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Many drivers never experience a car emergency in a lifetime of driving, so you might not know when one is actually happening. Let’s identify what constitutes an emergency, what categories they fall into and what to do when they occur.
The definition of a car emergency is any condition that presents a threat to the well being of the occupants of a car or any mechanical failure that jeopardizes the integrity of the drivetrain.
In the case of personal safety some of the systems involved are brakes, steering and the tires and wheels. Any sense that the brakes on a vehicle are compromised either because of a sound, the feel of the pedal, or the presence of leaking fluid must be considered an emergency. Sound is a very individualized sensation so any noise that is connected to the application of the brakes must be heeded. If the brake pedal feels mushy or unusually hard or you have a fear that the car will not stop, an emergency exists and you should seek professional assistance. Any fluid leak at any of the wheels or along the outside perimeter of the vehicle should be assumed to be brake fluid and checked out professionally as well.
Faulty steering must be considered a car emergency. If there is excessive play in the steering wheel or you experience stiff steering that hampers your control of the car or if the car is difficult to handle when you hit a bump, consult a technician. Lack of power steering fluid due to leakage resulting in a whining noise is not an emergency unless it hampers the steering. Usually adding fluid will resolve this condition until you can repair the leak.
The tires and wheels of an automobile can be very unforgiving. A loose wheel will quickly elongate the lug holes and create an unsafe condition which should be considered a car emergency. In the same way an unsafe tire either because of excessive wear, bulges or damage due to under inflation needs to be corrected immediately.
A vehicle is a very big investment so any condition that threatens a major component of it, like the engine or transmission should be considered an emergency. These threats usually come in the form of excessive heat or the catastrophic loss of their integral fluids. Many times the rise in temperature is the result of the loss of fluid. For example, a stone punctures the radiator causing anti-freeze/coolant to leak and sending the temperature gauge to “hot”. Not responding to this warning gauge is to ignore an emergency.
Usually all that is required is to monitor the dashboard warning lights and take the car off the road. The first sign that’s there is a problem with the transmission is slippage. This can be a signal that the fluid is low or that there is an internal problem within the transmission. You may have no choice in whether to take the car off the road since lack of fluid may render it un-drivable.
Occasionally, car emergencies happen, when they do it is essential to respond appropriately to safeguard your well being and protect the investment you have made in your car.