What to do if your vehicle breaks down

Julia Kent knows a thing or two about how to cope when her vehicle refuses to start.

A few months ago, Kent, manager of public affairs for CAA National, climbed into her car that was located in a parking – garage only to find that the battery was dead.

“I was very happy to be a CAA member that day because I was rushing to another commitment, and they came so fast,” said Kent who unsurprisingly requested help from the roadside assistance company. “They came in less than 25 minutes.”

Being stranded on a highway, on a roadway or, in Kent’s case, in a parking garage is obviously no fun, but there are things you can do not only to reduce the odds of a breakdown, but also to stay cool, calm and collected if you’re ever left stranded.

First things first, though. The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, definitely applies here since bringing your vehicle in for preventive maintenance at regular service intervals will help to keep it in top shape. But even if you do all the right things — oil changes and other required service — vehicle failure is still possible. In such cases, there are tips to help you get through the ordeal.

“The number one thing to do if your vehicle breaks down is to pull off of the road,” said Kent. “Pull onto the highway shoulder as quickly as possible and as safely as possible, and remember to signal. If you do need to pull onto the left shoulder, ensure that you’re as far away from moving traffic as possible.

“If you choose to exit your vehicle while on the side of the highway or wherever, you have to be aware of your surroundings, be away from oncoming traffic and exit from the side of the car facing away from traffic. If you can’t pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights right away…That’s a signal to other drivers that you’re in distress and that they should be cautious of you.”

Should you choose to remain in your vehicle, roll up the windows, keep the windows and the doors locked, and avoid leaving the engine running for extended periods of time, said Kent.

When it comes to calling for roadside assistance — CAA also has an app that you can use to submit a service request — you’ll need to provide your membership number, a description of your vehicle, and the vehicle location. As well, you’ll want to tell the dispatcher about anything out of the ordinary pertaining to your car such as strange sounds or any smoke coming from under the hood.

“There are legal things to keep in mind when you have a breakdown,” added Kent. “It’s your responsibility to understand what your roadside assistance and your insurance policy will cover.”

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