Running a car

What to do if your car breaks down

5 min read • Oct 29, 2018
car-breakdown

As a new driver, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is what to do if your car breaks down, but, unfortunately, it’s something that most of us will have to deal with at some point during our time on the road.

Be prepared

Your car could break down for a number of reasons. Your battery might be flat, you could run out of fuel or you might find yourself with a flat tyre. Whatever the reason, you need to make sure you’re prepared if your car breaks down and that you know exactly what to do should your vehicle fail you on the road.

There are certain things you should keep in your car at all times, in case of a breakdown. These are:

  • A high-visibility vest: A high-visibility vest will ensure you’re visible should you breakdown at night or when weather conditions are particularly poor. Wearing a high-visibility vest gives other drivers the best chance of spotting you at the side of the road.

  • A torch: Having a torch at hand is vital if you break down in the dark. Make sure you’ve got some batteries handy too.

  • A spare tyre: Getting a fat tyre is one of the most common causes of a car breakdown. You should always have a roadworthy spare tyre in the compartment under your boot, in case of a flat or burst tyre. Even if your tyres are fine, hitting a curb or pothole can cause damage whilst you’re out and about. You can find out how to change a flat tyre with our step-by-step guide.

  • A warning triangle: A warning triangle is a red triangle used to warn other drivers that there is a broken down vehicle or obstruction ahead. You should place your warning triangle about 50 yards behind your vehicle, on your side of the road, but only if it is safe to do so. Note: You should NOT attempt to use a warning triangle if you break down on the motorway.

  • A charged mobile: If you breakdown, you will need to make sure you’ve got a charged mobile in order to ring your breakdown cover provider. You might also want to keep a phone charger which can be used through your cigarette lighter with you.

  • Food and drink: You need to make sure you’ve got enough food and drink supplies to keep you fed and hydrated whilst you wait for your car to be fixed or recovered. Keep a large bottle of water with you and a few snacks like cereal bars or crisps, just incase.

What to do if you breakdown on the motorway

Although the motorway is, statistically, the safest road to drive on, it is one of the most dangerous places to have a breakdown. The first thing you should do when you realise that your car is breaking down, is to get on to the hard shoulder as safely and as quickly as possible.

Once you’re on the hard shoulder, stop as far to the left as possible, pointing your tyres to the left, in the direction of the bank. Put your hazard warning lights on. Get out of the vehicle, ensuring you stay away from moving traffic on the carriageway. Stand up the bank as far away from the road as possible and behind your vehicle. Never attempt to cross the carriageway.

Call your breakdown cover provider as soon as possible, using the driver location signs on the carriageway to help them pinpoint your location. If you don’t have access to a mobile, walk along the left hand side of the hard shoulder to an emergency phone.

What if I can’t reach the hard shoulder?

Stopping on a running lane of the motorway is extremely dangerous. If your car breaks down and you can’t reach the hard shoulder, you should put your hazard warning lights on immediately and leave your vehicle when you can get safely clear of the carriageway.

If you’re unable to get out of your vehicle or the motorway is too busy to do so, use your phone to call the emergency services immediately.

On other roads

If you break down on a single-carriageway road, try and stop in the safest place possible and put your hazard lights on. If it’s dark or there is poor visibility, you should also leave your lights on to make sure other drivers can see you.

Get out of the vehicle, checking it’s safe to do so and stand well away from the road and the car. If it’s safe to do so, place your warning triangle 50 yards behind the car, and phone your breakdown cover provider.

Choosing breakdown cover

When you buy a car, you should also make sure you’ve got breakdown cover. The levels of cover you can choose from vary, so ensure you’ve got home start cover as well as roadside assistance.

Breakdown cover prices vary so shop around.

Image via Highways Agency.

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