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Eventually, your car is going to break down. You'll either have a flat tire, some sort of mechanical failure or be involved in an accident. When that moment comes, will you be ready? There are several steps you can take ahead of time to ensure that you have coverage for accidents or breakdowns. All of them are simple, and they can save you time and money when you have problems on the road. Let's look at five things you can do right now to make sure you're ready for accidents or breakdowns.
Sign up for roadside assistance
If you're car breaks down somewhere on a long trip, how are you going to get help if you're not familiar with the area? The best way to be prepared for this scenario is to sign up for a roadside assistance service. The American Automobile Association and many auto insurance companies offer programs that can cover you out on the road. If you drive your car regularly, especially on long trips, this is a great service to have.
When you have roadside assistance coverage, you simply call whatever company is providing the service and it'll dispatch an affiliated local maintenance company to provide you with immediate support. The repair service will either fix your vehicle on site or tow it to an approved shop for additional repairs. Many roadside assistance services will even help you find a place to stay overnight while you await repairs, or direct you to a rental car company to help you continue your trip.
Make a vehicle emergency kit
Another way to be ready for the unexpected is to build a vehicle emergency kit and keep it in your car at all times. Having an emergency kit will ensure you're ready for a breakdown, and may even help you recover your vehicle with little to no assistance. A basic car emergency kit should include jumper cables, spray tire sealant, flares, reflective triangles, and a flashlight.
Additionally, you should pack a gallon of water and some protein or granola bars in your emergency kit, so you have some food and drink on hand while awaiting recovery. You should also pack a warm jacket, hat, gloves, and a raincoat in your kit, so you can stay warm and dry in bad weather. While not part of your emergency kit, having your cell phone and charger with you on long trips will help ensure you're ready to call for emergency help if necessary. You can learn even more about vehicle emergency kits at ready.gov.
Fix that windshield
Small cracks in your windshield can seem like a minor issue. However, they can balloon into major problems if left unchecked. A crack can expand across your windshield unexpectedly while you're on the road, making your vehicle unsafe to drive. Additionally, since your windshield provides structural support for your car, failing to repair it can leave you more vulnerable to injury if you're involved in a serious accident.
Fix any cracks in your windshield as soon as possible. Some insurance companies include windshield repair as part of your policy; if not, you'll likely have to pay for repairs out of pocket, since the repair costs are usually lower than the deductible. Most glass repair companies will send a representative to your location to make any necessary windshield repairs.
Pack an atlas
Roadmaps may not seem like a useful thing to pack these days, especially with all the map and GPS apps available on our smartphones. However, what happens if cell phone services are down? Imagine if the area you're in is dealing with a major natural disaster that leaves you in massive gridlock. Having a map can be a lifesaver. You can use the map to figure out where you are or to find an alternative route around a major hazard that's currently blocking your way.
Purchase a good road atlas at a local bookstore or online and keep it in your car at all times. Look for one that has a map of all the major U.S. highway systems, and then maps of each state. Many of the better road atlases will include detailed maps of major metropolitan areas as well as information about local, state, and federal emergency services.
Practice good preventative maintenance
A good way to deal with roadside breakdowns before they happen is to take steps to ensure that they don't happen in the first place. Inspect your tire pressure routinely, especially before and during long trips. Check your key fluid levels – oil, transmission, and coolant – before traveling as well. Change your oil regularly, as recommended for your engine type. Finally, one of the most common reasons people break down on American roadways is because they run out of gas, so ensure your vehicle has enough fuel in it before heading out for a trip.
Most drivers end up stranded on the road at some point. These five tips can help you prepare for that moment and limit the impact when it happens. You should also look into saving for an emergency fund so you're prepared for any big mishaps that happen. Then, ask yourself if you're ready for a vehicle breakdown or accident. If not, make changes where necessary.