What to do if your car breaks down

Breaking down can be a stressful experience. Make sure you’re prepared and know what to do with our handy guide

Before you set off

You never know when you’re going to break down, but being prepared for a breakdown can help ease the stress and get you back on the road much quicker.

Here are a few things to do before you leave to make sure you’re ready in case the unexpected happens:

  • make sure you have breakdown cover. If you’re travelling abroad make sure your cover extends to your trip away. If it doesn’t, you may need to arrange separate cover
  • keep a road map in the car so you’ll be able to explain where you are when you call for help. Don’t rely on the map on your phone – you won’t always have signal
  • keep some coins or a phonecard in the car in case you need to call for help and there’s no mobile phone signal
  • make sure your phone battery is topped up – think about buying an in-car charger just in case you need it
  • have the number for your emergency breakdown provider handy – you’ll usually find it on your policy certificate so you could keep this in the glove box
  • carry a red warning triangle at all times
  • always keep some warm clothes, a rug and some chocolate in the car in case you get stuck in cold conditions for a long time
  • store some sturdy walking shoes in the car – you wouldn’t want to walk to the nearest emergency telephone in a pair of heels!
  • carry a waterproof jacket and something reflective to wear in case you break down in bad weather or at night

On the motorway

Breaking down on a motorway can be dangerous – with cars hurtling past at 70mph you’ll need to pull over safely into the hard shoulder.

Make sure you pull over as soon as you can, ensuring there’s no debris that could damage the car, and use the hard shoulder to slow down before stopping.

Whatever the problem with your car, you should never try to fix it yourself by the motorway. It’s too dangerous, even if it’s as simple as changing a tyre. You should always wait for a professional to help you.

Stay safe on the motorway and get help quickly by following these simple steps:

  • turn your front wheels towards the grass verge when you pull into the hard shoulder
  • switch on your hazard lights and if it’s dark or visibility’s poor turn the sidelights on too
  • don’t display your red warning triangle – with fast moving traffic the risks far outweigh the benefits of doing this
  • get everyone out of the car and behind the crash barrier if there is one. If you have children with you make sure they stay with you at all times and if you’re travelling with pets, keep them in the car
  • find the nearest emergency telephone and call for assistance – this will pinpoint your location
  • When walking to the telephone, keep as far away from the traffic as you can. If you can’t see a telephone nearby look out for the roadside markers – these will point you towards the nearest one
  • return to the car and wait for assistance but remember to wait behind the crash barrier and away from the traffic

Stay safe on the hard shoulder with our guide

On other roads

Breaking down on quieter roads in towns and cities is less stressful, but remember there are still dangers from passing cars.

Follow the steps below to stay safe and get help as soon as possible:

  • pull over to a safe place, away from the traffic
  • switch off the engine
  • turn on your hazard lights and if it is dark, or if visibility is poor, leave your sidelights on
  • put your red warning triangle at least 50 metres behind the car – this will warn any oncoming traffic that your car is broken down if you have one
  • find the nearest telephone or use a mobile phone to call for assistance
  • stay in your car and wait for help to arrive. You might feel safer locking the doors if you don’t know the area you’re in

Make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected with breakdown cover from Green Flag