10 March 2006

Stopped By The Roadside

If you’ve driven old cars any distance, you’ve probably had a roadside break down. Sometimes the problem is easily remedied, but other times your trip ends on a flatbed.

When recently surveyed, more than 35 percent of Hagerty-insured collector car owners who responded reported a roadside breakdown in the previous 12 months. The top five roadside situations noted were:

11%-Dead Battery
5.6%-Overheated engine
4.1%-Out of fuel
3.6%-Flat/blown tire
0.7%-Locked out of the car

Although it’s difficult to prepare for every possible failure, there are things you can do to get back on the road quickly and safely.

Assault by Battery

At some point, most of us have gone out to our old cars, turned the key or pressed the starter button only to hear silence.

First check the connections for tightness and corrosion. Often, removing the cables, cleaning the battery posts and terminal ends will ensure a good connection and provide enough current for the vehicle to start. Another good idea is to check major grounds

Exercise caution if you jump-start the car. Regardless of whether the car being jumped is negative or positive ground, the positive lead from the jumping car goes to the positive terminal on the collector car. Similarly, the negative terminal from the jumping vehicle is connected to the negative terminal on the collector car. Extra care is needed if you’re trying to start a vehicle with a six-volt electrical system. If you leave the 12 volt current hooked up to the 6-volt system for more than the moment it takes to spin the starter you could damage electrical components. If you have any doubt about how to jump-start a car safely, call for road service.

Keep Your Cool

There are lots of reasons for overheating, including extreme outside temperature and severe grades. Some cars tended to run hot when new and clogged radiators and cooling passages can compound this tendency. Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid overheating woes.

Pull over as soon as you’re aware of the overheating. Continuing could cause catastrophic damage. Opening the hood will allow the engine to cool more quickly, but be careful and use gloves. Don’t touch the radiator or radiator cap until they’ve cooled. Inspect for leaks or a loose radiator cap. When the engine has cooled, add water and check the hoses. If there is no sign of leaks or a broken belt, it’s probably safe to continue. If you find leaks or the car still overheats, have it towed.

Out of Gas

A surprising number of collector car owners report running out of fuel. Many early cars simply don’t have fuel gauges. Or, if your gauge is broken, be sure to watch the mileage you’ve driven since last filling up and use a clean stick to check the level in the tank.

If your car does sputter to a stop, check the gauge and the tank. If there is fuel in the tank, make sure there are no leaks or blocked fuel filters. In the case of an electric fuel pump, listen for the ticking when the ignition is switched on. If it’s silent, a tap or two might start it working. If you really are out of gas, stay with your vehicle and call for road service.

Feeling Deflated?

Over time, tires dry out, harden and develop small cracks. Before you use your car you should always check the tire condition and air pressures – on five tires. Also make sure you have a good spare, jack and lug wrench.

If you experience a flat tire or a blowout, get as far off the road as possible. It’s best to call for help if weather or visibility is poor or if the tire that needs to be changed is on the traffic side of the car. If you change the tire yourself, make sure the jack is secure. Never go under a car that’s on a jack.

All Keyed Up

The only thing more embarrassing than running out of gas is locking yourself out of your car. If you are locked out, call for road service and hope that the attendant can open your door without damage. Next time, carry a spare key.

Everything Else

If you maintain the car carefully, always check the fluid levels and carry basic spare parts you’ll have a better chance of making it to your destination. While it’s great to have tools and parts with you, when you’re stuck along the road, nothing beats a charged cell phone and a good roadside service plan like Hagerty Collector Network.

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