3 Keys to Staying Safe When You Break Down

3 Keys to Staying Safe When You Break Down

It’s Thanksgiving Day, 2016, and I’m 6 months pregnant. Andrew and I had just bought a used pick-up truck for the shop and after doing some repairs, was excited to drive it to his brother’s wedding…three states away. I mentioned several times that I was six months pregnant and, “Wouldn’t the Toyota Corolla be more comfortable?” But he really wanted to get the truck on the road and see what it could do.  “Fine,” I relented, “Let’s take the ‘new’ truck.” Halfway to South Carolina the check engine light comes on. Then it starts flashing.

Ideally, if you take care of your vehicle properly, adhere to all of the items on your maintenance schedule in a timely manner, and have it inspected every few years, you can avoid a surprise breakdown. Even when necessary precautions are taken, you may still find yourself on the side of the road. Thankfully Andrew got the light to stop flashing and we made it without breaking down…but it was midnight. I was swollen, uncomfortable, and having false labor contractions. Not the ideal scenario.

It’s important to know what you are going to do if it ever does happen to you in order to be safe for you and your passengers and avoid causing further damage to your vehicle. Not everyone can bring a mechanic along like I can.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Being married to a mechanic, we were fortunately able to avoid a breakdown on our trip because Andrew was able to intervene, but you never know.

I was driving in the rain on FL-408 one evening with my six-month old son in the car and I got a sudden puncture in my tire. I put my hazards on and pulled off at the nearest exit and couldn’t quite make it off the ramp, much less to the gas station at the next light. It was a scary situation as car after car sped past me in the pouring down rain at dusk, so I decided to just stay put in the car to avoid getting hit. I called Andrew, we made a plan, and then climbed into the back seat to entertain my son while I waited for him.

What completely surprised me is that instead of stopping to help me, people honked at me, gave me rude gestures, and no one stopped to see if they could help. Four police cars even went by me!

My point is that you have to be smart. I stayed in my vehicle because I answered “no” to the following safety concerns:

  1. Are you able to pull off at a safe distance from potential dangers?
  2. Are you and your car visible to other drivers?
  3. Is/are your passenger(s) safe?

Be Prepared

One thing I’m really disconcerted about in this flat-tire-in-the-rain scenario is that the trunk of my car was an absolute mess. I’m embarrassed to say that once the rain and traffic cleared up and a good samaritan finally stopped to see if they could help, I couldn’t even find the jack and ratchet for changing the tire. This was definitely a mistake.

Always have the proper tools in your vehicle in case of an emergency. Consider putting together a basic roadside emergency kit including a first aid kit, basic tools, water, and protective wear (blankets, hat and gloves for cold climates, and/or a poncho, sunglasses, and sun hat for warm climates) and keep your trunk tidy so you can find them. You could really go extreme if you spend a lot of time on long trips with the ultimate roadside emergency kit. At the very least have the tools for changing a tire, know where they are and how to use them.

Make A Plan

Once you have pulled over safely and assessed the situation. Here are some good questions to consider:

  1. Is this a problem I can remedy myself until I can get to my mechanic? (i.e. flat tire)
  2. Is my car driveable or do I need to call a tow truck?
  3. Do I have someone to assist me?

DO NOT try to drive your vehicle if it is smoking from either end, the check engine light is blinking, or there is any obvious suspicious noise. These are signs of serious problems and driving your car further could cause additional serious and costly damage. Always, if possible, call your mechanic and ask for his/her advice before driving your vehicle.

This is just another reason why having a mechanic you have a trusting relationship with is so important. Your mechanic can help guide you as to whether your vehicle is safe to drive or if a tow truck is recommended. Even if you are out of town, he can tell you if, based on the symptoms, it’s something you need to take to a nearby mechanic right away or something that you can address with him as soon as you return.

Thank Your Rescuers!

Due to the messiness of my trunk, my good samaritan friend and I couldn’t find the ratchet to remove the lug nuts. However, while we were figuring that out, a police officer stop to lend assistance as well. Remember the FOUR that passed me before? This guy was off duty, probably heading home for the night, and still decided to stop and help. He loaded my son and I into the back of his cop car (a new experience for me and quite a story for my son when he’s older!) and brought us to the gas station up ahead to wait for Andrew to come rescue us and our car. I was super grateful for that officer and the other helpful citizen as it took a while for Andrew to get to us.

Every situation is different but it’s wise to be as prepared as possible. I don’t think anyone will be prepared as much as my husband who made many preparations beforehand and, while on our Thanksgiving trip said, “I should have brought that other diagnostic tool,” as he was looking at a whole box of tools that the average person doesn’t even own.

You can’t be prepared for absolutely everything, but you can know what to do if something were to go wrong that keeps you safe and helps you make and execute a plan in a way that minimizes stress and gets you back on the road as soon and safely as possible.

