Yesterday, I had a horrible, horrible drive home from work. Two of my wheels went flat, and it took the bulk of the day to get them fixed. Luckily, since I’m working the night shift now, I had the time to get towed (to two different repair shops), have the wheels replaced, and have the hub of one wheel fixed (at a third shop I only reached thanks to my emergency spare). Unluckily, because I had to run around repeatedly in order to accomplish all of this, I only got about three hours of sleep before I needed to go into the work that night.
Still, even though I had little sleep (and even less time to catch up on my blog writing and reading), it did inspire some thoughts for me. The biggest one is to be prepared for trouble whenever you go out driving. Although I was on the road for less than an hour, going a route I practically know by heart, I still ended up having to stop. If you aren’t prepared for such an eventuality, it could end up costing you in terms of time, money, and even safety. With that in mind, here are some points of advice for anyone who drives regularly, as well as my grade in each of them.
Car Maintenance Tips
1) Keep your car in good shape: The more preventative maintenance you do, the less likely you will find yourself standing by the side of the road, calling desperately for help, trying to find someone who can give you a ride. If you make sure you have fresh oil, plenty of fluid in your radiator, good tires with a nice tread, and no problems with the frame, you’re going to have much less trouble with your car during your drives.
My Grade: B – I do try to keep my car in good working order, but sometimes I let things get a little backed up and my tires get a bit bald or my fluid levels get too low. After this event, though, I’m going to make much more effort to be up on these preventative maintenance tasks in the future.
2) Know thy car and how to repair it: Let’s face it, no matter how well we try to care for our ride and how much we try to keep it working, accidents happen. A tire blows, the engine overheats, the radiator blows; when we drive, any number of things can occur that can stop us in our tracks. Being able to determine the cause of your problems, and fix the most common minor ones, is a valuable skill for anyone who spends time behind the wheel.
My Grade: C – I can change my tires, check my fluids, and keep my car moving in most circumstances, but if anything happens to the engine or to the exhibition catacomb, it is way beyond my ken. Luckily, that’s fairly rare.
3) Have the Appropriate Materials Needed: When you have car trouble, it’s likely due to problems with your tires or the engine. Now carrying a complete engine and four spare tires is not the sort of thing most of us can (or will) do. But if you make an effort to have some repair and replacement materials on hand, you’ll be that much closer to being able to fix your car problems yourself. Being sure to have everything you could need (especially if you are going to be far from stores or other resources) is vital for the prepared traveler.
My Grade: D – I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t usually have enough car repair items in stock. I have an emergency spare tire, a jack, and a wrench, but that’s it; no extra oil, no spark plugs, no jumper cables, no equipment of any kind to help if something other than a tire gives way on me. For that matter, I only have the one emergency (non-full-sized) spare, so if two or more of my tires go, that’s all she wrote.
4) Stay Calm: If you do find yourself in a situation where your car is no longer functioning and you can’t repair it, don’t panic. Stay calm, focus on contacting someone who can help (either a family member or, more likely, the nearest repair person), let your boss or whoever you were driving towards know the situation, and wait until the calvary shows up. Yes, having your car break down is a pain, but if you keep focused, you can easily get through it without a problem.
My Grade: B – I’m pretty good at not panicking under pressure, and it has helped whenever I’ve had car trouble. I could be better (less cursing my luck when these things happen, for example), but I’m not too bad.
5) Have a Cell Phone Handy: In these days, when everyone and their kids have their own phones, finding a working public phone is all but impossible. If you are out driving, be sure that you or one of your passengers is carrying a charged cell phone, so you have some way to contact help should you need it.
My Grade: F – I carry a cell phone everywhere I go. Unfortunately, it’s getting kind of old, and it no longer holds much of a charge. In the case of this incident, I ended up having to go inside the nearest gas station and use their phone (the pay phone out front was out of order). Being able to get help on your own is vital to your safety, so be sure to be more prepared than me.
6) Join AAA – The American Automobile Assocation provides any number of services to its members, offering towing to stranded vehicles and sending repairmen who can perform simple maintenance on your vehicle. Plus, you can frequently get discounts at various retailers by presenting your card, potentially enabling it to pay for itself.
My Grade: A – I am a proud, card-carrying (literally) member of AAA, and have been since I first started to drive. They’ve helped me out a pinch many times (more than I would care to admit, honestly), and are more than worth the cost. If you are a US citizen who drives a car and aren’t a member, I strongly, strongly recommend you change that fact immediately.
There you have it, six pieces of advice from me to you that should make your driving life a lot smoother. Farewell, and happy travels!