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What to do if your car breaks down

Stephen Wright, 17 days ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance

WhoCanFixMyCar looks at what you should do to keep you (and your passengers) as safe as possible in the event that your car breaks down

Let's be honest, there’s never a good time to break down in your car.

Once you’ve got over the initial shock of your car losing power - or even worse, stopping all of a sudden - you quickly start to feel angry, frustrated and a little anxious, especially if you’ve broken down on the motorway and you’ve got cars whizzing past you at high speeds.

So, what can you do in the event of a breakdown, whether that’s on an a-road, b-road or motorway, to keep you (and your passengers) as safe as possible until help arrives?

Stay calm

It may seem counter intuitive, but the first thing to do in the event of a breakdown is stay as calm as possible.

Get off the road

If you are on a motorway and can’t turn off at the next edit, attempt to pull over onto the hard shoulder and make sure to put your car as far to the left as you can. If possible, try to turn your wheels to the left as well. Next, put your hazard lights on to warn other drivers, and if it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on for added visibility.

Can’t get onto the hard shoulder

If you are unable to move your car onto the motorway hard shoulder for whatever reason (or even the inside lane), then stay in your vehicle unless you are 100% sure it is safe to do so. Don’t forget to put on your hazard warning lights, keep your seatbelt on and call 999 immediately. Make sure to let them know exactly where you are and which direction you are heading.

Exit your car

If it’s safe to do so, leave the car at the earliest opportunity by the passenger door and wait on the verge well away from your car. If you are on the motorway, get behind a barrier or alternatively move up the bank upstream of all oncoming traffic. Make sure to leave any animals in the car.

Warning triangle

If your car comes with a warning triangle, and you're not on a motorway, then it's worth placing it at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind your car. This will help give approaching motorists advance warning of a breakdown.

Be patient

Patience is definitely a virtue, but once you're clear of your car, it’s just a case of being patient and waiting for one of the breakdown recovery providers to arrive. If you don’t have breakdown cover, there's no need to worry as most providers will allow you to join immediately if you find yourself stranded by the side of the road.

The best way to deal with a breakdown, no matter where it happens, is to be prepared. Invest in a breakdown kit, including hi-vis tops for everyone on the car, as well as breakdown cover.

Breakdown Kit

And, if it’s wintertime, make sure to keep some warm clothing in the boot as well as snacks and drinks, so at least everyone can keep warm and stay well-nourished while you wait for the recovery service. Hopefully it won’t take long!

Top tips for avoiding a breakdown

Keep your engine oil topped up

Engine oil is absolutely vital for keeping your car working properly so make sure to check it and top it up on a regular basis (where needed).

Don’t miss a service

It's tempting to miss your service, especially if things are bit tight financially, but by doing so you are putting both yourself and your car in danger. Avoid that happening by using services such as WhoCanFixMyCar to compare prices for a full service, interim service and vehicle health check at garages in your local area.

Drive properly

Your driving habits have a direct impact on the health of your car. So, for instance, avoid revving your car engine when it’s cold because this will damage components and try to avoid hard stops and hard starts because your brake pads and rotors will wear down.

Lose the weight

This isn’t anything to do with dieting but rather the negative impact that weight has on your car and its performance. Take out the trash from the boot and your car will benefit, thus reducing the chances of a breakdown.

If your car is showing signs that it could be about to breakdown, it’s always best to get it checked by a trained professional – even if it's for something as simple as a loose connection. WhoCanFixMyCar can help you arrange for that work to be done for free through its comprehensive network of garages and mobile mechanics in your local area.

Suggested reading

If this advice article has whetted your appetite for some further reading then check out these other related guides from the WhoCanFixMyCar team:

The most common causes of car breakdowns

How to avoid a car breakdown