The Roadside Emergency Skills Every Man Needs

Illustration of a man working on a car while a woman waits.
As the term implies, roadside emergencies can easily become a matter of life and death. Fortunately, if you know how to handle them you can keep yourself safe or even rescue a damsel in distress. 

Flat Tire

Quite possibly the most likely roadside emergency, flat tires are also one of the easiest to handle. Somewhere in the car you should have a spare tire and tire change kit. The spare tire is most likely suspended under the frame or in a false floor in the trunk. Hopefully, the tire change kit will be in one of those two places as well. In my car, the spare tire is under the frame and the tire change kit is in a false floor. At minimum, the tire change kit includes a wrench and jack, but it’ll also include any other needed tools. 

Most cars have four of five nuts, each approximately one inch across, holding each wheel on. You’ll have to start by loosonening the nuts slightly. If you can’t see the nuts, then there’s a cover that you need to pry off. Next, you need to jack the car up. Most cars have four jack points on the frame, two behind the front wheels and two in front of the rear wheels, where the included jack should fit perfectly. Most tire change kits come with a scissor jack, they’re slow but compact. It’s high enough when the wheel is clear of the ground. Take the nuts and wheel off then run through the whole process in reverse to put the spare on. There’s a good chance that there’s a maximum speed marked on your spare, so it’s not recommended that you go any faster than that. Once you’re back on the road, go to a tire shop as soon as you possibly can, one flat usually means four well worn tires. 

Overheating Engine

If you find your engine is overheating, stop as soon as you possibly can. Turn off the engine and open the hood. While you’re waiting for the engine to cool down, which can take a long time, check your coolant level. If it’s low, filling it should get you back on the road but make sure you drive straight to somewhere it can be repaired or left safely overnight. If you can’t just refill your coolant to get back on the road, you’ll need to call a tow truck. 

Dead Battery

One of the most likely causes for a car being unable to start is a dead battery. Chances are you’ll need help with this one, in the form of a second vehicle. You should always carry booster cables in your car. 

First, position the noses of both cars close together, assuming they’re both front engine, but leave enough room to stand between them. You’ll need to find the batteries on both cars, usually exposed or covered in the front corner of the engine compartment. Attach the positive cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery, then the good one. Next, attach the negative cable to the negative terminal on the good battery, then a fixed, bare metal engine component on the other car. Turn off all the electrical equipment you can and try to start the car. If it still doesn’t start, you may have a more serious problem, the same applies if you have to boost your car frequently. Once the car’s running, take off the booster cables in the opposite order. Try to keep the car running for as long as you practically can, it’ll take some time for the battery to charge enough to start the engine next time. 

Stuck Car

A stuck car is one of the more complicated problems to address.  You can pull it out if you have a powerful vehicle and can find a good place to attach the tow rope to both. You may be able to dig the car out but traction may still be an issue. The best way to aid traction is to dump some sort of coarse granular material, like sand or gravel, in front of the drive wheels. If the vehicle is equipped with a traction control system, you need to turn it off to get out. 

More Serious Problems

If something more serious comes up, you’re screwed. The only option is to call a tow truck, so make sure you have at least one tow truck company’s number in your phone. If you don’t have a usable phone you’ll have to flag someone down, if that’s not an option you’ll need to fall back on your survival skills


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