Knowing Your Vehicle So That You Don’t Need A Towing Service (Part 1)

Well, well, well, we’re really telling  you the secrets now aren’t we?  That’s all good, as much as towing is our business, we would much prefer that you arrive home safely without the crisis of being stuck at the side of the road waiting for our help.  To prevent this, there are a few small things that you can do and monitor that may allow you to prepare or to heed the warning sides that your vehicle may have an issue.  Many of the common problems that people do find themselves stuck on the side of the road for, are usually, in some way, avoidable.

Get to know and Pay attention to you Dash board

For many, the dashboard is multitude of pretty lights that come and go and don’t really provide much information.  Unfortunately, every single one of those lights has a purpose and it’s important to know what they mean or at least have access to information that can tell you what they mean.  Always keep your car’s manual close by (most people do so in the glove box) so that it is easily accessible should a light come on that you don’t normally receive.   Read the manual and get to know the basic symbols, take the time to compare them to what you see on the dashboard and try and understand what each one means.  Before that however, take some time before you drive to notice what lights are on and what lights on, that way if a new one does suddenly flicker on, you know it is signalling out of the ordinary.  Many people don’t even remember when a light first appeared or if it’s normal for it to be shown on the dash or not.

The next step is to actually obey the lights.  Many newer cars these days may have specific signals, lights that say “Stop” or even “Pull over”.   The other common symbols may be the check engine light or the oil light (get to know what these look like by reading the manual, you have done that by now right?).  Although there can be faults that lead to these lights being displayed unnecessarily, if one does suddenly flash on, it is recommended to pull over at the next safest spot to check what it means and what can be done to ensure there is no issue.  IF you cannot work out what the issue is, or realise that the light has been on for a while, even if the car has not been playing up or indicating that it may physically have an issue, it is recommended to have it checked by qualified mechanic or service dealer.

The final dashboard lights to look at are the heating gauge and the fuel tank and RPM gauge.   Get to know where your car normally sits in regards to its temperature.  Notice an increase can be the first sign to finding a fault early and can save you thousands of dollars if it happens to be a worst case scenario that is leading to a future problem.   If you smell a burning smell and you feel the car is overheating a quick look can tell you where it’s currently at, and if it’s in a dangerous, pull over when you next feel it’s safe to do so.  The same goes for the RPM gauge.  By noticing any increase in effort from the car to drive at the same speed on the same slope, it may be telling you that something is going wrong, even if it just needs a simple service.  Checking the fuel tank may seem obvious however you would be surprised how many tow trucks and service vehicles are called out for people who have run out of fuel.   It’s important not just to remember before you start driving and during your travel but to also know how much fuel left that is indicated on the gauge will allow you to travel.  These days many cars provide travel distance information so it is much easier to ascertain how far left you can travel.  The final point is to not hold out if you believe you are low on fuel, pull over at the closest service station and ensure you have checked, or know how far to the next fuel pump, especially in unfamiliar territory.  There are apps these days that can provide these assistances.

Pay attention to how your vehicle drives

Get to know how your vehicle drives under all situations.  Get to know it’s feel and how it manoeuvres as this any deviation from this can tell you something is wrong.  If the ride becomes more bumpy you may have an issue, if the turning becomes difficult you may simply have something caught underneath the vehicle.  By knowing the feel of the vehicle you can pull over safely at the first signs of trouble rather than keep driving and potentially waiting for a minor issue to turn into something major.  As the section above, if you do feel anything out of the ordinary, ensure that you have it checked by a qualified mechanic, and if there is no major issue, than better safe than sorry.

Listen to your vehicle

Try and remember how your vehicle sound, both when driving at a steady pace and when accelerating (yes, that means you are going to have to turn down the radio at some point).  Problems with an engine can start small, it may be a whirring noise or a ticking noise or the sound of a fan belt.  Being able to notice the difference early can save you thousands of dollars before the problem really becomes a major issue.

Regular Maintenance.

Speaking of mechanics, what is the best way to prevent faults and issues that may lead to you being stuck on the side of the road with a breakdown?  It is seeing your mechanic regularly, whether that is done by time (normally annual if you don’t clock up the kilometres) or by kilometres and how far you’ve driven (if you drive a lot and need it serviced more than once a year).  Regular servicing of a vehicle cannot be overstated as this will allow mechanics to check for any faults as they do their standards procedures.  This will also include checking things like brake pads and fuel/oil filters allowing your car to run at its best