Dubai: Nobody wants to be in a situation where they are stuck in the middle of a highway after their car sputters to a stop. However, car breakdowns are always a possibility, and it is best to be aware of the steps you need to take in such emergency situations, to ensure your safety, as well as that of other road users.
Why your car might break down
According to the Ministry of Interior, the most common reasons for cars breaking down in the UAE are:
• Car temperature (rising because of engine malfunction).
• If the car is low on engine oil and coolant.
• Worn out tyres leading to tyre burst.
• Car radiator (leakage or pipe burst).
Police and traffic authorities regularly advise people to always maintain their vehicles and get them checked routinely, especially if you are planning a long trip.
My car broke down, what next?
However, despite taking the necessary precautions, if you still find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having your car give up on you, follow these steps:
• If you get the chance to move to a slower lane, park on the side of the road.
• Put the hazard lights on.
• Place the hazard triangle at a distance from your car, so that other motorists are aware of the vehicle breakdown.
• Move away from the vehicle.
• Call 999
How can I get a towing truck?
According to the Ministry of Interior, once you call the 999 emergency room, they will be able to guide you on the steps you need to take to ensure your vehicle’s and your safety. They can also provide you with a towing truck or you may contact any other towing company, which you may know.
How to keep your car well-maintained
It is important to regularly get your car serviced, with an authorised service provider or a professional garage, and maintain a service record for the vehicle. It is also important to keep an eye on the oil and coolant level in your car.
The oil in your engine is the fluid that keeps everything operating smoothly. If your car runs out of oil, the engine will have no lubrication and seize up, which can lead to a hefty workshop bill.
Check your dashboard's cluster or meter
Do not ignore warning signs for low oil or coolant level. But while your dashboard's metre may be a convenient way to check whether your vehicle’s oil and coolant levels are optimal, you can do a physical check of these essential fluids quite easily as well.
How to check vehicle’s oil level
Anil Chacko, owner of Motoka Auto Services in Dubai, provided the following steps that you can follow to heck your engine's oil level:
1. Make sure your car is parked on a level ground and the engine has been turned off for long enough for the vehicle to have cooled down.
2. Then pop open the bonnet and look for a bright-coloured handle, which is essentially the dip stick that helps you gauge the oil level. "For some cars. the oil level will be indicated on the information display panel. These cars have no dispstick," Chacko said. If your car does have a dipstick, pull it out, making sure to remove any clips that may be holding it in place.
• Wipe the stick clean with a cloth or tissue and then stick it in again. When you pull it back out, it will give you an idea of your vehicle’s oil level. It should be between the minimum and maximum marks. If it's not, then you would need to top it up. "Ideally, your oil level should always be close to the maximum limit. If it isn't, there may be a problem of oil leakage or oil consumption," Chacko said.
• Make sure you know what grade of oil is recommended for your vehicle, which would be mentioned in the owner’s manual.
Check the coolant levels regularly
The coolant in your vehicle helps regulate the temperature in the vehicle, preventing it from overheating.
To check the coolant level, again, make sure your engine has cooled down. Locate the coolant reservoir, which will be an opaque tank. Check the level of the coolant to make sure the levels are sufficient.
Did your car AC get cut off? It may be a bigger problem
If, while driving, your car's air conditioner stops working, take your car to an authorised auto services provider immediately, as it may be an indication of the engine overheating.
"In most cases, if the engine overheats, the AC gets cut off. This is a failsafe system, to protect the AC system. As a motorist, you might be worried that the air conditioning system has malfunctioned, but the actual problem may be that the engine has overheated," Chacko said.
In most cases, if the engine overheats, the AC gets cut off. This is a failsafe system, to protect the AC system. As a motorist, you might be worried that the air conditioning system has malfunctioned, but the actual problem may be that the engine has overheated.
Taking care of your tyres
Worn out tyres are the biggest reason for a car breakdown and should be a top priority as they can also lead to serious accidents.
"As per the UAE laws, a tyre's validity is for five years, after which they cannot be used on UAE roads. You can see the year of manufacture on the tyre itself. That must be noted by the customer when they buy the tyres, because they would only be valid for five years from the year of manufacturing," Chacko said. These are his top tips:
• Buy tyres from authorised dealers only.
• If possible, buy all four tyres together to ensure even wear.
• The tyres should be rotated and balanced every 10,000km and at every 15,000km to 20,000km you should get the wheels aligned.
• Check the tyre pressure frequently. What should your car's tyre pressure be? This is mentioned on the door pillar of your vehicle, so a quick glance can tell you exactly what PSI (pounds per square inch) your tyres should be.
• Check the tyre tread if your vehicle is being used heavily. Often, if your job entails driving long distances, the tyre tread might wear out and the tyres would need to be replaced before the five year validity.