When you break down at home it’s an irritating experience. But if you break down on the motorway an annoying incident can become a frightening one. To help you keep calm and carry on, we’ve devised this seven step guide that sets out what to do if you break down.
Step 1 - Keep a breakdown safety kit in your car
Sometimes a car malfunction can be caused by something as simple as a flat battery. That’s why it can be a good idea to keep a breakdown kit in your vehicle.
Most contain items like booster cables, tow ropes, high-visibility vest and a hazard warning triangle. Depending on where your vehicle grinds to a halt, different parts of the kit will come into play. For example, a warning triangle is helpful to alert other motorists if you break down on roads.
And if you break down at home, you might need something as simple as a jump start to get going again.
You might also want to add an umbrella, blanket, shovel and some snacks and soft drinks to your pack so you’re ready for any eventuality.
Step 2 - Get your vehicle somewhere safe
Motoring experts recommend that if you break down on the motorway, you should pull over at the next services or junction. But only if your vehicle will safely make it that far.
If not, you should pull over onto the hard shoulder and park as far to the left as possible. This will keep you and your vehicle as far away from fast-moving traffic as possible reducing the chances of other drivers hitting your car.
Step 3 - Let people know you’re there
As you pull over to the hard shoulder, put your hazard lights on to let other drivers know your intention. Leave your hazards on as you and any passengers exit through the left side of the car.
Leaving pets in the car is supposed to be safer than risking them jumping out into the traffic. Not only for your pet but for other drivers who could end up crashing if they have to avoid a pet on the loose. However, if your pet’s on a lead you and you can get them safely out of the car, you might prefer to take them with you.
If you have a breakdown kit in your car, put on your high-visibility vest or coat and take anything else you might need to help you move safely to the side of the road. This could include your torch and you might need an umbrella and a blanket to stay warm and dry in winter.
Although it might be safe to place a warning triangle if you break down on an A or B road, don’t even consider it on the motorway. It’s far too dangerous. As motorways tend to be long straight stretches of road, your hazard lights will be visible and will do the job instead.
Step 4 - Keep away from traffic
Now you’re on the hard shoulder, it’s time to get as far away from the moving traffic as possible. When you break down on the motorway, you’ll be surprised how fast the vehicles are moving. Move behind the safety barrier and, if possible, up the bank at the side of the road ensuring any children stay next to you.
Step 5 - Call for help
Once you’re safely away from the traffic, you can place a call to your breakdown service. If your mobile is out of battery or has no signal, you can use one of the emergency phones placed at intervals along the motorway.
Your breakdown provider will want to know the make and model of your car, your number plate and where you’re located. If you break down on the motorway, there are small blue location signs every 500 metres to help you specify your location. They detail the motorway you’re on, followed by the letter A or B which says which direction you’re driving in and your distance from a given location. The breakdown services will use this information to find you.
No breakdown cover? Then you’ll need to call the Highways Agency. They’ll take you to a nearby place of safety so you’ll need to arrange recovery from there through a private provider.
Alternatively, if you're a member of our Car Benefit Scheme, you'll only need to call our Driverline and our breakdown service will organise the full repair of your vehicle. If you can't be repaired there and then, they'll recover your vehicle and ensure you get home safely.
Step 6 - Keep warm and stay calm
After the shock of a break down on the motorway or a break down on the road, it’s important to stay warm and safe. This means keeping well clear of the traffic and keeping all your passengers and any pets on leads with you until you’re rescued. If you’re vulnerable or in a risky situation, the rescue services will prioritise your call.
Step 7 - Rejoin the traffic
Sometimes your car can be fixed on the side of the road. If this happens, carefully rejoin the traffic by building up speed on the hard shoulder and joining the traffic when a suitable gap appears.
If your car has never failed on you before, breaking down can be a scary experience. Now you know what to do if you break down, you’re well equipped to keep calm and get home safely.
Newer cars are the safest around and, if you take one up via our car benefit scheme, they also come with full breakdown cover, insurance, maintenance and servicing.