Dealing with an emergency situation whilst driving can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Being able to know what to do should the worst happen is essential. We have highlighted some of the most feared but perhaps the most common emergency situations drivers face.
Cracked Windscreen/Windscreen Repairs
A small chip can turn into a crack in cold weather. A sudden jolt such as hitting a speed bump too fast can also cause a chip to form into a crack on a windscreen. Whatever you do, ensure that as soon as you have a chip on your windscreen get it repaired – this will stop a crack forming in most cases.
Tyre manufacturers have learned that 75% of all accidents caused by tyre blowouts come about because of low tyre pressure. The term blowout usually describes a situation when a tyre bursts whilst travelling at speed. This will normally result in the vehicle losing directional stability and control; often a terrifying experience!
According to the tyre industry council, decorative wheel trims, fitted to many vehicles, can possibly cause sidewalls and valve assembly damage, which could lead to tyre blowouts. Although the majority of such trims can be perfectly ok it is worth checking that yours are not slightly oversized, which could cause problems.
Apart from low tyre pressure, one other main reason for blowouts is a defect in the tyre itself. This defect can be due to a weakness when it was manufactured (although this is rare with good quality makes) or more likely it happens when a tyre has been damaged, usually by being hit against a kerb. You can normally check for tyre damage by feeling for bulges in the tyre wall. Tyres that have little or no tread in places stand a greater chance of being involved in a blowout so it makes sense to keep a regular check on your tyres.
Front tyre blowout:
A front tyre blowout will result in the car pulling strongly to one side. If you have a blowout on the front left then the car will pull to the left. If this occurs try to make the car slow down on its own, engaging a lower gear will help. Try to keep a firm hold on the steering wheel.
Rear tyre blowout:
If one of your rear tyres suffers a blowout hold the steering wheel firmly and let the car slow down itself. If needed steer into any resulting skid (i.e. if the cars back end goes left steer left).
- Stay calm, be sharp and react quickly.
- Aim to bring your car to a standstill on the side of the road.
- If possible put your hazard warning lights on whilst still moving, this will alert other drivers that you are in trouble!
- Be proactive keep regular checks on your tyres.
As with all of our advanced driving courses our tutors provide further tips on how to deal with such situations.
Aquaplaning is when a wedge of water builds up between the front of the tyres and the road surface. This is normally caused by lack of tyre tread. Trying to brake or steer the vehicle will be no use because your tyres are no longer in contact with the road!
How to deal with aquaplaning
- Remove foot from the accelerator and allow engine braking to slow you down.
- Ensure you do not turn the steering wheel, as the car will lurch whatever way the wheels are pointing when they gain traction
- Be proactive – check that your tyres are in good condition and that you have plenty of grip, the legal requirement is 1.6mm as a minimum, however you should avoid getting down to this level. We recommend replacing your tyres at 2mm at the very least.
Faulty wiring normally causes car fires. If you suspect that your car is on fire whilst moving your first thought should be to get out of the car ASAP.
How can you tell your car is on fire?
It is not always as obvious as it first appears. Sometimes you will have smoke coming up the vents in which case you should really be thinking about getting out! However, sometimes you may be able to spot early signs such as smelling burning plastic and toxic burning smells.
How to deal with a car fire
- The first thing to do is stop your car, ideally off the road.
- Turn off the ignition.
- If you have a fire extinguisher try to tackle it if it’s small, but remember your own safety.
- Do not open the bonnet if you think the fire is coming from there unless you have a fire extinguisher. If you do only open it slightly as the air can cause the flames to spread.
- Call the fire brigade ASAP ensuring you and all your passengers are well away from the car (at least 50 metres).
Ensuring your car is serviced on a regular basis will greatly reduce the chance of brake failure. Brake failure can be best described as applying the foot brake and getting no response.
How to deal with brake failure
If you have total brake failure it is best to apply the handbrake in an on/off motion. It is also advisable to try to select (even at force) a lower gear, the car may not like it but it could be your only way of stopping. Extreme measures (and we really mean extreme!) may also involve using the bank, hedges or verge on the side of the road to drive up against to reduce speed if you have no other option, and it’s clear and (relatively) safe to do so.