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8 Reasons Drivers Get Stranded on the Road

Getting stranded on the road can be a scary and dangerous situation for drivers, and it often happens when you least expect it. There can be several reasons for it. You may run out of gas, get a flat tire, or experience car trouble. Nonetheless, roadside breakdowns can leave you vulnerable and unsure of what to do next. 

Before hitting the road, it is wise to inspect your vehicle and make sure you have the necessary tools in case of an emergency. Keep a spare tire, jumper cables, a car jack, flares, and a flashlight in your car. Taking preventative measures can give you peace of mind and allow you to handle unexpected issues confidently. While it is impossible to avoid every potential problem, being proactive and attentive behind the wheel can reduce the likelihood of you being stranded on the road. 

Let’s go over some top reasons that leave drivers stranded on the road. You will also find some tips here to avoid or resolve the situation. 

Running Out of Gas

One of the most common reasons for getting stranded on the road is simply running out of fuel. Drivers often misjudge how much gas they have or how much they will need to reach their destination. You may fail to notice the fuel gauge creeping low during the journey. Running out of gas leaves you stranded right where your car coasts to a stop.

Picture this: You ran out of gas on the highway. You called for help, but since it was after dark, the options were limited. Sounds like a scary scenario, right?

That’s why it is important to always remain prepared for any surprises, especially when driving to remote locations. Make a habit of filling up when your tank is half empty. Check the fuel gauge frequently, and be aware of approximately how many miles you can drive on the current tank. If you see a fuel station but don’t necessarily need gas, consider filling up anyway if a long stretch without services is approaching. Carrying an extra gas canister is also a good emergency precaution. 

If you do run out of gas, call for roadside assistance or a friend immediately for help. Do not attempt to walk along a highway or in a remote location to get gas.

Flat Tire

Another frequent cause of a car breakdown on the road is a flat tire. Several things can cause a flat, from running over road debris to a tire blowout. A flat tire leaves you unable to drive further, and attempting to drive any distance in such a case can cause serious damage to the wheel. 

To avoid flats, make sure your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth. Inspect them regularly for signs of damage or uneven wear. Always have a spare tire on hand, along with the tools to change it. If you do get a flat tire, pull over immediately to a safe location. Safely change the tire, and have the damaged tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

Dead Battery

Few things are more frustrating than turning the key and hearing nothing but a click or silence. A dead battery will leave your car completely immobilized. Batteries can die if left unused for an extended time or simply due to old age and extensive use.

Routinely checking battery connections and having the battery tested for performance can help detect potential issues. Always turn off the lights and accessories when the engine is off. If your battery does die, avoid repeated cranking attempts and call for a jump start. Jumper cables and a roadside assistance membership can be a lifesaver in this situation.

Brake Problems

Proper braking is obviously essential to safe driving. Brake problems can develop suddenly and lead to getting stranded or cause an accident. The brakes may begin making unusual noises or lose braking capacity. This can happen due to worn brake pads, the air in the brake lines, or issues with the master cylinder or calipers.

Get to know the normal feel of your brakes so you can detect changes immediately. Any odd sounds, pulling, vibrations, or changes in pedal pressure should be inspected. Routine brake inspections and fluid changes will keep the system in good working order. If brakes do start to fail, pump the pedal rapidly to build pressure. Carefully coast to a stop in a safe area and call for assistance.

Transmission Trouble 

Transmission issues can quickly leave your car undrivable. Problems include fluid leaks, worn gears, electrical malfunctions, or computer failures. The car may slip gears, jerk or hesitate, or stop shifting properly. Ignoring early signs of transmission problems can lead to more extensive damage.

Maintenance like fluid changes, inspection for leaks, and computer updates help prevent trouble. If you feel the transmission begin to slip or behave oddly, pull over immediately. Continuing to drive can destroy the transmission. Call for a tow and have it inspected by a mechanic.

Alternator Failure

A car’s alternator powers the battery and electrical system while driving. If it fails, the battery will quickly drain. The alternator recharges the battery and runs items like the headlights, radio, and ignition system. Without it, the car will shut down as soon as the battery depletes. 

Watch for signs like dimming headlights or electrical issues. Strange smells, loose belts, and odd noises can also indicate alternator problems. Make repairs at the first sign of trouble to avoid a breakdown. Carrying jumper cables and a battery charger can help if your alternator does fail while out driving.

Overheated Engine

Allowing your car’s engine to overheat can easily create a roadside emergency situation. The temperature gauge climbing higher than normal could indicate an issue like low coolant, faulty thermostat, clogged radiator, broken fan belt, or failing water pump. 

Watch the temperature gauge regularly and maintain your cooling system. If the engine begins overheating, pull over immediately and turn it off. Let it cool before cautiously adding coolant as needed. Call for a tow if it still overheats to avoid catastrophic engine damage. 

Mechanical Issues

General mechanical problems account for many breakdowns, from failed hoses, belts, and spark plugs to issues with the electrical system. Any unusual noises, smell, or sensations while driving could indicate a mechanical problem. It may take close attention and mechanical knowledge to identify the specific issue.

Staying on top of routine maintenance and repairs helps avoid many mechanical failures. However, unexpected part failures can occur at any time. Carrying a spare serpentine belt, battery jumper, basic tools, duct tape, and zip ties allows you to make some minor roadside repairs if necessary.


Getting stranded when driving can be a scary and dangerous ordeal. While not every breakdown is avoidable, proper planning and preparation can reduce many common issues that leave drivers on the roadside. Staying alert to signs of trouble, performing preventative maintenance, and carrying emergency tools are wise precautions. However, if you do get stranded, act quickly to get to safety and call for assistance. Staying calm and following safety best practices can help you get back on your way.

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