your tires on a regular basis for signs of wear and tear that could cause or contribute to a blowout. Make sure they are properly inflated.
Emergency #2: Engine Overheats
If your engine overheats, there will be some obvious signs. The engines temperature gauge may rise or an emergency warning light will go on. You may see steam rising from the engine. The most common cause for an engine overheating is being low on coolant but it could also indicate a more serious engine problem. Pull over and shut the car off to let the engine cool. Wait for at least 30 minutes before checking the coolant and open it using a towel or rag in case it is still hot. Once it is cool enough you can add in some water.
Prevention: Check the coolant level on a regular basis, especially when planning a long trip. At the same time inspect the hoses for leaks.
Emergency #3: Sinking in Water
There are many ways that a vehicle can end up in water. Your vehicle could get swept away in a flash flood or you could get in an accident that involves going off the road and into a lake or river. Of course, you will want to get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible and on to dry land, especially in cold weather. If there is time, switch on the emergency lights and the hazard flasher to help rescuers to see you and your vehicle. Remove your seat belt and open the window next to you. It’s unlikely that you will be able to open a door so it’s best to just go straight for a window exit. If your window won’t open, you will need to break it. If your first escape attempt fails, there will be a pocket of air in the rear of the vehicle that you can use to catch your breath before you try again.
Prevention: Don’t attempt to drive through a flooded section of road.
Emergency #4: Break Failure
Total brake failure is a rare occurrence. If your brake pedal develops a soft or spongy feel, get it checked out right away. If total brake failure does happen to you, try pumping the hand break until you are at a stop. If that doesn’t work, change to a lower gear and shut off the engine. Both of those methods can be dangerous and should only be used in an emergency. You can also try to get your car to lose speed by gently side swiping a curb or guard rail. Failing brakes will usually alert the driver with an emergency warning light located on the console. If you see this light come on, stop driving and ask for assistance.
Emergency #5: Car Fire
Things like this happen suddenly. Either your headlamps will turn off or your brake lights will suddenly stop working. Besides the fact that it is illegal to drive with broken vehicle lights, you might get involved in an accident especially at night time. Make sure that you inspect your vehicle lights at least once a week. Park the car in a safe and level area and turn on the headlamps, including the emergency hazard flashers. Walk around your car and make sure that the head lights, position lights, brake lights, license plate lights, and the emergency lights are working properly. Replace the light bulbs if you find a busted lamp.
Prevention: You can upgrade your head lamps to HID (high-intensity discharge) or Xenon lights for better light distribution and longer service life. You can also use LED bulbs for other vehicle lights for better performance. Always keep a spare bulb in your glove compartment.