Mechanical malfunctions are
a fact of life for drivers today and for the foreseeable
future. Not only are they a source of breakdowns
and delay, but also pose a significant hazard to
both yourself and everyone else on the road.
Sometimes a mechanical malfunction
will give little or no warning. In this case a tanker-trailer
was headed north on the inside lane of a four lane
divided highway in an industrial part of town. Traveling
in the opposite direction, a mid- sized car was
headed toward the truck when, just before passing
the truck, the car shook and swerved into the left
front of the tanker trailer. After impact the truck
veered to the right and turned over in an adjacent
After inspection of the car's
suspension, it was determined that the ball joint
retaining nut was missing and the lower ball joint
had separated. The nut had apparently come loose
after front end suspension work. Tire marks at the
scene, revealed the ball joint separated prior to
the collision. This caused the left front wheel
to move uncontrollably. The car swerved left into
the tanker-trailer. Regular vehicle maintenance
and inspection can help prevent such an unexpected
and severe collision. Neither driver was cited in
this collision. The contributing factor listed on
the police report was "Defective Steering Mechanism"
Suspension and drivetrain
failures can usually be prevented by regular inspection
and lubrication. Most suspension problems produce
noise, so keep on top of those squeeks and rattles.
The next accident was caused
by incorrectly torqued lug nuts. A car was headed
south on an interstate soon after the left front
wheel had been replaced at a shop. The car started
to shake and then suddenly the left front wheel
separated from the vehicle. The wheel traveled across
the southbound lanes, over the dividing wall and
into northbound traffic. The wheel impacted a vehicle
and caused severe injuries to the driver.
Many people replace wheels and don't torque (tighten)
them properly. This is very important with all wheels,
but more so with alloy rims that are common on vehicles
these days. Incorrectly torqued lug nuts can also
warp brake disks, resulting in brake problems.
there will be noise and vibration preceding a wheel
separation, so if you hear unusual noises and/or vibrations,
slow down, pull over to a safe area, and inspect your
vehicles are a far too common occurrence on our increasingly
busy highways and interstates. Just about everyone
has run out of gas at some time; driving around on
fumes is never a good idea. It increases your risk
of running out of gas, but also increases your risk
of being stranded in a dangerous situation. This has
led to many motorists being killed or injured while
trying to move a vehicle or walking along freeways
to get fuel. If you are stranded at night the risks
of being hit are much greater still. Pedestrians are
regularly hit and killed everywhere there are roads.
If your vehicle
becomes disabled, get out of the roadway as soon as
safely possible. If you are about to run out of gas,
get off the main lanes and away from high-speed traffic.
In this example
a van ran out of gas while traveling on the inside
lanes of a busy freeway at night. While moving a vehicle
out of the roadway usually is a good idea, pushing
it at night is not. Unfortunately oncoming traffic
couldn't see the dim lights of the van and the right
rear light was obstructed by the woman pushing the
familiar with your brake system. Having your brakes fail
while you are driving is a dangerous experience where quick
thinking can cool reactions can potencially save lives.
At the first sign of brake trouble,
try not to panic. Downshift to low gear. Sound your horn
and flash your lights to warn other drivers. Work your vehicle
into the right lane and then toward the shoulder. Be aware
of other traffic around you and use your signals and mirrors
for your maneuvers. Pump the brake pedal hard and fast in
order to build up pressure. Most all vehicles have dual
hydraulic brake systems that prevent both the front and
rear brake systems from giving out at the same time. If
after three or four hard pumps no braking is occurring,
apply the parking brake. If the car starts to weave release
it and reapply it and/or swerve into bushes or something
soft. When you reach the right lane turn on your emergency
You should never drive a vehicle
at any speed without brakes! Nothing more dangerous on the
road than someone who can't stop.
Some people aren't used to ABS systems
(anti-lock braking systems) and may believe there is a problem
with their brakes, especially on slippery roadways. That
is, they feel a pulsing sensation when they brake hard.
If you vehicle is equipped with ABS, the ABS logo will appear
on your dashboard display whenever you start the car.
If you do have ABS, practice using
them before you get into an emergency. Try suddenly appying
your brakes in a safe place on wet and dry pavement.
