To Tow or Not to Tow -- Which Car Problems Require a Tow?
When you have a car problem, sometimes it is hard to know whether to have the car towed or to get the car repair done on the spot. Here are some tips to help you decide what to do when faced with this situation.
Flat Tires - One of the most common car problems is a flat tire due to a tire puncture. Should you try and change the wheel on the side of the road, call for someone to change the wheel right there, or have the car towed? Most of the time it is best to have the car towed because it is the safest option. The second best option would be to have the tire repaired or the wheel changed by a garage or a motoring organization. Importantly, if you have not changed a wheel before do not attempt it. Some people opt to drive the car with a flat tire; this normally ends up with a $300-400 wheel being damaged. Only drive the car as far as is necessary to get into a safe position. If you are on an interstate highway, get right over to the right, onto the grass if necessary. You may even want to consider getting out of the car and away from the highway; there have been many cases where a stranded car has been hit.
Battery Problems - The next most common problem is when the car battery becomes completely discharged (flat or dead). Batteries do go dead just because of age. If you believe this is likely the case, having the battery changed by a motoring organization might be a convenient option. But in a large percentage of cases, there is another reason behind the problem with the battery. That's why it's a good idea to have the car towed. This way, an auto service technician can diagnose the problem.
Recently while having dinner by a window looking out over a parking lot I watched as a motoring organization struggled to get a car going. We were over an hour eating our dinner, but still they had not got anywhere with getting the car going. In the end they towed the car.
Stalling - If your car is stalling or running badly then have your car towed. If any of the fluid warning lights come on have it towed. If the check engine light comes on steady (not flashing) then you can drive the car, but if is flashing, have it towed. If you have any doubts then call the garage that services your car and get their advice.
It is very important to establish a relationship with an independent auto repair shop that can give you advice. It's even better to have regular check ups. When you car is serviced, make sure that part of the service is checking the tires carefully for damage or to see if something has been picked up and has punctured the tire. Regular servicing includes battery checks. If your battery is over five years old consider having it changed (in hotter parts of the country this could be every two years). Preventive car care helps to prevent automobile breakdowns, and then the towing question never comes up.
photo courtesy of @mjb