What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down At the Side of the Road?

A car breakdown can be very stressful and ruin your entire day. Not only this, it can be quite dangerous and costly as well. If your car has never broken down before, it’s a good idea to be prepared so that you know what to do in case it breaks down anywhere. If you ever breakdown, the most important thing to remember is that your safety should be your top priority. With this in mind, here are some tips on what you should do during a breakdown on a motorway or even a minor road:

If you break down anywhere:

  • You should move your vehicle off the road as soon as it is safe to do so – or pull over to the hard shoulder
  • Put your hazard lights on (and your sidelights if it’s dark or foggy)
  • Wear a reflective jacket if you have one to ensure other drivers can see you. This is super-important when you are on a high-speed motorway
  • Get out of the car (and get your passengers out, too) and move away from your car and moving traffic
  • Leave animals in the car to avoid potential accidents
  • Stay away from moving traffic
  • If you have a disability that prevents you from following these steps, stay in the car with your seatbelt on, switch on your hazard lights and call your breakdown provider or the emergency services
  • If you can’t get onto the hard shoulder, stay in your car with your seatbelt fastened until it is safe to leave the car, and call the emergency services as soon as possible to get help

If you break down on the motorway, you should also:

  • If possible, keep up momentum until you are safely at the side of the road
  • Move to the hard shoulder if possible, and position your wheels to face the grass verge
  • If you can’t get to the hard shoulder, turn on your hazard lights and call the emergency services for assistance before you call a vehicle rescue service
  • Call your breakdown provider with details of your car, your location and the issue you are having with your car. You may not know the issue in technical terms but it would help to let your breakdown provider know of the basics i.e. a flat tyre or engine fault
  • Don’t attempt any repairs yourself and leave this to the professionals. It can be very costly if attempt repairing the car yourself without the required knowledge of the mechanics of your vehicle
  • Exit your car from a left-hand door rather than the driver’s side next to oncoming traffic, as it isn’t safe to stay inside the car in this situation. Move behind the crash barrier and up the bank if you can.
  • If you don’t have a mobile phone with you, walk to an emergency phone at the side of the road. These are orange and the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder will guide you to the nearest phone. This phone will connect you directly to the highways agency.
  • Don’t put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder as this isn’t safe for you
  • If your breakdown provider fixes your car at the side of the road, merge back onto the motorway safely by building up speed on the hard shoulder, signalling early and checking your blind spots. Watch out for other cars also parked on the hard shoulder.

Breaking Down On A Smart Motorway

Smart motorways are different because they do not have a hard shoulder. If you break down on a smart motorway, here are a few things you should do if you breakdown on a smart motorway:

  1. Stop at an emergency refuge area (ERA) or motorway service area, or leave at the next junction if possible
  2. If this is not possible, try to get the vehicle off the carriageway
  3. If you’re in the left-hand lane, put your hazard lights on, get out of the vehicle on the passenger side if it is safe to do so, and wait behind the barrier
  4. The authorities will see that your car has stopped, and close the lane so that your car isn’t hit
  5. If you’re in another lane or you can’t get out of the car, keep your seatbelt on and call the emergency services
  6. If you stop in an ERA, use the SOS phone to contact the Regional Control Centre both when you stop and before you leave
  7. Call your breakdown provider to get help as soon as it is safe to do so

Breaking Down On Minor Roads

Breaking down on a minor road is not as dangerous as breaking down on a motorway, but there will be cars driving past and you still need to take a few steps to ensure you are safe:

  1. If you are on a busy or main road, you may want to pull into a side street if possible to stay away from the moving traffic
  2. Put your hazard lights on (and your side lights if it’s dark)
  3. Wear a reflective jacket if you have one and place your warning triangle within 50 yards behind your vehicle on the same side of the road to warn other road users. If you don’t have a warning triangle, it may be worth getting one for your own safety if you ever breakdown. You can purchase one from Amazon for only £4 – £6. Here is one we recommend – Reflective Warning Triangle by Travel Kits
  4. If you are worried about your car getting hit by other vehicles, make sure that you and your passengers exit the car when it is safe to do so
  5. Call your breakdown provider and wait for assistance

What if You Don’t Have Breakdown Cover?

If you don’t have breakdown cover, you can either phone a local garage, join a breakdown cover provider on the spot, or if you are on the motorway, contact the highways agency. Here’s a little more information about each option:

1.       Call A Local Breakdown Recovery Provider

Depending on where you have broken down, you can call a local breakdown recovery provider to either repair your car on the roadside (if it’s a minor issue) or help transporting to a local garage (for larger issues).

2.       Call A Local Garage

Garages normally work with local breakdown recovery providers and may charge a call out fee, as well as a fee for each mile your vehicle is towed. If you are in an unfamiliar location you might not know where the nearest garage is, and this can work out to be quite expensive.

 3.       Join A Breakdown Provider

You can call a breakdown provider and join them on the spot, which would mean you would be attended to like any other breakdown customer. This comes with an additional fee but it could be your cheapest option, and you’ll be covered for the next 12 months.

 4.       Call the Highways Agency 

If you break down on the motorway, you can call the highways agency using the emergency phones at the side of the road. They will tow you to a local garage, but this can come at a hefty price – at least £150.

Of course, the cheapest option would be to ensure that you have breakdown cover in place at all times but you may not want to do this for various reasons. Some car insurance policies also come with breakdown cover included, so you can contact your insurance provider if you ever breakdown. If you’re not sure whether you have a breakdown cover in place, you can call your insurance provider to find out.

Prepare For Long Journeys 

If you’re heading out on a long journey, it’s a good idea to carry out basic maintenance and checks to help you avoid a breaking down as much as possible. There are a few pre-journey checks you should do including:

  • Check your oil and water levels
  • Check your tyre tread and pressure

It’s also a good idea to put a few things in your car in the event of a breakdown, such as:

  • Your breakdown membership details
  • A fully charged mobile phone (with it’s charger just in case)
  • A reflective jacket
  • A warning triangle
  • A first aid kit
  • Blankets
  • A torch
  • Snacks and plenty of water
  • A shovel, de-icer, an ice scraper and warm clothes in the winter
  • Sun cream and hats in the summer
  • Books or toys to keep children occupied

Here is an all in one travel kit for driving in Europe that we recommend – Profile Auto Euro Travel Kit for driving in France and Europe

Most breakdowns are unavoidable and happen when we least expect it, but if you know what to do and you have everything you need, you should be able to deal with it safely.

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