What to do when your car breaks down

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Our guide to what you should do when your car breaks down

Having your car break down, especially for the first time, can be a difficult experience. If it’s not something that’s ever happened to you before, it can be tough to know what to do. Breaking down on a busy road can be stressful, so it’s important to know the essential steps to take if this happens. Using this guide, you’ll find out how to be fully prepared if you break down, and how you can get your vehicle fixed quickly and safely.

Don't panic

If your car begins to break down, the best immediate advice is to not panic. If you feel your car starting to slow down or if you recognise there is a problem, such as the windscreen wipers not working during rain or your lights failing at night, head to the side of the road. Taking control of the vehicle is the most important thing here, as panicking can cause you to lose control of the car and cause an accident.

Do not be concerned about the level of severity when it comes to pulling over. Even something minor like wipers not working can become a big problem if you continue driving. However, if something goes wrong with your car and you can make it to a petrol station or somewhere similar, you should consider this, as it can be safer than the hard shoulder.

Stop somewhere safe

Stopping somewhere safe should be a top priority if you’re car is in trouble. Whether you’re on the motorway or a standard road, breaking down in the middle of a lane can be extremely dangerous as well as causing major disruption. Because of this, your first aim should be to the side of the road. Motorways always have a hard shoulder should any breakdowns occur, so you should head for that if you’re driving on the motorway.

If you know something’s wrong, but it isn’t an immediate issue, you should consider stopping at the nearest petrol station or service area if you’re driving on the motorway. This is a much safer place to stop, allowing you to freely walk around and survey the problem yourself. As well as this, breakdown services should still have easy access to you when you’re not on the road and even have more room to operate.

Turn on your hazard lights

When you’ve made your way to the side of the road, the first thing you should do is turn on your hazard lights. This is essential for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it allows oncoming vehicles to see you much easier than they would normally do, especially during the night. The breakdown engineer that helps you will also be able to identify you easier Secondly, it also alerts drivers that you’re unable to move and aren’t about to move back into a busy lane, meaning they won’t be worried about potential accidents.

Work out where you are

If you know you need to contact breakdown services to come to your aid, knowing where you are is important. If you don’t know your exact location, there are a number of ways you can find out instantly. The most obvious of these is looking at a maps application on your smartphone. The majority of smartphones have location services, so it should be easy to find where you are and what road you are on.

On a motorway, this can be more difficult, as the roads are often hundreds of miles long, making it tough to be exact. Luckily, motorways have Driver Location Signs which you can refer to to see where you are on the road. You’ll be able to quote the number to the breakdown recovery service you call, allowing them to find you quickly and easily. Some breakdown recovery services also feature mobile apps which can track your location when you contact them.

Contact breakdown services

Once you’re sure that you’re safely by the side of the road, contact your breakdown cover provider on the number you’ve been given. You should look to keep this number safe at all times in case you need it, so saving it onto your phone is the best option.

When calling breakdown services, you’ll be able to use your cover to get an engineer out to you. The majority of cases are solved on the side of the road, with many driving away straight away. If this isn’t the case, you’ll and your vehicle will be driven to the nearest garage, depending on the type of cover you have. Some providers will also offer overnight accommodation for you if the problem can’t be fixed that day.

Stay in your car/exit the car

Once you’ve alerted your chosen breakdown cover provider, you’ll have to wait for an engineer to get to you. Depending on your situation, it’s safer to either stay in your car or wait outside. If you’ve broken down on a motorway, it’s advised that you leave you car and get as far away from the road as possible. This is in case your vehicle is hit due to the fast speeds people travel on motorways. Whilst this is unlikely to happen if you’ve stopped safely and have your hazard lights on, it’s still more likely to happen on a motorway than a standard road.

If you’ve broken down on an A or B road, staying in your car is a safer option than on a motorway due to cars not driving as fast. You’ll also have potentially less room on your average B road to move your car to than a motorway, so staying in your car could be the safest option overall.