What if you're driving 200+ miles and your car breaks down? Assuming you don't know anyone in the area it happens in, is there any way out of this nightmare?
Insurance/coverage with your equivalent of AA/RAC/GreenFlag etc. is your best bet (or have a lot fo close friends on facebook/google+ who will help you out!)
If I break down anywhere in Europe, I can get my car taken to the nearest brand service centre, and if necessary get a flight home paid for. It has never been needed, and does cost a little bit more a month, but if I ever need it, I'll be just fine.
I did a blog post on winter preparedness a while back which you might find interesting. Apologies for the self-promotion, but it covers a fair amount of related aspects.
Be friendly. You don't know if the locals are hostile to your religious affiliation / your gender driving a vehicle / your social status. But no matter how they approach you, remain friendly and don't reciprocate any aggression. When you are stranded your first concern is your immediate safety, not the vehicle repair.
Only after you have established friendly communication with either a local or another motorist, then try to figure out what to do with the vehicle.
Hopefully you belong to some type of travel organization such as AAA etc.The people they contract with have to be somewhat reputable.This is not to say that they hire the most honest,but they at least are a legitamite company.I would suggest paying only with a credit card as in most states this gives you recourse through the card company if you feel you were cheated.Ask to take with you any parts that were replaced if you can.Then you can have the part checked when you return home to see if it was really defective.I would reccomend national chains if available such a Sears,Firestone,PepBoys.While they may not be your first choice a home they at least have a consumer complaint dept you can contact.
I have AAA+ (100 mile free towing). A lot of my trips are well beyond that, but it covers the vast majority of my risk exposure. Beyond that, it's wise to have extra clothes, basic toiletries, and a credit card with lots of room on it...
AAA can still help you find a (at least semi-reputable) shop, but you're going to have to be able to cover the repairs and inconvenience somehow. They can also set you up with pay per mile towing if you want that option. Call around yourself as well, I found a place before that was only $2 a mile w/AAA discount.
My best advice is that if you find yourself on a trip you can barely afford (no money/margin for error), you should re-think your planning... Perhaps revise the trip, or cancel completely.