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What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down on a Road Trip

  • Tips/Guides-Tips/Guides

You’re going on holiday this December and you’ve done all the preparations to make sure everything runs smoothly. But there’s one thing that can happen unexpectedly, especially if you haven’t maintained and serviced your car regularly. A breakdown is likely one of your worst fears on a road trip. But some preparation and knowledge can alleviate some of the panic and get you on your way as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Three smiling young people pushing their broken down convertible.

Common reasons a car breaks down and what to do

Understanding the potential risks of a car breaking down means you can plan to avoid this with preventative measures.

Battery

A faulty battery may be due to lack of use, especially over the lockdown period when there was very little opportunity for driving, it may be old, it may be because of the charging system or other component, or you may have left the lights on.

What to do

  • Manual car? Push start it.
  • Get all the adult passengers to push while you steer.
  • Turn the key, put it in second, clutch in.
  • As you gain momentum, release the clutch and step on the accelerator.

That should get you going on the road, but your next stop should be a nearest service station for a battery check and possible replacement.

Tip

Check your battery before going on a long trip to ensure that the electrical connection is secure, the terminals are free of corrosion, and there are no faults causing your battery to drain. Also check your alternator as a fault can affect your battery as well.

Alternator

Sometimes a car not starting may not be the battery but the alternator which charges the battery. Test this by turning on your car’s lights – if they turn on then it’s likely your battery is fine and the problem is with your alternator.  There’s not much you can do but call roadside assistance.

Tip

The only way to avoid running into alternator problems is to check for signs and symptoms. Flickering lights, dimming headlamps, sluggish windscreen wipers are good indicators.

Tyres

Punctured tyres are extremely common, particularly with the amount of potholes one can encounter on a road. But at least potholes are visible. Small sharp objects are less so. Enter the spare wheel. Under-inflated tyres could cause overheating and result in a burst tyre, which is an extremely dangerous situation.

What to do

Watch this video on how to change a tyre in 5 easy steps.

Tip

Keep a puncture kit in your car and check that there is a spare wheel.

Ensure all tyres are properly inflated, including the spare.

Check your tyre’s condition before you go.

Read: How to change a flat tyre

Overheating

If the hiss of steam coming out of the bonnet doesn’t alert you first, the temperature warning light sure will. A car overheating is serious and could be a problem with the cooling system.

What to do

  • Turn on the heater to draw heat away from the engine.
  • If the warning light doesn’t turn off, pull over and switch the engine off.
  • Call roadside assistance and wait. Do not open the hood.
  • If you do not have roadside assistance, wait until the engine and coolant cools down.
  • With gloves, open the hood, with a towel, cover the radiator cap, and slowly open to release pressure.
  • Add coolant and water in equal proportions and replace the cap.
  • Drive slowly all the while keeping your eye on the warning light or steam from under the hood.

Following these steps will help to get your car to the nearest service station for assistance.

Tip:

Pack a basic toolkit, an old towel, heavy-duty gloves, engine oil, and coolant.

Keys

Lost keys or keys locked inside the car may not be exactly a breakdown, but its consequences are pretty much the same. You’re not going anywhere without them.

What to do

There are a few odd ways that people have tried to unlock their cars without the help of a locksmith, but these methods will depend on the type of car you have and whether or not you have a tennis ball/hanger/spatula, etc. handy. We recommend calling a locksmith.

Tip:

A spare key at home is useless when you’re a long way from there. Bring it on holiday with you, keep it in a safe place and remember where you put it.

In conclusion

Even a well-maintained car needs a last check before leaving on a long road trip. You’re going on holiday to get away from stress and anxiety – avoid it at all costs and

pop in to a Supa Quick for a free vehicle safety check for your road trip peace of mind.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational or informational purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Views expressed in this article are of the author and not necessarily the views of Supa Quick.

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