4 Common Car Emergencies and How to Handle Them

When you get behind the wheel of your car, it’s usually with the assumption that you’ll get from point A to point B without any trouble.

But every so often, trouble pops up. Some things, like traffic jams and accidents, you just can’t help. And sometimes your car runs into mechanical issues that you can’t diagnose on your own.

Then there are some issues you can fix on your own. While our Woodstock, Virginia roadside repair service is happy to help drivers no matter their need, we’re here to let you know that there are some car emergencies that aren’t as dire as they seem.

Fixing a flat tire

Whether it’s due to damage sustained on the road or a leaky valve stem, flat tires are one of the most common problems drivers face.

And while dealing with them is stressful — especially in the case of a sudden blowout — fixing them is easier than you might think. All you’ll need is a spare tire, jack and lug wrench, and a brick if possible.

Start by putting your car in park — with the emergency brake engaged — ideally away from traffic and on a level surface. Put the brick behind the tire opposite the one you’re about to replace to prevent the car from rolling.

Once you remove the hubcap, you’ll find the lug nuts. Loosen them slightly with the wrench, but make sure they stay attached to the fire for now. Place the jack under the body of the car in a way that it is against the car without risk of falling. From there, jack up the vehicle and remove the lug nuts.

Replace the old tire with your spare/new tire and tighten the lug nuts. You should do this on alternating sides. If your tire has five lug nuts, tighten them in a star pattern, starting at the top, moving downward on a diagonal, then back up, etc.

After you’ve lowered the jack and the car is on the ground, tighten the lug nuts once more for good measure.

Jumpstarting a battery

You’re at the grocery store, loading bags into your car when a lady parked next to you asks for help jump starting her car. If you know what you’d do next, feel free to skip ahead.

If not, here’s how to restore a dead car battery to life. Jumper cables aren’t something to fool around with. They can be dangerous. Follow the directions on their packaging, or get another driver with more experience lead the way.

Start by making sure both cars are parked facing each other, hood to hood. Keep the jumper cables unbent at all times to prevent shocks.

When you open the hood, you’ll see terminals marked positive (plus sign) and negative (minus sign). Once you know both cars are off, jump the battery with these steps.

  • Connect the positive cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery. In most sets of jumper cables, the positive cable is red.
  • Connect the other positive cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  • Connect the negative cable to the negative terminal on the live battery. Negative cables are normally black.
  • Connect the other end of the negative/black cable to a metal section under the hood of the car with the dead battery. This metal surface must be unpainted and away from the battery.

From there, let the battery charge for five minutes, then see whether the car will start. If the car doesn’t start, let it charge for a few minutes more and try restarting the car with the dead battery. Assuming the jump was successful, detach the cables in this order:

  • The negative cable attached to the unpainted metal section
  • The negative cable attached to the live battery
  • The positive cable attached to the live battery
  • The positive cable attached to the car that was jumped

If neither you or the other driver are sure about this process, don’t hesitate to call your local Woodstock VA roadside repair service. It’s better to admit you don’t know how to do something than put yourself or another driver in danger.

Running out of gas

“I have enough gas to get me home,” you tell yourself before setting out on a long drive down a rural stretch of highway.

As it turns out, you don’t. Miles before your destination, your car starts to sputter and die, the fuel gauge on “E.”

When this happens, here’s what to do:

  • Pull over. If your car has stopped and there’s not enough fuel to get you to the side of the road, shift to neutral and — when you know it’s safe to do so — push the car to the side of the road, switching on your hazard lights to let other drivers know you need help.
  • Use your smartphone or a good old fashioned map to figure out where you’ve stopped.
  • Be sure your phone has a proper charge. You might be waiting a while, so you’ll need a way to communicate.
  • Find a local gas station. Failing that, call a towing company or roadside assistance service.

An overheated car

Having your car overheat can be scary. One minute you’re driving along normally, the next your engine is hissing and smoking. When this happens, take control of the situation by:

  • Switching on your heater. This might sound funny, but having the heat on pulls warm air away from your engine, easing the pressure on your car’s cooling system. Sometimes this is enough to bring the engine temperature down. You’ll know it’s worked if the warning light shuts off or the temperature gauge returns to its normal position.
  • If turning the heater on fails to cool the car after a few minutes of driving, it’s time to pull over and shut off the car. It’s the safest and most effective way to bring the engine temperature down. Call roadside assistance if you have it, or get in touch with your local Woodstock, Virginia roadside repair service.
  • If you don’t have access to roadside assistance, be patient. Give your engine at least 15 minutes to cool down. The coolant in an overheated car is EXTREMELY hot. You’re als in danger of burns from hot water or steam.
  • Once you’ve given the engine time to cool, add some coolant. Consult your owner’s manual to find your coolant reservoir.
  • If the temperature gauge returns to normal, you can proceed with caution. Keep in mind that this is a temporary fix. You’ll need a mechanic to find what caused the car to overheat in the first place.

Roadside repair in Woodstock, Virginia

We should stress once again that if you don’t feel comfortable addressing any of these DIY car repairs on your own, Shenandoah Towing is here to help.

Our roadside repairs include tire repair and replacement, battery jumpstarts and more. And with our own on-site repair facility, we can serve whatever mechanical issues we aren’t able to address at the site of your breakdown. Contact us today to learn more about our Woodstock VA roadside repair services.

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