Whether you’ve had car problems on a road trip or in-town, these stories are relatable. If you’ve had the good fortune to never have encountered a car problem, you can still learn from the misfortunes of others. Here are some of the best ways to be prepared should problems arise.
- Tire trouble
- Unavoidable problems
- Lost without GPS
- Fuel mix-up
Tires play an important role in a car’s ability to get us from point A to point B. If your tire blows out, comes off, or deflates while you’re driving, you could be in danger of an accident.
Becky Beach, Finance Blogger
“Over the Labor Day weekend, I was driving to Galveston with my 3-year-old son, Bryan. We had a tire blow out so almost caused an accident. Luckily, I swerved to the right shoulder at the last minute, and we parked safely. I had a jack and donut tire in the car so proceeded to change the tire. We were in the middle of nowhere in West Texas at 4 p.m. on a Friday.
I was almost finished changing the tire when a truck driver pulled up behind me to offer assistance. I'm wary of strangers so said I had everything under control. Drivers should always be cautious when others offer help on the side of the road. If you really need help, then call roadside assistance. Many insurance plans offer this for free.
Strangers may be dangerous, especially to women who are traveling alone with small children. I have a kit in my car that comes with jumper cables, flares, a reflective vest and other safety equipment. It's a good idea to keep these kits in your car if you have an emergency.
I then drove to Discount Tire Company and had to purchase a new tire. By having my jack and donut tire, I saved lots of money. Otherwise, I would have had to spend $100+ on a tow truck to get me to the tire place.
After the car had the new tire, we proceeded to the hotel in Galveston with no more mishaps.”
Kelly Beasley, CampAddict.com co-owner
“I was pulling my trailer to Banff, Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway. I realized I had a flat tire on a right-hand curve. (The worst) There really wasn’t a median so I was partly in the road. It was after dark, of course. I had NO idea how to get the tire down from under my truck. I started to read my manual, but thank goodness a Canadian police officer came by. He kept us safe. He also changed the tire for us!
Knowing how to change your own tire is a very basic skill. It's also a skill that could save your life, depending on the situation. Make sure you know where it is, how to get it out, and how to get it on.”
- Check your tires before you drive.
- Make sure you have the right pressure in your tire and good tires suitable for the road.
- Check to make sure that the tires are secure, just to be on the safe side.
- Have a spare tire kit and know how to change your tire.
Even with the best preparation and maintenance, your car can still give you trouble on the road.
Charles McCool, Travel Happiness Advocate, McCool Travel
“On my last road trip with my car (a brand new Subaru Outback), the windshield shattered. That was heartbreaking and I tried to get it fixed in another state. They could have done it if I stayed an extra three days. Instead I set up an appointment to do it at home. My insurance covered it, except for $100 deductible.”
Rhett Grametbauer, Author of 25,000 Miles to Glory
“I had the dream of visiting every NFL stadium and to live that dream from the driver's seat of a 1967 VW Bus. The VW Bus had more tows than months on the road, left us stranded on the side of the road in rural locations across the country, and cost a small fortune to repair. Worst of all, the brakes went out on the VW Bus three different times. The unmistakable feeling of driving a vehicle that you may or may not be able to stop is a sensation that I will always remember.
The most horrifying experience was outside of Atlanta when the brakes went out, and I found myself racing towards a cement wall. It's not often you know you are going to crash and it's just a matter of how bad it's going to be. At the end of the road, right before the cement wall, I turned left, avoided a tree and safely landed the VW Bus into some harmless shrubs.”
John Z. Wetmore, “Perils for Pedestrians” Producer
“Years ago, my old Toyota Camry started having acceleration problems when I was in the Colorado Rockies. I looked under the hood, but could not spot anything that looked abnormal. I limped with my flashers on into the town where I spent the night. The next morning, I went to the one mechanic in town. He couldn't help, so I had a 50 mile tow into Denver. It turned out it was a worn distributor shaft. The dealer replaced it, and the car ran fine.
I had had the car checked out before I started the trip, but the shaft hadn't reached the state where the wear was critical until I was half way through my trip. Sometimes breakdowns are unavoidable. If you have slack in your schedule, getting delayed a day or two won't ruin your trip.”
Rising temperature gauge
Debbie Wright, Auto Repair Shop Owner and Car Blogger
“The temperature gauge was rising as I was heading up the hill on my drive home. I knew better than to continue driving, so I pulled over on the side of the highway. There I was, unprepared as I sat in the car. The sun was setting and the weather was getting cold.
Because I had this car for sale, I had taken everything out of the car, including my phone charger, my sweater, and my phone charging cord.
I was concerned about the low charge on my battery. I was prepared in that I did have numbers to tow companies stored in my phone. It took three calls to find a tow company that could tow my car sooner than later. I then called my daughter to come pick me up.”
- Have a charged phone with you.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car with snacks, water, food, first aid, etc.
- Be alert on the road.
Lost without GPS
We rely heavily on technology, especially as it’s gotten easier to use and is generally reliable. Be aware that technology doesn’t always work well everywhere, and be prepared with some not-so-technically advanced solutions.
Matt Woodley, MoverFocus.com founder
“My fiancé (now wife) and I were once on a road trip a few years back in a remote area when the GPS ceased to work, and we were out of cellphone reception too. It was at this time we realized we also didn't have a map book for the area we were in, and we had to drive without directions for several hours before we regained cell phone reception and could then use Google Maps and find out where we were and needed to go.
We learned our lesson and now make sure we have a physical map book with us when we're traveling to an unfamiliar location. It's easy to take technology for granted, but there's really no substitute for a good ol’ fashioned map book.”
- Download your map and directions on your phone.
- Print out directions in advance.
- Keep a map in your car.
The right fuel keeps your car running well. The wrong fuel, on the other hand, can cause some serious problems.
Saurabh Jindal, Talk Travel Founder
“Once, while driving in India, I had an issue while stopping at a fuel station to fill the tank. In India, fuel stations have people who fill the tank for you (rather than you doing it on your own).
My car had a gasoline tank, and very recently the company had launched the diesel version of the car also. Now maybe because he got confused, but the fuel assistant who was filling my car tank started filling diesel in it even though I had asked specifically for gasoline. Fortunately, I noticed immediately and asked him to stop.
Now the issue was how to get the diesel fuel out. Since my tank was almost empty, and very little diesel (less than a litre) had gone in, the fuel assistant, turned on the car and then turned it off — repeating the same thing multiple times. He did this without putting the car into any gear with the sole aim of completely burning the fuel.
He was finally able to rid the tank completely of every drop of fuel and then filled it correctly with gasoline. He told me that this is a common error, and if the fuel quantity in the tank is small, it gets resolved by burning the fuel.
This was a one time experience for me, and I have no idea how I could have resolved it without the fuel assistant. I mean, if by mistake I had done the same, I don't think I would have know then as to how to resolve it. Though now, I know how to go about it.
I then put up a sticker on my car fuel tank cap with a capital G to show that it needs gasoline. I also started getting double confirmation with the fuel assistants before they filled my tank.”
- Know what kind of fuel your car needs, especially if you’re driving a rental car or a friend’s.
- If you accidentally put in the wrong fuel, don’t drive the car. If you do, the whole fuel system will have to be cleaned. That’s expensive.
Check out these other articles for more tips on avoiding car trouble: