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At Master Mechanic, we see a lot of cars dropped off by tow trucks. We also see a lot of cars that drive in when they really should have been towed. In all fairness, it’s not always easy to know when you need a tow, but there are a few situations where it’s typically recommended.

We caught up with a Master Mechanic to discuss what car repairs/issues require a tow.


A flat tire is extremely common, but not everyone is equipped–or ready–to deal with it. If you’re not able to change it on the side of the road, you should get it towed to a service garage. Even if you can put on a spare, most aren’t fully functional at high speeds, so getting a tow is probably always the safest option. One thing is certain: you should never drive your car with a flat tire. Choosing to do so could result in a damaged rim or wheel and a much bigger car repair bill.


If the check engine light comes on and stays on (vs. flashing) then you can typically drive the car until you can get to a service garage. If the check engine light is flashing, though, you should have your car towed and looked at immediately. If your oil light is on, it doesn’t require a tow, but we also don’t advise that you drive much until you have it changed. You could cause damage that requires extensive repairs. Finally, if you see your high-temperature light is on, we recommend towing, and at the very least, pulling over.

Smoke Coming from Your Engine 

It probably goes without saying, but if you see any smoke coming from the hood of your car, we don’t advise driving. If you spot white smoke or vapor, or smell gasoline, it can be an especially dangerous situation. Not only should you tow your car, you should get as far away from it as possible. Do not open the hood either.

If the smoke is bluish and smells like burnt cooking oil, it’s likely an oil leak that’s dripping into the engine.  Like we stated earlier, a lack of oil can damage your engine, so you should have the car towed and repaired immediately.

Weird Noises or Behavior

You know better than anyone how your car should sound normally. If you hear a sudden loud or strange noise, it’s best to pull over–especially if it’s persistent.  It could be something stuck in your wheel, or a mechanical issue that needs a more serious repair. If you can’t figure out what the problem is after pulling over it’s best to get the car towed.

Finally, if your car suddenly becomes difficult to steer, you should always stop driving.  It could be caused by a flat tire, a loose wheel, failed power steering, or a number of other things. If you can’t figure out what’s causing the problem, you shouldn’t drive the car until it’s been fixed.

Whether you require repairs and warrant a tow, or you just need routine repairs, you can trust your local Master Mechanic with all your car needs. Contact us at any time, with any questions you have. Were always here to help!

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