Anti-lock brakes have benefits over
regular brakes when it comes to vehicle control. They allow
the driver to steer during hard braking. When regular brake
lock up the driver looses the ability to steer and the vehicle
may want to spinout of control if the rear brakes lock before
the front, or if braking along a curved road. Since ABS
allows the driver to steer, he or she can potencially avoid
the collision. It is important not to steer too hard or
you may loose control even with ABS.
When your car is equipped with
ABS and you need to brake hard:
Apply steady, firm pressure
to the brake pedal.
Steer around obstacles avoiding
sudden sharp meneuvers.
Here are some safety guidelines in
the advent of a mechanical failure.
of car trouble, pull as far off the road as possible. Warn
approaching traffic by turning on hazard flashers and the
dome light.If you
have cones or flares set them 300 feet behind your vehicle.
out of the roadway, and get passengers out of the area immediately.Stand away from your vehilcle and wait for
help to arrive.
In order to alert police or tow trucks, raise your hood
and tie something white to the antena.
for any nearby "call-for-help" phones. All interstate
highways and major roads are patrolled regularly, so be
Do not make repairs
in the road.Oncoming traffic could certainly kill or cause
you serious injury.
If you've spent much time in salvage
yards you'll notice many burned vehicles. A burning car
is a frightening situation and can lead to tradgedy.
you notice smoke coming from under your hood or smell
Use your turn signal and move
to the right lane.
Pull over, out of traffic, and
Shut off the engine and all
Get yourself and all other passengers
out of the vehicle. Noxious fumes may fill the interior.
Keep onlookers away and warn
other driver's to stay away.
If the fire is small, you can use
an extinguisher to put it out. Whatever you do, don't spray
or pour water on a gasolene, oil or electrical fire. With
a large fire , don't attempt to try to put out the fire
yourself. The fire may spread to the gas tank and create
a large fire ball. Keep far away and call for help.
are caused by:
In all vehicle fire situations, think and act quickly. Personal
and public safety are the most important considerations.
A vehicle can be replaced, but you or someone nearby cannot.
Exhaust systems give off a gaseous
byproduct called carbon monoxide. If it leaks into your
vehicle it it can be deadly. It can leak through poorly
routed or leaky exhaust systems and into the interior by
way of door jams, windows, vents etc. Running vehicles,
generators or other combution engines in an enclesed space,
such as a garage is extremely dangerous. When in traffic
keep plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you,
especially in slow traffic.
Carbon monoxide blocks your red blood
cells from carrying oxygen. Carbon
monoxide is difficult for a driver or passenger to detect
since it doesn't have an odor.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you have any any of these symptoms,
it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. If you are driving,
pull over and get fresh air immediately. Listen for exhaust
leaks and open windows near the exhaust pipe opening.
If you headlights go out, try the dimming switch and the
headlight switch a few times.
If this doesn't work, turn on your hazards, parking or turn
signals. Quicky and safely pull over leaving your hazard
Is that steam or smoke coming out
from my hood? If it's white, it's steam from your radiator.
If white steam is coming out your
tailpipe, you probubly blew a head gasket. Either way your
engine overheated and continuing to drive could seriously
damage the engine. Naturally, it's best to keep an eye on
your coolant and temperature gauge to prevent this.
If your car begins
to overheat, turn your heater on to draw some of the heat
out of the engine. Reduce the load on the engine by turning
off the air conditioner and shifting into neutral at stops.
If the temperatire
gauge shows the temperature is too high, pull to the side
of the road. Shut it off and let it cool down. Once it is
cool you can remove the rediator cap. Do not open the radiator
cap when the engine is warm. The radiator is under high
pressure and will spray scalding antifreeze on your face
and hands if the cap is removed when hot.
a vehicles battery is often the quickest way to get is going
when a battery fails. While jump starting is common, it
does have ricks and should be done properly to avoid burns
or explosion. Watch the following video about how to safely
jump start your vehicl.
