What to do when your car breaks down?

Having a car suddenly break down while you’re driving can be a stressful experience. It’s a good idea to get yourself educated on this matter before it actually happens to help you remain calm and to better cope with caused stress during such situations.

Most Common Reasons for a Car Breaking Down

– A flat tire can be caused by a puncture from a sharp object on the road. Having an air pump in your car could be a helpful precautionary solution.

An old, run down bald tire can also result in a flat during sudden breaking. Don’t wait until your tires become completely bald because you are risking your safety while driving, not to mention the potential of getting fined by the police. Always be aware of your tires’ thread level and check tire pressure every few months.

– A dead car battery is another common cause of a breakdown. Every battery dies with age or it can deplete while driving if it’s faulty. Even a high-quality battery will fail if you’ve only been driving short distances without giving it a chance to fully recharge.

– Running out of gas happens more often than you might think. Trying to squeeze out those few extra miles while running on empty or testing the limits of your car is just not worth the risk.

If your car is old and the fuel indicator is not working properly, make sure to keep an empty gas canister for emergency situations.

What Actions to Take

If the car is still rolling, try to make it to the side shoulder to completely get away from all traffic. In a case where your car stopped in the middle of a busy highway, put your hazard lights on and leave the vehicle. Your safety comes first and you don’t want to risk getting hit by a coming car, especially while you’re trying to deal with your situation.

Next, try to figure out your exact location. Look at the traffic signs and scan the area for any businesses around you. Use the Google Maps App pin location option if you need to send your coordinance to someone for them to come and get you.

Assess the condition of your vehicle. Not everyone has the knowledge of a car mechanic, but try to determine if there are any obvious problems that might have caused the breakdown, such as a flat tire or running out of fuel.

Stopping on the road at night, in thick fog or a thunderstorm might make your car blend in with the surroundings. Make yourself visible by turning on your hazard lights and popping open your hood. Look in your trunk if you have a triangle reflector sign that you could put a couple of feet away from the back of your car. Some reflector signs come pre-attached to the inside of the trunk. In that case, you would need to leave it open.

Call roadside assistance or a tow truck company. Contact a friend, family member or 911 if you need advice on your current situation, or you feel too stressed to solve this problem on your own.

How fast can a towing service be completed?

Getting your car towed can often be a stressful and lengthy experience, especially if you get stuck on the side of the road, becoming completely reliant on the tow company’s help. You can ease the process by educating yourself on this matter beforehand.

It’s understandable that you might feel frustrated and just want to get over with the car dilemma, but instead of dialing the first number that pops up on google search, a few minutes on research on local towing companies. This might end up saving you time and money at the end of the day.

Start your research by looking up what towing companies are the closest to your current location. Browse through their websites to see what kind of services they are offering. Check if some of them have flat fees for nearby towing locations.

After you have found a few good candidates, try to find some client reviews outside of their official website. Be sure to scan for complaints relating to lengthy wait times and hidden fees. A normal wait time during non-rush hours shouldn’t be more than an hour.

If you are considering cheaper towing options, such as hook and chain towing, wheel lift towing, or integrated towing, take a look at what the reviewers are saying about the condition of their car after reaching the final destination. Dragging a car on wheels for an extended period of time is not an easy task and might result in significant damage if the tow operator has little experience or doesn’t know what they are doing. Consider requesting flatbed towing for your vehicle, since it puts your car on a platform shielding it from any direct contact with the ground during the tow and significantly lowering the chances of damage.

After you have decided on the towing company and the type of towing you need, go ahead and give them a call. Try to provide a detailed explanation of your situation and the type of vehicle that needs to be towed, including your desired final destination. Failure to provide enough information might lead to unexpected fees later on. If they don’t offer a flat towing fee, be sure to ask them to give you a detailed rundown on their pricing and any fees you might incur. Find out from the dispatcher how busy they are at the moment and what is the estimated time of the tow truck’s arrival to your location. Follow up with a phone call every 30 minutes to keep track of the situation. Upon the tow truck’s arrival double check about the agreed price.

On average it takes 10-20 minutes to hook up the vehicle to the tow truck or drag it onto the flatbed. The towing speed can normally reach regular speed limits. The truck will go slower if the road is bumpy, uneven, or has obstacles. Some towing companies only accept cash, so you might have to stop somewhere along the way if you don’t have any on hand.

How do towing companies charge for their services?

