Emergency Car Care

By Chelle Cordero

January 22, 2010 5 min read

You're driving down the road, when suddenly the ride gets very bumpy and the steering is skewed. You pull over to the side, and you notice that there doesn't seem to be anyone else around. What's wrong? How long will you have to sit before help comes along? May as well get out and check ... and you groan in frustration when you notice how flat one of your tires is. Of course, today had to be the day that you left your cell phone home.

That scenario may seem like a bit of a nightmare -- or it may be just an inconvenience. Flat tires and other automotive "uh-ohs" can happen to everyone, and new cars aren't necessarily immune. Customer relations at Ford Motor Co. recommends that you read through your owners manual and familiarize yourself with the various parts of your car before any problems occur. If you are diligent about following the recommended maintenance, you may even ward off some unexpected breakdowns.

Elizabeth Rouse from Geico public relations sent along recommendations for the contents in an emergency kit for your car: basic tools (screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers), flares, a flashlight and extra batteries, windshield washer fluid, water, latex and leather gloves, a can of tire sealant, a tire gauge, tow rope, antifreeze, jumper cables, a lug wrench, a jack, rags or paper towels, a whistle and a first-aid kit. Depending on the weather conditions where you are driving, consider adding a collapsible shovel, sand or cat litter, a snow brush, an emergency poncho, a siphon pump, a blanket and a reflective belt or vest. If you are traveling though any remote areas, add high-energy snacks and drinking water in case you become stranded.

Before taking any long car trips, check your vehicle fluids (radiator, washer, oil, transmission and battery) and tire condition and pressure. Carry a cell phone, and don't forget the charger. If you have to pull your car off to the side of the road, make sure that you are both visible and out of the way of traffic.

Ford Motor Co. reminds you to familiarize yourself with the parts of your car and the tools you'll need to perform any maintenance. Here are two common emergency road repairs that you can handle yourself to get going and keep the ride smooth:

*Changing a Flat Tire

Park as far off the road as possible, and turn on your hazard lights. Place the car in park (reverse for manual transmissions), and turn the engine off. Block the tires to prevent the car from rolling. Get the spare tire, jack and lug wrench from the trunk. Loosen each lug nut slightly. Put the jack in the recommended spot for the tire you are changing. Crank the jack up until the wheel is high enough to put the spare on. Remove the lug nuts, and remove the flat tire. Put the new tire on the hub; do not fully tighten the lug nuts. Lower the jack. Fully tighten the lug nuts. (Hint: Alternate tightening until they are all snug.) Return the flat tire, jack and wrench to the trunk, and unblock the wheels. Get a replacement tire as soon as possible.

*How to Jump-Start a Dead Battery

Do not disconnect the dead battery. Park a running vehicle next to the raised hood of your car. Turn both vehicles off, and put them in park. Turn off accessory items that can drain power. Remove the battery terminal covers. Using wadded newspaper, a steel brush, etc. (NOT your hand), brush away excess corrosion from the battery terminals. Clamp the red positive (+) cable onto the disabled vehicle's red positive battery terminal. Connect the other end of the red positive cable to the booster vehicle's red positive battery terminal. Connect the black negative (-) clamp to the booster vehicle's black negative terminal. Connect the other end of the black negative cable to a large, unpainted metal surface within the engine area of the dead vehicle, away from the battery and the carburetor/fuel injection system. Make sure the cables are clear of any possible moving parts. Start the booster vehicle, and then start the disabled vehicle. Allow them to run connected for a few minutes. Disconnect the cables in the reverse order that they were attached, and close the hoods. Allow the jump-started vehicle's engine to run for several minutes.

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