Knowing when to call roadside assistance can sometimes spell the difference between life and death. Dramatic enough for you? It’s no joke: breaking down on a major highway can put your and your passengers in considerable danger, especially if you make an attempt to deal with an emergency repair on your own.
Calling in professional help isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s acknowledging that your life is more valuable than a flat tire. Some situations call for roadside assistance, some don’t, and knowing the difference will keep you safe.
Tire Change vs. Towing
A flat tire is one of the most common reasons for being stranded on the side of the road. On a lightly trafficked country lane or city street there’s relatively little risk in tackling the job of replacing your flat with a spare. But on the interstate, or at night, it’s much more dangerous to risk turning your back on traffic and dealing with drivers who probably aren’t paying attention to someone crouched on the shoulder. Knowing when to call roadside assistance in this case is as simple as judging how dense and fast traffic is moving, and what your visibility is like. It’s often a better idea to err on the side of caution and just ask for a tow.
Dead Battery, Dead Cold
It’s the middle of winter and your car simply won’t crank over. If there’s no one around, your options are limited: this is the perfect time to call roadside assistance. In fact, the sooner the better — there’s no need to leave the safety of your vehicle, office building or home in search of someone with jumper cables. Let the professionals come to your rescue and get your car running quickly.
You’re driving down the road, and your temperature gauge jumps into the red zone just as you begin to see steam erupt from under your hood. You pull over as quickly as you can and turn off your ignition and wait until the steam subsides.
You’ve got a couple of options: try to nurse your car home without having it overheat again and potentially damage the motor or call roadside assistance and get it towed to a garage. The question here is really about how much money you want to spend. Sure, you could roll the dice and get to the garage under your own power, but how much extra will that cost you in repairs if you push the motor past its breaking point? It’s best to know when to call roadside assistance for a flatbed rather than try to be the hero, and end up with an enormous bill.
Having roadside assistance available doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for the occasional vehicular emergency. But the inverse is true as well, just because you’re capable of fixing a problem doesn’t mean you have to put yourself at risk to do so. Evaluate each situation carefully, and if you have even the slightest doubt about your safety or that of your car, do yourself a favor and make the call.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on roadside assistance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.