If you go on a towing company’s website, you will most likely not find a concrete pricing list, since there are often a lot of factors which determine the final price.

What impacts the cost of a tow?

Towing fees often start with a hookup fee which is $50-$100, depending on your location and the type of tow you are requesting. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting the vehicle towed 1 or 50 miles, the hoop up fee will still be applied to your final bill. There is also a per mile fee, which could range anywhere from $2.50 to $7.

Towing a car which had stopped working because of mechanical problems might be cheaper to tow than the one that got into a car accident. The pricing can also increase if there is extra work and time needed to get the tow going, for example pulling a car out of a ditch, or having the vehicle towed on a mountainous terrain or a steep/narrow path. Some companies charge more for towing during late hours, weekends or Holidays. Also, be sure to ask if there is a loading fee enforced.

It is important to have good communication with the tow company before hiring them to be able to fully understand everything that is factored into the pricing. Otherwise, you are likely to end up with a much higher bill than expected. Some companies might try to lowball the caller over the phone and only disclose base pricing if the customer doesn’t ask follow up questions just to get their business. Some states have caps on how much a towing company can charge for specific services. Make sure to keep the receipt in case you need to file a claim later and dispute the charges you weren’t aware of.

Roadside Assistance

If you are paying an annual fee for roadside assistance, such as AAA, it might really help you out in this situation. AAA membership normally costs under $70 and includes not only towing, but also services such as a dead car battery charge, flat tire replacement, and event key recovery when you lock the keys inside the vehicle. They partner up with local tow companies and will send assistance your way after you call them.

Car insurance companies like Geico, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual might offer incorporated monthly payments for roadside assistance as a part of your car insurance bill. Some car owners are not even aware that they signed up for it because the payment is often under $10 per month and is seamlessly deducted along with car insurance. Coverage for services included varies from policy to policy. Some have a mile limit or the number of tows per year you can use.

Make sure to contact your insurance company and find out what coverage plan you have or what are the options when signing up for a new one.

 

What kind of tow truck service do I need?

If you have found yourself in a situation where your vehicle is in need of towing, make sure to look for an experienced, reliable and professional towing company in your area. Before you start your search for the right company, you should decide what kind of towing best fits your situation. Here are the four most common towing services used today.

Flatbed towing is the most widely used towing solution. Flatbed tow trucks have a long empty bed in the back, which is operated using hydraulics. A car can be driven up the ramp of the bed if it is still operational. Otherwise, the truck can pull it up, as long as it is possible to set the car into neutral gear. There is no direct contact between the car and the road during towing, which makes flatbed towing the safest and most convenient solution in many cases. It is most suitable for cars, which have developed unexpected mechanical problems during the drive, car accidents, or simply for transporting a car from point A to point B when the driver is not in the right state of operating the vehicle.

  • Hook and chain tow trucks operate by using a long retractable chain with a hook on the end, which is attached underneath the front or the back of the vehicle. One side is lifted up into the air and the car gets pulled on the wheels which remain on the ground. This towing method puts a lot of pressure on the vehicle and can result in scratches, deformed parts, or broken off pieces. That is why such towing method is most suitable if extra damage is not an issue, for example, if the vehicle is getting towed to a junkyard or to a shop to be used for parts. 
  • Wheel lift tow trucks use a similar method to the hook and chain, but instead of a hook, there is a metal yoke designed to go under the drive wheels of the car and lift them up. This approach does not put pressure on one part of the car. It is a great alternative to the hook and chain with provided additional safety features.
  • Integrated tow trucks have an extra axle designed to provide strength and stability when towing heavy-duty vehicles, such as rigs and buses.

Your car might need to be towed because of a breakdown, an accident or a simple relocation, but unless it is totaled and being sent to the junkyard, you do not want the towing process to cause any additional damage to it. That is where decision making on which service to use comes into play.

Flatbed towing might be the best option in these scenarios:

  1. You own a vehicle, which is low to the ground and pulling it with a dolly might scrape the bottom.
  2. The pulled vehicle is all-wheel drive and pulling it on two wheels might badly damage the transmission.
  3. You need your car to be transported to a faraway location and having the car pulled by two wheels for an extended period of time would increase the risk of additional damages.
  4. The towed car is vintage and/or of high value and you cannot take any risks of even minor damage.
  5. The towed vehicle is over the weight limit of what a dolly can handle.
  6. The car has wheel damage and cannot be towed using a dolly.
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