Car Won't Start

My Car Won’t Start – Now What? AAA Offers Advice to Stranded Drivers

ORLANDO, Fla., August 11, 2011

Nation’s largest motor club provides tips to keep motorists safe and help get them back on the go quickly after a breakdown

Christie HydeMany Americans rely on their cars for nearly every part of their life—to commute to work, to attend school, to run errands, to socialize with friends or to get away on vacation. AAA recognizes one of the most stressful things that can happen to a driver is to suddenly have their car not work.

“Whether sitting in your driveway or stranded on the roadside, having a car that won’t start is a nerve-racking experience. There are a few things to remember that can help keep you safe and possibly get you back on the go more quickly,” said John Nielsen, AAA National director of Auto Repair, Buying Services and Consumer Information.

What If It Suddenly Won’t Start?

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If a car previously was running well and suddenly will not start, it could be an issue with the vehicle’s battery. While in many cases it may have become discharged, in others it’s possible the cause of the problem is a poor connection that can easily be fixed.

Open the hood and inspect the battery. Make sure it is securely mounted in place, then check the cable clamps connected to the battery. If they are loose or covered in corrosive build up, that could be the source of the problem. Clean any corrosion from the battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move.

If a poor battery connection does not seem to be the problem, check a few other basic items such as ensuring the vehicle (if an automatic transmission) is fully in park. Also, make sure there is fuel in the car.

If those items do not seem to be the source of the problem, then it’s time to call a road service provider, such as AAA, that has knowledgeable technicians to assist. As the nation’s largest motor club, AAA trains its roadside technicians to diagnose common vehicle problems onsite, as a result, they are able to get three out of five cars on the go, eliminating the need for a tow.

What If It Strands Me On A Roadway?

“If a vehicle begins to experience problems while being driven or suddenly can no longer be driven, safety should become the driver’s first priority,” said Nielsen.

If the car is clearly experiencing a problem but can still be driven a short distance, drive to a safe location such as a parking lot. If the vehicle stops running but still has coasting momentum, guide it to the far right shoulder, as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other motorists.

If the car cannot get completely off the roadway, switch on the safety/emergency flashers and consider leaving the vehicle and moving to a safer location. Occupants should not remain in a vehicle if there is a possibility it may be struck from behind by other traffic. For the same reason, it is generally not a good idea to attempt to push the car off the road.

Drivers and passengers should exit a broken down car on the side away from traffic if at all possible. Use extreme caution and watch for oncoming vehicles, especially at night or in bad weather when visibility is limited. While waiting for help, never stand directly behind or in front of the disabled vehicle.

In addition to turning on a vehicle’s emergency flashers, drivers can signal other motorists that they have a problem by raising the car hood, tying a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf to the antenna or door handle, or setting out flares, warning triangles or emergency beacons. These signals can help other drivers recognize there is a problem and hopefully prompt them to slow down, allow more room and proceed with caution while passing.

Communicating Your Situation

Once the driver and passengers are in a safe location, request assistance from a road service provider such as AAA. Make note of surroundings, landmarks, buildings or road signs to help relay your location. AAA members may have their phone’s GPS location sent directly to AAA Roadside Assistance by using one of AAA’s mobile products such as the AAA Roadside, AAA Discounts or AAA TripTik Mobile apps for Android and iPhone users. AAA members with any GPS-enabled Sprint mobile phone can have their location transmitted via AAA FindMe—even if they do not have a smartphone. AAA members should sign up for the free AAA FindMe service in advance by registering their membership number and Sprint mobile phone number at AAA.com/AAAFindMe.

Safety experts agree that under most circumstances, provided the car is away from the flow of traffic, it is safest for the driver and passengers to remain in the vehicle while waiting for law enforcement or roadside assistance to arrive. If drivers feel they are in an unsafe situation, they should communicate that fact to the roadside assistance operator when calling for assistance.

To help drivers prepare for these unfortunate situations, AAA offers an in-depth guide called “What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down: The AAA Guide to Personal Safety.” The guide can be downloaded for free at AAA.com/Public Affairs.

Where Do I Send My Car?

Once assistance arrives, if the technician is unable to remedy the problem at the roadside, the car will have to be towed somewhere for repair. Unless the driver is a savvy automotive do-it-yourselfer who wants the car towed home, the vehicle will most likely be towed directly to a repair facility.

When traveling away from home, or if the driver does not have a regular repair facility, AAA can provide the names and locations of a nearby AAA Approved Auto repair facilities. These shops have met stringent professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. AAA Approved Auto Repair is a free public service that can help any motorist identify trustworthy, quality auto repair facilities. Motorists can search for nearby facilities online at AAA.com/Repair. Approved Auto Repair facilities also can be quickly found with the AAA Roadside and AAA TripTik Mobile apps for Android and iPhone, or on other web-enabled mobile phones using AAA Mobile Web at AAA.mobi.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.


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