Quick Fixes for Minor Car Emergencies

As frustrating as minor car emergencies may be, they happen to everyone at some point or another. Whether it’s coming back to your car to find a flat tire or discovering your key can’t seem to get your engine started, here are some tips and tricks to help you deal with whatever unexpected problems may arise.

Flat Tire or a Nail/Shard of Glass Embedded in Your Tire

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do upon the discovery of a nail or piece of glass in your tire to prevent damage, but there are some things you can do to keep the situation from escalati

In case of a nail:

The good news is, if the tire’s not gone flat you can still drive on it (but only long enough to get to a mechanic or auto body shop!) Whatever you do, do not try to take out the nail out. Just like they advise you with impalement wounds in your body, taking the nail that’s pierced your tire out will leave a hole and allow the air to escape much faster (leaving you with a completely flat tire very quickly).

By keeping the nail in the tire, you’re letting it act as a plug which keeps the air inside. Obviously, you can’t keep driving on that tire for very long but you should have enough time to get to someone who can either patch the hole for you or put on a new tire.

In case of glass:

If you’ve got a shard of glass embedded in your tire, you can likely still drive on it but you should go get it checked out as soon as you can. Unlike a nail (which, once embedded, is unlikely to move around and will not actually impede the movement of your tire), a shard of glass is sharp and jagged and can actually cause more damage if you try to drive on it (which may cause it to cut further into the rubber, making the hole even larger).

Luckily, it’s much harder for shards of broken safety glass (like the type of glass windshields are made of/the shards often left behind after an accident) to puncture the rubber of your tire than it is for a nail (meaning it’d have to be a pretty serious and sharp piece of glass to cause instantaneous damage – typically the thick sharp pieces that come from a broken bottle).

That being said, fragments of broken glass bottles can become embedded in your tire and slowly cut through the various layers. So while it’s not ideal, driving with a piece of broken glass in your tire is rarely enough to cause your tire to blowout. Make sure to bear in mind that the risk is even higher if your tires are wet/if you’re driving in rainy conditions because wet rubber is more susceptible to damage and tearing than dry.

Engine Won’t Start

If your engine won’t start, there are some quick fixes you can try before giving in and calling CAA or a tow truck.

Sometimes it’s as simple as turning the wheel a bit before trying to start your engine again. Occasionally the steering lock can get triggered by accident, and while it’s great for preventing thieves from hot wiring your car, if engaged at the wrong moment, it can also prevent you from starting your car.

If the starter goes click when you turn the key but the engine doesn’t actually start, you can try ‘cycling’ the key. This means you turn the key to the start position 10 times in a row repeatedly, then wait five minutes, then try to start the engine again. You can also try tapping on the battery terminals or smacking the starter. Click here for more information and pictures on how to do that.

For a full list of potential problems (often having to do with a dead battery or corroded wires), check some of the sources we’ve listed below!