Starting - Motorcycles
Very old motorcycles
and cars cannot be jumped safely by a modern car. Since
the mid 1960s, vehicles have used a 12-volt system as opposed
to the earlier 6-volt system. Motorcycles are typically
equipped with a standard transmission. This means they can
be push started fairly easily unless they are heavy for
the rider to push and hold up. Since the engines and batteries
of motorcycles are smaller than most other vehicles, They
can be jump started without needing to run the boosting
Alternatives to Typical Jump
Cigarette lighter outlet
An alternative to jumper cables is a cable used to interconnect
the 12 volt power outlets (cigarette lighter outlets) of
two vehicles. While this eliminates concerns with incorrect
connections and generation of arcs near battery terminals,
the amount of current available through such a connection
is small. This method works through very slowly charging
the battery, not through providing the current needed for
cranking. Engine cranking should not be attempted as the
starter motor current will exceed the fuse rating in a cigarette
lighter outlet. Many vehicles turn off the cigarette lighter
outlets when the key is turned off, making the technique
unusable unless the ignition key is turned to the accessory
position to connect the cigarette lighter outlet to the
Battery booster and jump starter
A hand-portable battery, equipped with attached cables and
charger, can be used similarly to another vehicle's battery.
It can reach 1700 peak amps.
Portable boosters may automatically sense the battery's
polarity prior to sending power to the vehicle, eliminating
the damage that can result from reversing the connection.
Motorists and service garages often have portable battery
chargers operated from AC power. Very small "trickle"
chargers are intended only to maintain a charge on a parked
or stored vehicle, but larger chargers can put enough charge
into a battery to allow a start within a few minutes. Battery
chargers may be strictly manual, or may include controls
for time and charging voltage. Some chargers are equipped
with "boost" settings that supply a large current
to assist in cranking the engine. Battery chargers that
apply high voltage (for example, more than 16 volts on a
12 volt nominal system) will result in high emission of
hydrogen gas from the battery and may damage it. A battery
may be recharged without removal from the vehicle, although
in a typical roadside situation no convenient source of
AC power may be nearby.
 Push starting
Main article: Push start
A vehicle with a manual transmission may be push started.
This requires caution while pushing the vehicle and may
require the assistance of several persons. If the vehicle
battery cannot provide power to the ignition system, push
starting will be ineffective. Most vehicles with automatic
transmissions cannot be started this way because the hydraulic
torque converter in the transmission will not allow the
engine to be driven by the wheels (some very old automatic
transmissions, e.g., General Motors' two-speed Powerglide
transmission, do leave a solid connection between the engine
and wheels, and cars equipped with such transmissions can
be push started).
A gas pedal can get
stuck for a variaty of reasons. These include problems with
linkage, cables or even floormats and flipflops.
If your gas pedal gets stuck while you're driving:
Shift into neutral
Don't turn the engine off while
you are moving unless you no longer need to steer the
look out for traffic and apply your brakes.
a way to drive the car safely off the road.
drivers by flashing your emergency lights.
possible to free the stuck pedal by tapping it or removing
the obstruction. If you can get your foot under it, lift
it up to free it.
The main thing to remember when you
have a blowout or a flat (to a lesser extent) is to remain
calm and don't jerk the steering wheel in response to noise
or one side of the car dropping down. Tests involving blowouts
have shown, that in almost all instances is a driver simply
drives straight ahead, he or she will maintain control and
be able to avoid loosing control.
If one of your tires blowout or
you think you have a flat:
Grip the steering wheel tightly
with both hands and steer straight ahead.
Use emergency flashers and horn
to warn other drivers.
Work your way to an exit or
off the roadway to a safe location.
Slow down gradually.
Lift your foot from the accelerator
slowly but don't apply the brakes untill you are almost
Park the vehicle well off the
pavement before stopping. You can drive on a flat as
long as you take it easy. The tire is most certainly
ruined, so don't worry about damaging it.
Avoid driving farther than just
off the roadway, since the rim can be damaged by prolonged
use without a tire.
Changing a Tire
not done correctly, changing a tire can be very dangerous.
The vehicle may fall due to it moving or an incorrectly
placed jack. Be sure you have the correct equipment and
look at the owners manual for instruction.Traffic whizzing
by as you change a tire is a hazard you need to avoid, so
pull as far away from traffic as you can and don't risk
your life to make that appointment.
If you are unfamiliar
with how to change a tire, have difficulty removing lug
nuts (many times those are really stuck on there), or operating
a jack (most jacks are stiff, slow and hard to reach when
under the vehicle) you would probubly be much better off
getting professional help, especially on multi-lane highways.