What Is "Roadside Assistance"?

Sparky Express Roadside Assistance

Roadside Assistance - Definition

Roadside assistance and breakdown coverage are services that assist motorists whose vehicles have suffered a mechanical or electrical failure that leaves the operator stranded.

Types of Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance services are provided in many different ways and by different roadside assistance providers. Some drivers prefer the peace of mind of knowing that they can be helped anytime by purchasing annual roadside assistance coverage plans from national automobile clubs, automakers, insurance, or credit card companies. Other drivers, DIY-ers or motorists that have some automotive mechanical skills, prefer not to pay costly annual fees for roadside assistance coverage, and deal with a mechanical or electrical failure when it happens, and if it happens, by calling local, on-demand roadside assistance providers, or by dealing with the car problem themselves. Either way, help is available on the road when you have car problems, the only thing you need nowadays is just a smartphone and data connection to find roadside assistance online.

Roadside assistance needed! Hazard lights button on the dashboard of a vehicle.

Roadside Assistance Services Available

Usually, roadside assistance providers are towing companies, mobile mechanic services or basic roadside assistance providers.

If your vehicle suffers from a mechanical or electrical failure that cannot be addressed roadside, the only option you have is to tow your vehicle to a mechanic shop or car dealership.

Here is a list of the most common mechanical or electrical failure scenarios that cannot be fixed on the road and require a towing service:

  • engine failure
  • transmission failure
  • alternator failure
  • power steering problems
  • flat or exploded tires, vehicle not equipped with spare wheel
  • major fluid leaks
  • car accident
  • ignition problems
  • low battery in electrical vehicles
  • lost car keys or fob

If you have an annual roadside assistance plan, or if you are covered by your automaker's roadside assistance, by your credit card company or by your insurance company, simply call the number they have provided you with, and request roadside assistance. Otherwise, search online for the nearest towing service available and get the best rate and/or the fastest service if you're in a hurry.

If you have a small mechanical or electrical problem with your vehicle, you can also try a local roadside assistance mechanic in the area where you are located, and have someone attend your location to fix your car. Here is a list of car problems that can be fixed right where you are and that are a lot cheaper to fix than towing your car away:

  • Dead or drained car battery: this usually happens when you have left something on in your car, and the car battery doesn't have enough voltage to start the engine. In this case, you only need to find a battery boost service in your area who can dispatch a qualified tech to jump start your car, definitely a lot cheaper than towing your car away.
  • You have locked the keys in your car: while most tow truck drivers can unlock your car, there are specialized car lockout services in your area who can safely unlock your car for just a few bucks. A local car lockout service will always be cheaper than a tow truck when you are locked out of your car.
  • You have a flat tire and you don't know what to do: when this happens and if your vehicle is equipped with a donut (or spare wheel/spare tire), you can always find a roadside assistance provider that can either change your flat tire or fix it. Always make sure you get the fastest and cheapest flat tire service by shopping around.
  • Out of gas: find a local fuel delivery service that can bring you some gas or diesel for a decent price.

Roadside assistance: this motorist cannot start his vehicle and needs a battery boost service to assist him.

As you can see, help is always available on the road. The only thing you shouldn't do when you have a car problem, is panic. Just grab your phone and google "roadside assistance" and you will always find a multitude of options and prices. Just make sure you always pick the best roadside assistance provider in your area who provides the exact roadside assistance services that you need.