Your bags are packed. Your car is filled with friends and family. You press down on the gas and hit the open road. Few travel experiences are more enjoyable than a good-old-fashioned road trip. In fact, it’s one of the few times when the journey often beats the destination. The only thing that could put a roadblock on that journey is your car breaking down.
Dealing with a breakdown close to home, where you know your surroundings and good repair shops nearby, is fairly straightforward. Unfamiliar territory, however, presents a whole new set of hurdles. Here’s what to do when your car breaks down on a road trip.
Get Out of Harm’s Way
Regardless of where your car breaks down, you need to get off the road quickly and safely. As soon as you notice a mechanical problem, slow down and pull over to the side of the road. Try to find a flat area located as far away from traffic as possible. Look for a well-lit area if the breakdown occurs at night. Turn your hazard lights on and put down reflective warning triangles if you have them. Take a look at your surroundings and note any cross streets, landmarks, road signs, buildings or mile markers. This information will help technicians find you and your vehicle.
Call for Help
Once you’re in a safe location, reach out for help. AAA members can request Roadside Assistance 24/7 online, via the AAA Mobile App or by phone. Stay with your vehicle until a roadside technician arrives. If the issue is a flat tire, dead battery or other easily fixable problem, you’ll be on your way in no time.
Need a Tow?
Of course, not all mechanical issues can be fixed on the spot. If more extensive work is required, you’ll need to get your car towed to a repair shop. This is when being out of town presents a problem. It’s unlikely that you know a mechanic wherever it is your road trip has taken you. Fear not. Your roadside technician will likely have suggestions and you can always do some quick research online. A good place to start is searching for AAA Approved Auto Repair shops. With 7,000 facilities in North America, including 350 in the Northeast, there’s likely one nearby.
Rest, Relax and Refuel
Once at the repair facility, your car’s mechanical issue can be properly diagnosed. Hopefully, it’s a problem that can be fixed in just a few hours. You’re likely to be stressed and drained, so use the time to relax physically and mentally. Get a full meal, hydrate (especially if it’s hot), find a local attraction or explore your new surroundings. All these steps will take your mind off of the stressful event that just transpired and put you in a better mindset to get back on the road.
If the repair is going to take one or more days to complete, you’ll have some decisions to make. You can rent a hotel room and wait for your car to be ready. If you prefer to get back on your road trip right away, renting a car is your best option. Many insurance plans will cover car rental if your vehicle is out of commission due to a mechanical issue.
How to Prevent Your Car From Breaking Down
The best car breakdowns are the ones that never happen. While certain mechanical issues beyond your control can occur on your journey, proper car maintenance goes a long way in ensuring you, your passengers and your vehicle get to the destination safely and soundly.
Before you head out for your road trip, make sure your car is up for the task by checking off these tasks:
- Top off car fluids or change them if they are dirty or contaminated.
- Inflate tires to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
- Inspect your tires for any visible signs of damage and that the tread is not worn-down (no less than 4/32 of an inch).
- Test your car battery. (Most roadside assistance calls AAA Northeast receives are for battery problems.) AAA Battery Service will come to you to complete this task and, if necessary, replace your battery.
- It’s never a bad idea to have your vehicle undergo a thorough inspection before traveling. An auto repair shop can spot and fix potential problems before they put a detour on your road trip plans.
Broke down away from home? No need to worry. AAA members can save up to 20% on Hertz rentals to get back on the road in no time.
Need some road trip inspiration? From the sports-obsessed to couples looking for a romantic getaway, AAA has ideas for every type of traveler.