The Truth about Roadside Assistance

Most, if not all, new cars come with roadside assist.

This package supplied as part of the purchase of your brand spanking new pride and joy.

A friend told me the other day that he didn’t need to maintain his car because he got is serviced, and had roadside assist. Dear me, have we really come to this?

A car is a machine, and machines go wrong even if well cared for.

flat-tyre

Back in the old days, we were told by our parents that we should check the tyres weekly, and the oil and water at least monthly. Fathers passed this wisdom to sons, and mothers told their daughters, “never leave anything important to a man.” And, quite rightly too.

The same schedule is recommended in your car’s manual, but who actually reads them? Most people only check the glove box to see if the phone charger is in it.

Firstly, roadside assist is a contract between the importer and a local assistance supplier. Most car companies select the motoring club of your state.

On a cold rainy day, you’ll wait in the queue just like anyone else. You may have paid 400 grand, but you won’t get much in the way of preferential treatment, and if your salesman told you that you would.

Over the last few years, I’ve had several flat tyres in car without spares. Once was in the blinding, eye-melting heat of a Queensland summer, and another in the middle of a dreary Sydney winter.

The latter, of course, made more miserable by being just after midnight in a light drizzle.

The inflation kit was not able to get me moving again, so I sat by the side of the road for several hours every time. Luckily my phone battery was full, so at least I could pass the time on social media complaining about my lot.

Each time, the car needed towing to a facility where tyres could be mended or replaced.

When I told this story at a birthday party recently, my sister in law told me she’d be happy to wait, even if she had a spare tyre. I was stunned.

Imagine having a car full of passengers, especially kids.

Here are a few handy hints to avoid what is often unavoidable.

1: Listen to the wisdom passed to you in hushed tones.

2: Check oil, water, and other fluids regularly.

3: keep your tyres pumped ready for action.

4: if in doubt, check youtube for help with inflation kits.

5: Keep your phone charged when driving.

6: Prepare for long trips.

7: never miss a service.

8: if you break down, make sure you pull right off the road if you can.

9: Switch on your hazard lights.

10: use your common sense.

11: Don’t assume other drivers can see you, so keep off the road, preferably out of the car if it is safe to do so. Breakdown lanes won’t help you if your shunted from behind.

Properly inflated tyres keep handling and braking at the optimal function too. It isn’t merely good for you, it is good for everyone.

Remember, someone you care about might find themselves in your car, alone, at night. It’s more than just a matter of inconvenience.

Roadside assist is a great tool, but it is a back-up only. Cars may well be more reliable than those of old, but nothing substitutes for preparation and maintenance.

It is harder to leave your lights on than it used to be, but people will always find a way to flatten their battery if they really put their minds to it.

So there you have it: roadside assist is a backup, not a first line of defence. It is there for when all else fails. In busy times you will wait for hours, and on rainy days the queue is longer.

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