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Auto Tip - If Your Car Breaks Down It could be a burst tire . . . or an overheated engine . . . a water pump problem or a more serious mechanical failure.

Let's face it; stuff happens when you're out on the road, even with today's more reliable vehicles . . . and even when you've been good about keeping your car in good shape.

But, don't worry, there are a number of simple-yet-effective steps you can take to stay safe and get yourself back on the road.
  • At the first sign of trouble, let off the gas, indicate a lane change and carefully move your vehicle toward the breakdown lane. To maintain control, do not brake suddenly or steer abruptly. If you have a flat tire, try to bring the car to rest on level ground, which will help when jacking up the car and installing the spare.

  • Make sure you can be seen. Place highway flares behind your vehicle to alert other drivers. (You can also use hazard triangles if you have them.) Turn on your emergency flashers. If it is dark, turn on the interior dome light as well.

  • If you have a flat tire, make sure you can change it safely away from traffic. Otherwise, wait for police or other emergency assistance.

  • If you can't fix the car yourself, wait for help. Raise the hood and tie a cloth to the radio antenna. (Or hang a "HELP" sign in your window if you have one in your emergency kit.) Wait for police or emergency assistance.

  • Don't wait in your car if it is on the road -- stand away from traffic on the side of the road and wait for help.

  • If your car is safely out of traffic, wait inside the vehicle with the doors locked. Use your cell phone to call for help. If someone stops to help, remain in your locked car. Crack the window slightly and ask him or her to call the police if you have not, or could not, do so. It's important not to compromise your safety. Someone may want to take advantage of your predicament.
Avoid walking along the road, especially on an Interstate or in bad weather. However, if you know where help can be found and can reach it quickly without posing a risk to your safety, do so. Walk on the side of the road, keeping as far away from moving traffic as possible.
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