You really hope that you’ll never have to contact 9-1-1 emergency services, but accidents happen and it happened to me.
The 9-1-1 button
In modern vehicles, you’ll likely have noticed some buttons either on the rearview mirror, on the roof or through the infotainment screen. General Motors vehicles such as Chevrolet, Buick’s, GMC’s, and Cadillac’s it’ll be OnStar buttons. On Ford’s it’s called 911 Assist and is through the SYNC system. In Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM’s it’ll be through Uconnect and the buttons will say ASSIST and 9-1-1 or SOS. Pushing the 9-1-1 button will connect you to emergency services dispatch. With the UConnect system, after the button is pushed there is a 10-second delay in case the button is pushed by accident it allows the user to quickly cancel before being connected. However, if you need help just stay on the line and that’s what I did.
It was late in the evening and I was with my friend in the mountains of Wyoming. We were only about 40 miles away from Casper, however, we were in some rugged backcountry territory. It’s early evening and we decide to hike into the ridges to look for some deer.
As we start walking in, my friend turns to me and she says, “so we know there is a bear in here, but it’s a black bear and normally runs away”. My heart suddenly skipped a beat and with shaky hands, I used a monocular (she used her camera’s zoom lens to check out some dark spots feeding in the distance. A sigh of relief as we realize they are just cows. We continued our search for pretty photographs of the sunset and some deer.
The sun is down and it’s getting dark so we hike back to the truck. Disappointed we didn’t see any deer, we get in the pickup, start heading home and making plans for another trip. We’re driving along the dirt road and my friend says, “take it easy on this sections, it’s pretty steep”. I have my foot gently keeping pressure on the brake as we begin to descend.
Just as the hill starts to flatten out, I feel a jerking on the steering wheel, I apply the brakes, but much to my surprise, there wasn’t any brakes. All I got was a heavy vibration on the brake pedal, but I kept trying anyway until I was able to jam my foot on the emergency brake. Figuring I’d probably gotten a flat tire when I eventually came to a stop, I got out and looked. I look at the back wheel and there’s the hub…sitting on the dirt road cutting into the sand and gravel. I look up the hill, and there shining in the red tail lights of the pickup is the wheel. The wheel had fallen completely off.
Why I needed the 9-1-1 button
Upon closer inspection of the hub, I noticed that one of the studs has completely sheared. It’s broken apart and sitting flush with the hub. The rest of the studs were not so round anymore, putting another wheel on was probably not going to be a viable option. We were at least 10 miles from a paved road. We both checked out cell phones, and lone behold, no service.
Knowing that the truck was around a year old and UConnect provides a years worth of services I thought I’d try the ASSIST button. See if it was still active. A message comes up on the 8.4″ Nav screen, the subscription was inactive, log on to Uconnect to activate. I’d have loved to have done that at that moment, however, no service makes it tricky. Our options were narrowed. Get out and walk in the dark and hope we get cell service on top of a hill, or try the 9-1-1 button.
I pushed the 9-1-1 button on the rearview mirror, waited the 10 seconds and was greeted by a dispatcher. She asked my location to which I could not answer, other than the middle of nowhere, near Casper, Wyoming. I then asked her if she could use the GPS coordinates from the truck to find my location. She was able to bring them right up. Another sigh of relief followed by me thinking, “wow, this is a cool feature and I’m so glad my truck has it”. She was able to get the Sheriff out to us so we could make contact with someone to come rescue us. Also really cool, is that using the trucks system, The Sheriff was able to call us back and let us know he was on the way.
Roadside Assistance is provided on Mopar vehicles from new usually for the length of manufacturer warranty term. If we had had signal, I could have pressed the ASSIST button and FCA would have organized a tow truck to be sent out. Because we didn’t have signal though I arranged this the next day. The service was impeccable. I received text message updates with ETA’s and everything went smoothly. The truck was towed to the nearest dealer, Fremont Motors in Casper. Roadside assistance offers features such as fuel delivery, flat tire changes, towing, and lockouts. Coverage varies depending on the vehicle and year.
Are you covered?
The following links will let you know what kind of roadside assistance is offered by brand;
Thankfully no-one was hurt during this, and I did ponder as to whether we should use 9-1-1. Even though no one was hurt, the situation had potential to turn nasty.
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. A car geek, photographer, big game chaser and bagpipe player, powered by coffee. Send your questions to: