Oil Light Comes On

When your oil light comes on or if the gauge shows oil pressure loss, you must get the car out of traffic immediately and turn the engine off. Your car has lost oil pressure and the engine is not getting lubrication. Running for only a few seconds will ruin your engine and it will need to be rebuilt or replaced. Do not add oil to the engine unless you check the dipstick to see if the oil level is low. If it is low, add just the amount of oil needed. If the level is good, adding oil will not help and if there is too much oil, it can damage the engine. Frequently, when the oil light comes on or the gauge shows low oil pressure, the problem is not a lack of oil but an internal engine problem such as a faulty oil pump, an oil filter that has burst or come off, or other lubrication system problems.

Temperature Light Comes On or Gauge Shows Overheating

If an engine begins overheating, it is essential that the car be taken off the road quickly so it can be turned off. Overheating can cause the engine head gasket to break (cost: $800 - $1,500) or the engine may lockup and need to be replaced. Continued driving will cause serious and expensive damage, far beyond the cost of a tow. The car needs to be inspected by a competent repair shop.

Flat Tire

Newer cars have “Tire Monitoring Systems” that tell you if a tire has lost 25% of its proper air pressure. Older cars do not have tire monitoring systems and your only warning of a flat tire may be the noise it makes or changes in the handling of the car. Driving on a low or flat tire can damage it. If you get a flat while driving, slow down and avoid hard braking as you can lose control of the vehicle. Move the car out of traffic to the shoulder of the road and drive to a safe location even if it means damaging the tire. Your life is worth more than a tire and changing a flat near traffic is not worth being seriously injured or killed by passing traffic. If you have a spare tire (which you should check regularly for proper inflation pressure) it can be installed so you can continue your trip. “Limited Use, Compact Spares” are usually limited to a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour and a maximum distance of 50 miles. Driving faster or further than permitted can result in damage to your vehicle’s transmission or differential or damage the spare tire. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions concerning your spare. “Limited Use” tires are good for what they are intended for but should never be driven very much. Their use can affect handling of the car, so drive with extra care while using this type of spare.

Car Stops Running

If the car stops running while driving, try to coast to a safe location out of traffic. If the car cannot be driven out of traffic, get everyone out of it and away from the road where they cannot be hit by other vehicles. Turn on your 4-way flashers and notify the police immediately if your car is a traffic hazard. Do not try to push the car off the road because you can be seriously injured or killed if another vehicle hits you. Never sit in a disabled car stopped in traffic to wait for help because you will be injured if someone runs into your vehicle. Set out road flares if you have them and can safely put them out and immediately call a tow service to come get your vehicle.

Dead Battery

If your car cuts off while driving due to an electrical system failure, your problem is probably not the battery. In most driving, the alternator provides full power to run the vehicle although it may borrow power from the battery while stopped in traffic, particularly if the air conditioner or other high power use items are on. The car should be taken to a place where the battery and charging system can be tested. Most quality auto parts stores can do a computer diagnostic that will tell you if a low battery is still good and merely needs charging or if it needs to be replaced. If you go to a good auto repair shop, the battery will be tested and charged if needed before the charging system is tested. Unless a good, fully charged battery is in the vehicle, an adequate charging system test cannot be done.