It’s that sinking feeling when you turn your key in the ignition – and nothing happens. Or that failing engine noise that fills you with anxiety on a dark road. Few things change your plans as drastically as having to have your car towed. But don’t worry; follow these five steps and you might just avoid ever needing one.
1. Fill up your petrol tank
It seems obvious, but if you’re travelling long distances, your tank can empty rapidly. If you’re caught hours from your nearest petrol station, you’re not going to have much choice but to call for a tow.
Be realistic about how much petrol you need; calculate the distance and how much you have left. Pushing on to the next town won’t save you any time if you break down.
2. Keep your car properly serviced
This is as much about safety as it is about avoiding a breakdown. An engine fire or break-failure might lead to a trip to the emergency room too.
A service not only ensures your vehicle is running safely but also gives you a good idea of its running state. Your engine might be fine for another year of short distances, but that 10-hour road trip you’re planning might just be what kills it.
3. Give your car a good check over before driving
Before you even get in the driver’s seat, several simple checks can reduce your chance of being in an accident (and therefore needing a tow, or worse). These include checking that:
- The head and tail lights are working
- The horn is working
- The tyre pressure is sufficient
- Your wipers are working and the windscreen is sufficiently clean
4. Learn some basic car and engine maintenance
This is particularly important if you’re driving long distances in remote areas.
Knowing some basic steps to avoid or troubleshoot a breakdown can you save you a long, costly tow.
These steps include knowing how to:
- Change a flat tyre
- Top up your engine coolant
- Top up the brake and transmission fluid
- Manage the level of water in the radiator
5. Drive sensibly and defensively
This is as much about your safety (and that of other drivers) as it is about not breaking down. Some tips for driving sensibly and defensively include:
- Drive at a safe distance behind other cars (don’t tailgate) and always look ahead down the road.
- Avoid driver fatigue. The Northern Territory Government recommends stopping to rest every two hours.
- Avoid remote night driving. If a kangaroo or cow is on the road, you won’t see them in time. This ends badly for both driver, vehicle and animal.
- Don’t drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.