Here’s What to Do If Your Car Suddenly Stops or Accelerates

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Image Not Available

Imagine you pile your family into the car and hit the road for a summer vacation. But then the unexpected happens: Your car stalls, you blow a tire, or your car speeds up on its own.

All of the recent vehicle recalls have made us more mindful of dangerous on-road situations. Consumer Reports has some tips for dealing with various scenarios.

  • No go. GM recently recalled millions of cars due to a faulty ignition switch that can cause engines to turn off. But a car can lose power for many reasons – from a faulty fuel pump or alternator to the car simply running out of gas. If your ignition key inadvertently moves to the accessory position, CR recommends shifting into neutral, then restarting the engine, then shifting back into drive. If your engine has stalled and won’t start, start braking and steer to the side of the road. Your power steering will turn off and the power boost for brakes will also disappear, but you’ll still be able to steer and brake (though it will be more difficult).
  • Unintentional acceleration. “Our tests have shown that brakes may not be enough to stop a car with a stuck throttle while traveling at highway speeds,” CR said. It recommends putting firm pressure on the brakes, but avoid pumping. “Don’t turn off the engine, because doing so disables the power assist for your steering and brakes,” CR said. Sudden and unintentional car acceleration led to Toyota recalls in 2009 and 2010.
  • Blown tire. CR says, “Don’t stop in the travel lane; take a firm grip on the wheel and limp the car to a safe location.” Always check your tires’ air pressure at least once a month. Tires can blow because they are underinflated and overheat.

Click here to check out CR’s list of important items you need for a car first-aid kit.

Have you dealt with roadside emergencies on a vacation? Share your story below or on our Facebook page.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.