Do-It-Yourself Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance plans are a great thing to have and there are many plans to choose from today. Most insurance companies offer this option with their policies and there are a variety of options.   Many people ask if they really need it.  This depends on a number of factors, including how old your vehicle is and if you only commute locally or travel extensively, either for business or pleasure. Other considerations are whether you want to pay the extra costs and if it’s worth the convenience of having emergency services done for you should your car break down.

In addition to having an emergency car kit handy, below are 3 areas normally covered by roadside assistance that you can actually do yourself with the right preparations, tools and materials.

Key Lockout or Broken Key

This is an occurrence that happens usually when you least expect it or at the most inopportune times.  While most roadside assistance plans cover a mobile locksmith, it’s a easy matter to always carry an extra key with you that is actually on your person. I used to carry a “valet key” in my wallet. This was a key that only started the ignition and opened the drivers side door but didn’t give access to the trunk or glove box. It’s simply a good idea and once saved me from having to call AAA, who I had purchased a roadside assistance plan from.

auto stiegler team photo
young woman changing flat tire doing roadside assistance herself.

Dead Battery

This happens more often than you would think.  And the reasons are many for how a car battery dies.   A bad alternator, accidentally leaving your inside dome or parking lights on, or even extreme temperatures can drain a car battery.  Just having a very short commute to work and not taking  your car on periodic long drives can also wear out a battery more quickly than usual.

The solution is fairly easy: keep jumper cables in your car.  It’s a quick solution, easy to do and you only need another car to help you charge your battery.  And you actually don’t even need another car if you have a battery charger which you can get for $30-$100 at most big box stores like Walmart or an auto parts store.

Flat Tire

This is a roadside assistance service that is one of the most convenient to have if you pay for a plan.  If you choose to not buy a plan, changing a tire is relatively easy to do.  Below are suggested steps for changing a tire.

1. Make sure you’re in a safe location and are on level ground.  This will help to prevent your car from rolling when changing the tire.  Also, try to do it on a straight stretch of road, as opposed to a bend or curve, so that traffic can see you.

2. Turn on your hazard lights. Turn them on even during the day and as soon as you know you need to pull over. This again, alerts other drivers to you.

3. Put your parking brake on.  This is another preventative measure to keep your car from moving or rolling.

4. If you have wheel wedges, use them. Place them either in front or behind the tires to prevent the car from rolling.

5. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover. 

6.  Loosen the lug nuts. Your vehicle should come with some sort of lug wrench. If not, definitely purchase one.

7. Place the jack under the frame. This can vary from car to car and that’s why it’s a good idea to always have your owners manual available so you know the best placement for it. 

8. Raise the vehicle with the jack about 6 inches off the ground.  It’s a good idea to place a small piece of wood about 2”X6” under the jack. Keep your body away and never get under the vehicle.

9. Unscrew the lug nuts and remove the flat tire.

10. Put the spare tire on and tighten the lug nuts by hand.

11. Lower the vehicle with the jack and tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench as tight as you can. 

12. Replace the hubcap or wheel cover.