Written by Graham Cutbill-White
If your car breaks down while you’re on the road, it can not only be incredibly frustrating but it can be dangerous for you and other drivers. A break down can happen at any time and it’s unlikely that you’ll know when and where it’s going to happen.
But while you may not be able to see in the future, knowing exactly what to do if a breakdown occurs will help keep you safe and make everything go that little bit easier. Here’s a handy guide to everything you need to know when you breakdown.
Breaking down on a normal, quieter road is likely to be less dangerous but that doesn’t mean you should take anything for granted. If you start to feel your vehicle slowing or making unusual noises, you should pull over to the nearest safe place available.
Once you’ve come to stop in a safe place away that won’t obstruct other vehicles on the road, you should turn on your hazard lights. If you break down in the dark or in stormy conditions where visibility is poor, you should also leave your sidelights on.
If you’re away from other cars on the road then you can stay in your vehicle but it’s usually safer to leave the vehicle and wait from a safe distance. Make sure that you and any passengers leave the car using the doors facing away from the road, taking care as you go.
When you’ve left the vehicle, you should place your red warning triangle at least 50 metres behind your vehicle to inform oncoming drivers that there is a stationary car ahead. You should then call for assistance and wait in a safe area or you can stay in your vehicle if it’s safe to do so.
With more cars, going much faster, motorways can be a dangerous place to break down. The moment you feel something wrong with your vehicle you need to get to left side of the carriageway as soon as possible.
The hard shoulder is there for emergencies so it’s the safest place to be if you feel your car coming to a stop. Try and get as far to the left side of the hard shoulder as possible as contact with oncoming vehicles could cause a serious accident.
When you’ve stopped, you should turn on your hazard lights and just like on a normal road, if it’s dark or visibility is poor, turn your side lights on.
Next, you should exit your car using the left-hand doors, staying away from oncoming traffic and ensure that all passengers are moved safely behind a crash barrier or high up a verge, as far away from the motorway as possible.
While exiting the vehicle, you should put on your reflective jacket if you have one, but never put out your red warning triangle if you break down on the motorway.
It’s always worth carrying, along with your reflective jacket and red warning triangle, some waterproof clothing and blankets, especially in winter. You never know what the conditions will be when you break down or how long you’ll have to wait for assistance.
When clear from your vehicle, use your phone to contact your breakdown assistance provider or the emergency services if you feel the situation needs it. If you don’t have a mobile phone, you can use one of the emergency phones at the roadside.
Follow the arrows on the hard shoulder to find the free phone which will direct you straight to the police.
You should never attempt to fix the vehicle on the hard shoulder, instead, wait for assistance and then if they’re able to get your car started again, you should only look to rejoin the motorway if you see a safe gap in the traffic.
It’s recommended that drivers have some form of breakdown assistance as it will not only help get your vehicle fixed quickly, but it could also save you a lot of money.
If you purchased breakdown cover alongside your policy and a breakdown occurs (whether or not you need assistance), you must immediately call the 24-hour Breakdown Control Centre on 01245 210 270 or 0330 123 1283. Breakdown assistance or recovery will only be provided if you or a driver stay with the vehicle until a rescue vehicle arrives
Without break down assistance you will either need to call a local garage that may or may not be able to come and tow your vehicle. If they are able to do so, you’ll find that you will have to pay a hefty call out charge as well as a standard rate per mile you are towed.
If you don’t know of any local garages, you can either call the highways agency who will tow you to a local garage or you can contact a breakdown service provider and join while you’re on the roadside.
Both of these options are much more expensive than planning ahead and making sure that you already have breakdown assistance cover for your vehicle.
When you contact your provider they will ask for your location and then will give you an approximate time that they will arrive.