It happens without warning. It happens when we least expect it. It happens when it is the last thing we need. However we needn’t fret – being stuck on a highway in India need not be as traumatic as we fear, if we keep a few important things in mind.
Here are some general scenarios that can come up if your car breaks down on the highway.
If the car seems to be developing problems while driving, first get it to the shoulder of the road as soon as possible (make sure you use the indicators and warning lights). It is prudent to stay as far away as possible from curves in the road, where there is danger of being hit by oncoming traffic. If the engine dies out right on the road, stay in the car – it is not a good idea to just get out and walk across a busy highway, because this again carries the risk of being mowed down.
If it’s dark out, switch the cabin light so that you’re visible to other drivers. If the engine is operable keep it on to avoid draining the battery. It also helps if you have some white cloth or a piece of paper with you. Hanging this out over the driver’s window indicates that you are in trouble and could do with some help.
If the problem is a flat tyre, you can replace the flat yourself, provided you know the basics of operating the jack and spanner. If you want to change tyres, do so as soon as you realize that you’ve got a puncture, because driving with a flat tyre for long distances can destroy the tyre.
If the highway is a heavily travelled one, it would most likely be dotted by a fair number of roadside service centres – see if you can get help at one of these. If there isn’t one in the vicinity, you can always request a passing driver to alert the next service shop he passes, so that they send out help.
Important things to keep in mind
-> It’s important to always keep your vehicle’s user manual handy. This gives you a good chance of identifying the source of the trouble. . Almost all automotive manufacturers provide a 24-hour helpline number, you could always call and let them know about your situation, and they will tell you the best course of action.
-> You must not attempt to fix the problem yourself unless you’re sure of what you’re doing and have some experience and expertise in eradicating car trouble. And if you do decide to have a go, never work from the side of the vehicle that is exposed to traffic. Get the car to a safe place and then set to work.
-> Keep the emergency blinker on to alert other drivers that your vehicle isn’t moving, especially if it happened to break down on the road. However at night it is wise to keep warning markers (usually supplied with the vehicle’s safety kit) round the car at least six feet away from it.
So to summarize, the best thing to do when stuck on a highway in India – get the car to a safe spot, see if you can find and fix the problem from the available literature or past experience, if not call for help. Importantly, even if you have extricated yourself from the predicament, always get the car inspected by a competent authority to ensure that it doesn’t happen again!
by Abhishek Neeli