5 July 2005

Stuck on the Road

Picture this. You’re driving along, enjoying a cruise in your freshly washed and waxed collector car when suddenly a sputtering sound begins to drown out the oldies station. Or maybe the smell of smoke begins to waft in through your open window. Whatever the sign, it’s not a good one. You’re breaking down, baby.

Well, at least you’re not alone. Almost 40 percent of those who took the 2004 Hagerty Protection Network Hobby Survey have dealt with something similar. The good news is that breakdowns seem to happen close to home – about 54 percent of those who have experienced one had it happen within 10 miles from home. The bad news is that unless your car decides to die in your driveway, you’re not home, but on the side of the road somewhere. Here are some coping tips:

Realize that a well-stocked roadside emergency/tool kit, a cell phone and membership in a roadside assistance program can be your best friends if your car breaks down. This requires a little forethought, but any one of these items will go a long way when it comes to reducing your stress.                  

Put your hazards on immediately and pull as far as possible to the right side of the road. At night, try to stop beneath a street light so other motorists will have a better chance of seeing you.

Call for help. If you don’t have a cell phone, and you’re safely removed from the flow of traffic, lift your hood – it’s the universal sign for car trouble – to indicate that you need help.

Know where you are. Pay attention to mile markers and street signs. Help will arrive faster if they
know where to find you.

Stay with your car. If you can’t get safely away from traffic, you’re actually safer inside your car with your seatbelt on than anywhere else. If you need to get out, exit via the passenger side and stay as far from the side of the road as you can. Never stand directly in front of or behind your vehicle – this can make you invisible to passing drivers.

If your car can’t be fixed on the side of the road, you’ll need a tow. Avoid adding insult to injury by making sure the truck that rescues you is a flatbed. Chains and hooks might be fine for your daily driver, but they’re too rough for your precious one.

If you’re lucky enough to break down close to home, you’ll be able to have the car towed to your own garage, or a familiar and trusted commercial one. If not, ask the tow truck driver to take your car to a reputable garage that has experience with collector vehicles. Once there, don’t be afraid to ask the mechanics questions and request that they keep your car locked in the shop overnight.

When the nightmare is over, relax, and kiss and make up with your car. Remember that it’s old and quirky and is entitled to be a little high-maintenance. After all, that’s really what you like about it, right?

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