Tool and Supply Checklist:
As the saying goes, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and this is especially true for your car. The best way to avoid road emergencies is to be familiar with your vehicle and perform regular maintenance and inspections. Read your owner's manual and keep it in the vehicle for reference. Regularly check the tires, fluid levels, hoses, and belts. Use the engine oil, fluids, and fuel recommended by the manufacturer, and refuel when you are down to a quarter tank. Be sure fog lights and other accessories are installed properly to prevent the engine from overheating. Of course, emergencies cannot always be prevented; this project is designed to help you deal with them when they do occur.
EMERGENCY TOOLS FOR YOUR CAR
Following is a list of basic emergency tools that should be kept in your car at all times, The time to plan for emergency situations is before they occur, and these items will get you through many emergencies that otherwise would leave you stranded and helpless.
When trouble strikes while driving, pull off to the side of the road as far as possible and turn off the engine. Never turn off the engine or remove the key while the vehicle is still rolling to a stop; many cars have steering wheels that lock, which could cause you to lose control. Turn on the hazard lights immediately and keep all passengers in the car unless there are signs of smoke or fire. Open the hood and tie a distress flag to the antenna or drivers door handle to alert other motorists. Position flares as follows: one 100 feet behind the car, one 100 feet ahead of the car, and another 10 feet behind the left rear corner of the car. If the vehicle is blocking a travel lane, place flares ahead of and behind the car in the center of the lane. Most importantly, stay calm-panicking will only make the situation worse. Oftentimes the first indication of trouble is when a warning light goes on. Here's what to do when you spot one of those ominous flashes of red:
Coolant Temperature Warning Light
1. Check for worn or broken belts, replace as needed.
2. Check the radiator and hoses for leaks and bad clamp connections. Damaged hoses can be temporarily taped and clamps can be repaired.
3. If steam is observed, this probably means lost coolant in the radiator. After the engine has cooled, slowly remove the radiator cap and add coolant or warm water.
WARNING: Stay clear of the radiator fan. Until the coolant temperature drops, the fan can switch on even with the ignition off. Allow the engine to cool before touching anything.
Alternator Warning Light
Check for worn or broken belts; replace as needed.
Oil Warning Light
1. Check the oil level by removing the dipstick and wiping it dry. Put it back in, then remove it again to make the reading.
2. Do not drive the car any further if the oil is low. Add oil before restarting the car.
3. When the light blinks and an alarm sounds, this means you have overtaxed the engine. Turn it off and allow it to cool.
Brake Warning Light
1. Check the brake fluid; it can be found in a small container near the rear of the engine compartment on the drivers side. The two chambers should be filled to within 1/2" from the top. If the level is low, do not drive the car any further until you have added brake fluid.
2. if your car has drum brakes, pumping the brake pedal can give added stopping power; with disc brakes, hold down the pedal to stop the car.
3. Allow the brakes to cool, since the problem could be simple overuse. When cool, test them cautiously.
NOTE: In case of total brake failure, use the emergency brake or try downshifting the car several gears. Do not continue to drive the vehicle.
Oxygen Sensor Light
This is a reminder to have the emission control system serviced. It is not an emergency.
One of the main culprits that can prevent a car from starting is the battery. Before working on the battery, disconnect the ground cable.
1. Check for cracks, loose terminal posts, and other signs of damage. Any of these means the battery must be replaced.
2. Check for worn or broken cables and connectors and replace them.
3. Check for loose or corroded connections at both terminals; tighten or clean as needed. To clean, use a brush and baking soda and water solution, then apply battery terminal spray for protection. Re-connect the ground cable.
4. Check the fluid level. Add water (distilled, if possible) to the cells if the battery is not maintenance-free; otherwise, take it to a dealer.
If a battery charger is not available, you will have to jump start your car from another vehicle's battery in order to start the engine. Be sure you have a good, long pair of jumper cables; they cost a little more, but they will prove their worth when you need them.
1. Position the two cars so that the cables reach from the battery of one car to the battery of the other. Make sure the cars do not touch.
2. Locate the positive (+) terminal on both batteries and attach a cable between them.
3. Connect one end of the other cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
4. Connect the other end of the cable to a good ground connection under the hood of the disabled car. (A bolt on the engine is a good spot.)
5. Start the car with the good battery and let the engine run for a minute. After making sure all lights and accessories are turned off, start the disabled car. If excessive sparking occurs. check the cable polarity; the cables may have been hooked up in reverse order.
