No one wants to need to call a towing company. You likely only think about doing so when you find yourself in an extremely inconvenient situation, but a tow truck is often the most practical option if you’re in an accident or unable to get your vehicle started. You can either have your car towed home, to a garage where it can be repaired, or to another location that’s convenient.

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and preparation is key to getting through such situations smoothly. It’s important to know when to call a towing company as well as the steps you should take in these circumstances.

Your car won’t start

There are a few things to do if you can’t get your car started or it suddenly stops running. You can wait a few minutes and try starting it again. In some cases, the problem is a dead battery, and getting a jump will sometimes do the trick. It’s always a good idea to have a set of jumper cables in your trunk, or — if you really want to be prepared — to carry around a portable battery charger.

You ran out of gas

Running out of gas is another possible reason for stalling. Fill up your tank before taking a long trip in case you encounter an area without gas stations and consider carrying a portable gas tank with a spare gallon or two. If you do find yourself on the road without gas, however, you must deal with the situation: Calling for a tow truck is a safe option.

You have a flat tire

If you have a spare tire and a jack in your vehicle, you may be able to change the tire yourself. This isn’t always practical, though. You may have stalled in a place where it’s unsafe to work on your car, or the lug nuts may be too tight to loosen with hand tools. Worse yet, you may find yourself with a flat tire and no spare or no jack. In these cases, a tow truck company is your best solution.

You’ve been in an accident

Everyone hopes they won’t get into an accident, but they do occur. The first priority is to make sure no one is hurt. If anyone needs medical attention, your first call should be for an ambulance. If the only damage is to your vehicle, however, you should call for towing.

You should never try to drive a damaged vehicle even if it seems possible.

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