To tow or not to tow – that is the question. Here at Longview Auto & Tire, we’re firm believers in the power of preventative maintenance. However, sometimes unexpected problems happen on the road and you have to decide: do I have my car towed or try to make it to the shop? While some car problems will allow you to drive your vehicle safely to the shop, others will cause further damage to your car if you attempt to drive while the problem is happening. We’ll go over several common car problems, and help you decide if it’s time to call a tow truck.
A flat tire is likely to be the most common problem that you’ll encounter on the road. Only drive as far as necessary to get into a safe position. If you get a flat tire on an interstate highway, get over to the right and onto the grass if needed. You may want to consider getting out of your car and away from the road, as there have been many cases where a stranded vehicle has been hit by moving traffic. Your safest option is to pull over to the side of the road – a safe distance from moving traffic – or into a nearby parking lot and call a tow truck. The second best option is to get to a safe spot away from moving traffic and to change out the flat with your donut (spare tire), and then drive your car to the shop. A general rule of thumb for driving with a donut is to go no further than 70 miles, and no faster than 50 mph. If you don’t have a spare available, you’ll want to call a tow truck. As I’m sure you know – driving on a flat tire can be a costly mistake. You can end up damaging the rim and paying a good $300-$400 to repair that damage!
The next most common problem people have on the road is when your car battery goes dead. Batteries do age and eventually go dead, so you may just need a new battery. Many times though, there’s another reason why your battery has gone dead. It could be anything from a bad alternator to a bad charging system. If you keep a portable charging pack in your truck, that’s a convenient option. You can charge your car enough to make it to the shop where an experienced technician can then replace the battery for you. Even if you have a portable power pack or someone who can jump-start your car, it’s a good idea to have the vehicle towed instead. This way, you don’t risk being stranded a second time when the battery dies again. The tow company can bring you right to an auto shop where a mechanic can diagnose the problem and give you a solution.
If your car is stalling or running roughly, have it towed, so you don’t risk further damage.
If your check engine light comes on steady (not flashing) then you can still drive, but make sure you have your car towed if the check engine light is flashing. The flashing check engine light means there is an immediate problem that is ongoing, and this problem will continue to cause more damage to your car as long as it’s running. If any of your fluid warning lights come on and you don’t have that fluid handy to refill, have your car towed. Even if you do have the fluid handy, you may want to bring your vehicle to the shop as soon as possible, as the reason you’re out of fluid in the first place is likely from a leak. If your oil light is on, don’t try to drive the car. Doing this can ruin your engine. Likewise, if the high-temperature light is on or your temperature gauge is high, don’t drive. When the metal parts of your car get hot, they’ll warp. Driving with a hot engine can cause additional problems that will cost you more in the long run as well. When in doubt, give our trusted mechanics a call, and they’ll be able to provide you with advice on whether your car is safe to drive or not.
SMOKE COMING FROM YOUR CAR
If the smoke is bluish and smells like burnt cooking oil, it’s probably from an oil leak seeping onto the engine. Check your oil levels and the rate of the leakage. Since having no oil in your car can destroy the engine, you shouldn’t drive if the leak is too big and there’s a chance you’ll run out of oil before reaching the shop. Call a tow truck instead to be safe. If white smoke or vapor that smells like gasoline is coming out of your hood, this can be dangerous. Don’t open the hood, get as far away as you can, and call 911.
SUDDEN LOUD NOISE
If you hear a sudden loud noise from your car while driving, pull over and see if you can figure out where the sound came from. Something may have fallen from the vehicle, you may have driven over something on the road, or it could be a more serious problem. If you can’t figure out where the noise came from, we recommend calling a tow truck.
SUDDEN DECREASE IN DRIVABILITY OR HANDLING
If while driving your car suddenly becomes difficult to steer, wobbly, or begins pulling in one direction, it’s important to pull over and check out the situation. The erratic handling could be from a flat or low tire, a loose wheel, slight ruts in the road made from large semi trucks, or snow and ice packed in your tires. Figure out the cause before you continue to drive, and only drive if your car is controllable and the problem is a mild one.
To avoid running into any of the above problems, we recommend following your car’s user manual for preventive maintenance. Stop by our shop on the corner of Commerce Ave and Tennant Way, or give our trusted mechanics a call to schedule an inspection so we can lessen your likelihood of unexpected car problems. Let’s keep your adventures on the road.