WARNING: Do not smoke when working around batteries. Battery gas can explode, and the acid will burn skin and clothing. If you come In contact with the acid, immediately rinse with cold water and call a doctor if necessary.
Sometimes a vehicle will not start because the choke is stuck or improperly adjusted. Remove the air cleaner cover to locate the choke plate. If the choke is stuck, press it open manually, then re- place the air cleaner cover. If the choke is opening too slowly or too quickly, it must be adjusted. As a general rule, the leanest setting that will start the engine and keep it running is best.
CHANGING A FLAT TIRE
If your car suddenly begins to pull to the left or right and you feel you are losing control, chances are one of your tires Is going flat. Pull over to the shoulder immediately; trying to drive any further will only ruin the tire and/or the rim.
1. Park on a level surface. Set the emergency brake and block the tires so the vehicle does not roll.
2. Have all passengers exit the vehicle.
3. Pry off the hubcap with the flat end of the jack handle. (Hubcaps on more expensive cars cannot be pried off; instead, they are removed with a special wrench that is supplied with the vehicle.)
4. Loosen all lug nuts or bolts one full turn with a lug wrench; four-in-one lug wrenches provide the best leverage. Check thread direction (right or left) as indicated by "R" or "L" on the stud. Keep in mind that 'R" and "L" refer to the tightening direction of the bolts, not the loosening direction.
5. Refer to the owner's manual for proper lift point and jacking procedure, then jack the car up so the tire just clears the ground.
6. Remove all lug nuts or bolts and put them in the hubcap.
7. Pull off the flat tire and replace with the spare.
8. Put the lug nuts or bolts back on and tighten.
9. Jack the car down slowly.
10. Tighten the lug nuts using the sequence that applies to your vehicle.
11. Replace the hubcap using a rubber mallet to tap it into place.
12. Check the air pressure on the newly mount- ed tire.
NOTE: Knowing how to change a flat is of no use if you do not have a usable spare to replace it. Make sure your spare is properly inflated at all times.
FREEING A STUCK VEHICLE
Although having your car stuck fast in snow or mud when you are alone can create a desperate feeling of helplessness, it is important not to panic and step down hard on the gas pedal. Far from getting you going, this will only result in spinning wheels. If you feel your wheels spinning at all, take your foot off the pedal immediately, or soon you will be in a hole from which only a tow truck will be able to rescue you.
1. Clear the snow or mud from around the tires and under the car. Straighten the front wheels.
2. Spread salt, sand, or cat litter around the drive wheels if you are stuck in snow; for mud, use hay, straw, or a board. (Remember that many cars are front-wheel drive.) Newspaper, twigs, and gravel may also be used if the other items are not available.
3. Gently rock the vehicle by shifting back and forth between a low forward gear and reverse. This rocking may generate the traction and forward momentum needed to free the vehicle.
4. Add weight over the drive axle for better traction, but do not place the weight too far back in the trunk.
5. If the previous measures do not work, tire chains will probably be needed on the drive wheels,
Always try to avoid puddles; they're often deeper than you think and can flood the engine and stall your car. If it does stall, immediately turn on the hazard lights. After exiting the water, test your brakes at a slow speed, because they might have lost their holding power. Lightly pump the brakes to dry them. If braking power has been affected, pull off the road and wait about 5 minutes, then repeat the procedure. If this still doesn't work, there could be something more serious wrong with the brakes. Wait for help, and do not drive the car any further.
1. Turn off the wipers and stop the car.
2. After waiting a few minutc3, try the wipers again.
3. If the wipers still do not work, check for loose wiring or a blown fuse.
1. Turn on your fog or hazard lights until you reach a safe area to pull over.
2. Check for a blown fuse.
REPLACING A FUSE
1. Check your owner's manual for the location of the fuse block and for the fuse listing.
2 Locate the blown fuse; it can usually be spotted because of its burnt metal strip.
3. Remove the blown fuse using a fuse puller. if you do not have one, use a clip, stick, or half of a hinged clothespin.
4. Be sure to replace it with a fuse of equal amp rating. Press the new fuse into position with your finger.
A FINAL RECOMMENDATION
In most cases, with the right tools and a little knowledge, you can temporarily correct your car's problem-at least long enough to get it to a service station for professional help. Even if you are satisfied with your emergency repair job, it's still a good idea to have it looked at by a professional mechanic at your earliest convenience to make sure the problem has been resolved.