Defensive driving means handling your vehicle in a way that anticipates problems — it's about expecting the unexpected. That may seem like a tall order, but many problems with your vehicle can be predicted. When some of the most common mechanical issues pop up, it's crucial that you know what to do in case of an emergency.
To be prepared in any situation, check out the list of common car issues below.
Top 8 Mechanical Failures on the Road
All of these auto failures can cause more than just an inconvenience — they're also potentially dangerous for a driver, passengers, and others on the road. If any of these things happen to you, the first step is to remain calm.
Each situation has a specific solution. Click on the links below to read the recommendations that will keep you safe no matter what comes your way.
Handling Equipment Failure: The basics of defensive driving — maintaining safe speeds and good following distance — will give you more time to react to any type of equipment failure. You'll also want to manage the space around all four sides of your car so you always have an "escape route" if something happens.
Brake Failure: There's more than one way to bring your car to a stop, including taking your foot off the gas, downshifting into a lower gear, and using your emergency brake. You can also try pumping the brakes several times to distribute brake fluid to get them back online.
Tire Blowout: The force of a tire blowout can send your car into a skid. If this happens to you, steer into the skid until you regain control of the car. You'll also want to gently slow down — but don't slam on the brakes, which can just make things worse.
Headlight Failure: Your first order of business is finding a place to pull over out of traffic. Use your parking lights and turn signals in the meantime — sometimes flipping these switches helps to re-engage your lights.
Hood Latch Failure: If your hood flies up while you're driving, slow down first. Then, duck your head and peek out under the hood — there should be a little space at the very bottom of your windshield where you can see enough to come to a stop safely.
Stuck Accelerator: First, shift the car into neutral so that it can't pick up any more speed. Next, concentrate on steering and turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers. As soon as you can safely get your car off the road, pull over and let it roll to a stop.
Driving off the Pavement: If you run off the road, don't panic! Take your foot off the gas and gently tap the brakes to test for traction. If it's safe to steer back onto the pavement, signal and do so. Otherwise, come to a stop on the shoulder and turn on your hazard lights.
Engine Fire: Pull over as quickly as you can. Then turn off the vehicle and exit immediately, making sure to stay at least 100 feet away as you call for help.
Learn How to Stay Safe on the Road
To learn more about how to handle dangerous driving situations, consider taking a defensive driving course. DriversEd.com has plenty of options to help you gain the confidence and skills you need to stay safe on the road.