-From The Mechanic’s Wife

Me & My Ride: Dawn Whitestone

Me & My Ride: Dawn Whitestone

If I could describe Dawn with one word, it would be “thoughtful.”  She doesn’t waste time getting things done, but she definitely approaches everything she does with sincere thoughtfulness. It’s how she runs her business, Whitestone Professionals, LLC, and it’s how she handles her auto repair decisions.

It’s no wonder, because Dawn runs one of the most unique businesses I’ve ever heard of. “Through Whitestone Professionals, LLC, I help individuals and organizations increase their influence, their impact, and their income. I help people set their goals and get things done,” she tells me. As a licensed therapist, she has a few ways she does this, but as she says, “My greatest uniqueness is something I call Strategic Prayer. One of the things I’m passionate about is helping people hear from God. I help people understand God’s purposes and plans for them and be able to confidently implement them.”

After spending time with Dawn, I’ve been able to bring insight and direction to the shop that has increased efficiency in customer interactions, administrative work, as well as how the shop functions. It’s so neat that Dawn gets to experience the improvement to our business first-hand whenever she brings us her 2007 Toyota Prius.

“My whole family has loved this car, so I’m not anxious to part with it,” Dawn shares. After a sudden death in the family, there was a swapping around of vehicles and Dawn ended up with her parent’s year-old Prius. It was the first time her parents had bought a brand-new vehicle and, as a middle school science teacher, her dad was excited to have an environmentally friendly car.

“My whole family has loved this car, so I’m not anxious to part with it.”

After 10 years of driving it, she’s seen that not only is the gas mileage and comfortable ride ideal for the vast amounts of driving she does with two active teenage daughters and a business that keeps her on the go. Even more miles are added when her thoughtfulness leads her to do favors for those around her (present company included!), so you’d better believe she spends a lot of time in her car. In fact the only thing she doesn’t like about it is how it handles in the rain because of the heavy battery in the back-end.

No wonder Dawn wants to keep her Prius for as long as possible! That’s exactly what attracted her to us. “Marinelli Auto Service wants to help people to be good stewards of their cars. I love that concept!” she exclaimed to me. Dawn doesn’t like debt, and she never wants to have a car loan ever again, so she’s diligently saving for her next car while she continues to invest in her Prius to keep it running well and we’re glad to help.

“Marinelli Auto Service wants to help people to be good stewards of their cars. I love that concept!”

“It’s been great to get the comprehensive inspection and have Andrew tell me exactly what I’m looking at and what definitely needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It’s just great to be able to trust your mechanic. Whether it’s true or not, mechanics have a bad reputation. It’s so good to know my mechanic – to know the family.”

We can tell when customers, like Dawn, have come to trusting us because when she brings us her car, she doesn’t require a lot of detail. Dawn thoughtfully takes into consideration Andrew’s expert evaluation and advice and she just says, “fix it.” We’re thankful that we have her trust and to see her drive away happy.

“Prince Charming,” Family Man, Opportunist

“Prince Charming,” Family Man, Opportunist

When “Prince Charming” comes up on the caller ID at Marinelli Auto Service, we know that Jonathan Fernandes is on the line. This doesn’t happen often, because as Office Manager, he’s usually the one answering the phone, but when it does, we can be rest assured we’ll be greeted with something off the wall like, “Jimbo’s Tacos calling to confirm your order for 100 supreme tacos,” to which it’s best to play along for as long as possible. In all seriousness, though, Jonathan brings a good balance of fun and opportunity to our shop that has brought our business to the next level.

Surinamese by birth, Jonathan’s cross-cultural upbringing allows a perspective that looks outside the box for solutions to everyday challenges. He has been a fast learner of the industry and faces challenges as opportunities. His vision for our business is bigger than I can wrap my mind around, so when he hears about an improvement that needs to be made, he jumps right on it. This vision includes expanding our reach to be able to serve customers with more efficient turn-around times and a smoother customer experience. For example, his affinity for technology, particularly computer programming, has greatly improved many of our office processes. He’s always anticipating our next biggest need and putting things in place to meet it.

Since Jonathan has joined our team, we’ve been able to move forward from wondering how we’ll get to the end of the week to what we’ll be able to accomplish by the end of the year. Yes, we all want to make a nice income to support our families, but this is secondary to the care he has for each vendor he works with and each customer who walks through the door. When it comes down to it, he wants to take care of you and your family.

In fact, one thing that allowed Jonathan to fit easily into our fold is his heart for his family. With his wife Sarah – a longtime friend of Andrew’s and mine – his son James, and the any-day-now anticipation of his second son’s arrival, he “gets” the family atmosphere we’ve tried to create through our business. Just like Andrew treats every car like it’s owned by a member of his family, Jonathan treats every customer like you were part of his.

