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When to pull over if you experience a problem

Ok folks, I have seen a lot of threads recently where the OP describes a problem and continues to drive (for varying distances) before pulling over or stopping. So I pose the question - what do you do when you experience a problem while driving? (Oil light, overheating, etc?)

I, personally, pull over as soon as I feel it is safe to do so. If it ever happens that a safe place doesnt arrive before I do serious damage to my car, so be it. My father always told me - cars can be fixed, people cant.


Oil light goes on pull over asap.

But if on a 4-lane interstate with cars whizzing by at 70 or 80, at night… do you pull over or try for the next exit?

You pull over right then and there. The car may not go for another ten yards, or it may go for one mile. Either way, you are adding thousands to the repair bill.

…and you pull as far away from the roadway as is possible.

I never cease to be amazed at people who–theoretically–are on the shoulder of the road, but in reality they are parked only about 2 inches from vehicles travelling at 70+ mph.

If I have to pull over, I will use the grassy area to the right of the shoulder in order to leave as much room as possible between me and the high-speed traffic in the right lane. Of course, the 4-way flashers should be activated right away, and if you have reflector triangles and/or other warning devices, they should also be deployed.

After you are in a safe position, then you can worry about calling for help.

Some folks will never find a “safe” place in their opinion to pull off the road. They just drive on until the car won’t run anymore. Nothing anyone says is going to make them change.

To save the car, you pull over as soon as you can safely get to the should if the oil light goes on. If the temp guage goes above the normal reading you turn on the heat, slow down, put on your 4 way flashers and see if you can keep the guage from pegging on “H”. If the guage goes all the way to “H” you pull over immediately turn off the motor and open the hood to allow some heat to escape.

With a cell phone you can call for a tow. You can also call 911 and give your location on the highway so a police patrol can come and provide protection if needed.

Define “Safe place.” A lot of people think “Safe Place” means “home,” and won’t even consider using the breakdown lane. That’s what they’re there for. A 4 lane interstate has some of the best breakdown lanes out there. Nice and wide, with grass shoulders to the side of the asphalt to boot. Use it.

Look at it this way. If you keep driving around looking for a “safe place” your engine might decide to die while you’re IN that 70mph traffic rather than parked safely to the side.

I remember hearing on one of the shows having the same discussion. I remember what was said. If your car’s still under warranty, keep driving till that sucker’s toast! Had me laughing for quite a ways down the road.

I believe in stopping (all depending) instantly or within a block or two although most do not do this. If they want to keep on motoring then fine; just don’t scream bloody murder and post things all over the net about being ripped off when presented with a 4-figure estimate to repair the damage.

One could also make the point that if a driver ignores that oil light while in freeway traffic and the engine seizes this could lead to a chain reaction accident based on (per the usual) a line of cars stacked up and tailgating at 75 MPH.
(An analogy could be several people losing their lives over the Ford TFI ignition modules which caused the vehicles to quit instantly in traffic. Results are the same.)

Your Dad is right, and so are you, and so is everybody posting here. “Safe” is, yes, a judgement call. If you are a smart driver you will know how to weigh the risk of extra damage against the risk of stopping before you are safe enough.

Unfortunately, people who have trouble figuring out if they are safe enough probably don’t understand the extra damage they are risking.

Some of parts of the break down lanes I’ve seen, I wouldn’t want to pull over either. When you see a piece of tire tread that is taller than your car, with smaller bits spread out around it, you’d definitely want to cruise some more.

On a four lane highway with an oil light on, you aren’t likely to make it to he next exit. You might as well try to save the engine rather than blow the engine AND be stuck in traffic. It’s a lose/lose situation.

The thing is…
If you pull over right away, you chose exactly where to stop. If you try to keep driving, the car will chose where to stop. You might not like it’s choice.

I think you should do what I am told good race car drivers do. Routinely, as you drive, ask yourself, “Right now, here, what would I do and where would I pull over if my oil light comes on?”

Of course, you should already be doing that. “What do I do if a kid on a bicycle rushes out in front of me? What do I do if that car at the stop sign pulls out without warning? What do I do if a tire blows?”

If you wait until these things happen, you don’t have time to make up your mind.

To ask here was good, but you need to practice this in actual driving conditions. Not pulling over, but thinking about where you would pull over at any location.

A couple years ago, I was on the bus from Puebla into Mexico City, and a big exhaust part fell off a truck right ahead of the bus. He had no way to dodge it nor to stop it in time and it apparently destroyed the radiator.

I guarantee you, those big Volvo diesels cost a fortune, but when the heat gauge went crazy, he kept on going until he found a place to pull over safely. His passengers came first.

Your father is right.

What’s with the oil lilght fixation? Driving over 40 years and over a million miles, I’ve never had the oil light come on. Just don’t use quick lubes.

Flat tire-pull off right away unless you are on a bridge or something. Alternator light-keep going to a repair place. Over-heating-pull over as soon as safe and depending on cause, nurse it to the nearest repair place or tow. Timing chain failure at stop light-tow it 'cause you aren’t going anywhere. Hit a deer-keep going if all systems are still ok. etc. etc. Just depends. I’d rather be watching other drivers than worrying about failures all the time.

I should clarify, I meant as soon as it is safe to pull over. Not, drive home, but off the road out of traffic.

Where I live, approx 60 miles northeast of Detroit (Canada), the country roads are not heavily travelled, but the 400 series highways are a bear to pull over on. samall shoulders, ditches, no proper breakdown lanes. If faced with a choice of
-stopping immediately and saving my engine but putting myself and passengers in serious danger


-going for the off ramp and getting somewhere with less traffic, I will risk the car. If it quits suddenly, well I will have to deal with that. But I`m gonna try like hell to get off the major highway first.

Oil light is a major one I see on the board. I`ve had an overheat and a tire, but never an oil light or a brake light. I also watch my dashboard, which I think most regular posters here do, but not most of the general public.

Plenty of people on this message board have had the oil pressure light come on. The majority of them keep on driving.

[b] A flashing CEL generally means Now is the time to pull over[/b].  

Consider that break down lane as an exit ramp and use the same caution you would to exit the freeway for your destination.

The next exit could be miles away and your car will never make if oil light. So it is far less safe.

It also depends on shoulder situation. If none I would keep driving. If rural there is plenty of space to go into.