Truth be told, it’s his easy going relational style that makes him the right person to be on the other end of the phone and the first face you see when you walk into our office. This brings us to how “Prince Charming” ended up on our caller ID. While mostly tongue in cheek, it represents the balance between the fun he brings as well as the connection he makes with every person on the other end. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to meet Jonathan soon. When you do, I highly encourage you to let him know what we’re doing right and where we can improve. I promise you, he’ll look forward to the challenge as an opportunity.

-From the Mechanic’s Wife

5 Wise Uses for Your Tax Refund

5 Wise Uses for Your Tax Refund

The newest member of our team, Jonathan Fernandes, is pretty wise when it comes to making practical life decisions, like investing your hard-earned money. He’s been a wonderful asset to our team as the Office Manager, and in this guest post, he shares some great ideas on how to use your tax return make so much sense!

-From the Mechanic’s Wife



We are already in month two of the new year which means soon some of us will get a check back from the government and for some of us, it is a great time of the year were we get our hands on “a lot of money at a single point in time.” In my youth, I have spent that money on the fun stuff: like a new XBOX, some games, a new computer and even the ridiculous (like this
coin sized tracking device for $20!). Although, as I have gotten older, I have noticed a slight change in how I spend my return. The point of my spending used to be just the fun stuff and things for myself, and now they can sometimes range from investing, saving, to even generosity. Continue reading “5 Wise Uses for Your Tax Refund” »

How To Take A Woman On A Date

How To Take A Woman On A Date

I’m a woman (surprise!) and I love it when my husband takes me out on dates. We don’t get to go out much because we’ve always been tight on cash and we kind of enjoy just curling up on the couch with a movie. The longer we’ve been married, the harder it’s been to get out on a “real” date.

We own a new business, Andrew works really long hours, we have a toddler, and by the time we have a moment to breathe it seems like too much of an effort to actually go somewhere. When we do finally get out on a date, you might think we were traveling to some exotic place by how excited I get, so I want to make the most of it. So, I want to share with you what I like as a woman out on a date. When my husband does these things, it helps me to enjoy the date that much more. So, whether you’ve been married for 50 years (way to go!) or are nervously looking forward to your first date, please take these dating tips to heart and woo your woman!

Clean Your Car

You want your woman to be thinking about you, not the condition of your car. You don’t have to drive a fancy expensive sports car (Andrew and I drive a 1994 Toyota Corolla and a 2000 Toyota Tacoma respectively), but you should show her that you value and want to care for the things you own (which means you would value her even more for choosing to be with you). Moving old receipts, take out containers, and smelly gym clothes out of her seat as she stands there waiting to get in says that her comfort was a last second thought and doesn’t set a very good impression.

Take Care of Your Vehicle

Show her that you are practically and financially responsible. Work with your mechanic to stay on top of your maintenance schedule. Make sure your wipers work and your fluids are topped off. Fill up your gas tank. Don’t put off known problems. Having car problems is not something you want to be handling while you are trying to impress the woman you have eyes on.

Open Her Car Door

It seems so simple and even a bit archaic, but it’s a gesture that I love. Yes, I am fully capable of opening my own car door, but I love the idea that the man I’m with would try to impress me with chivalry. It shows that he puts me before himself and in return, I feel honored. Also, if I’m wearing a skirt and/or heals, I can be sure I don’t have a wardrobe malfunction in the process of getting in and out of the car.

Abide By Traffic Laws

Hopefully the woman you are with is so stunning that you can’t keep your eyes off of her, but don’t let her beauty distract you from being a good driver. Pay attention to the speed limit and other road signs, but don’t just focus on the letter of the law – be a courteous driver, too. You see someone indicating that they want to switch lanes and traffic is heavy, slow down and let them in. Refrain from laying on your horn the second the light turns green and the person in front of you hasn’t hit the gas pedal, yet. Show her that you are a respectful person who tries to do the right thing.

Be Mindful of Her

Is she wearing high heels? Did it rain earlier in the day? Watch where you park. Parking right next to soggy grass or by a puddle can be a predicament for a woman and her footwear. You don’t want to see the heel of her shoe sink into the grass or her shoe get flooded in a puddle of water.

Additionally, if you’ve both gotten really dressed up, you are likely wearing a coat while she’s wearing a sleeveless dress. Make sure the temperature in the car isn’t freezing her out. Women tend to be colder than men on average anyway, so even if she’s smart and brought a light sweater, be sure you don’t have the AC too cold.

My husband and I aren’t huge Valentine’s Day people. It’s nice to have an annual reminder to express your love to that special someone but we don’t get super excited about the holiday. We do, however, like to get away from everyday life and go on a date every so often – especially in this difficult season when so much is competing for our time and energy. I hope, whether it’s a Valentine’s Day celebration or another special date, that you can spend that time focusing on one-another and not the vehicle that drove you there.

-From The Mechanic’s Wife

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