You can rarely predict when your car is going to break down. But a bit of planning can make even the most unexpected car failure a more straightforward and less stressful experience.
Before you set off
Arrange 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
Ensure your car is well maintained: The better looked after a car is, the less likely it is to conk out. See what to do here
Keep a road map in the car: Even if your car has sat nav it may not be working when you need it. And you can’t guarantee you’ll have a signal to use the map on your phone. Having a map enables you to explain to someone exactly where you are, no matter what
Make sure your phone is well charged: Think about buying an in-car charger just in case you need it
Have the number for your emergency breakdown provider handy: This should be on your policy certificate so you could keep this in the glove box. Alternatively makes sure it’s in the memory of your mobile phone
Carry a reflective jacket and waterproof at all times: In most other European countries it’s the law to carry a reflective jacket in your car. In the UK it isn’t but it’s a very sensible idea to help keep you safe if you’re standing at the roadside. If you have a spare waterproof, it’s always handy to have it in the car. You can never predict what the weather will be doing when you break down
Carry a red warning triangle: You can buy these in motor retail stores. They’re handy for warning other road users that you’re in trouble
In the winter, keep some warm clothes, a rug and some chocolate in the car: You could get stuck with a broken down car in cold conditions for some time
Have some walking shoes in the car: You probably don’t want to hike to the nearest emergency telephone in a pair of heels or your best brogues
On the motorway
Motorways are safe to drive on but can be dangerous places to break down. Here’s how to cope.
Make sure you pull to the left as soon as there’s a hint of trouble: Pull onto the hard shoulder and use this to slow to a halt. Be careful not to run over any debris and as you come to a stop, switch your hazard lights on
Aim for an emergency phone: If you can stop near an emergency phone, so much the better. These are at one-mile intervals and will connect you directly to the police who will instantly know your location
Never try to fix it yourself: Whatever the problem with your car, you should never attempt to mend it yourself. Unless it’s something very quick and simple like filling it with fuel, even Green Flag’s trained professionals will move a car to a safer area before working on it
When your car is stationary: Turn the front wheels towards the verge. If the car is shunted by another vehicle this will ensure it moves away from the carriageway rather than into it. If it’s dark or visibility is poor, turn your side lights on
Get everyone out of the car: Leave the car through the left-hand doors (the right on the Continent) and move away from the vehicle. Stand behind the crash barrier if there is one or if it’s possible, move up the verge. If you have children with you make sure they’re being looked after by a responsible adult. Keep pets in the car; they may get spooked and run onto the carriageway
Don’t display your red warning triangle: With fast moving traffic the risks far outweigh the benefits of doing this
Call for help: If you’re not near an emergency phone and you’ve got a mobile signal, ring either your breakdown provider or the police. The Highways Agency national switchboard is on 0300 123 5000 and is open from 07:00 to 19:00. Look for the nearest roadside marker. These are at 100m intervals and will tell you where you are, as well as pointing you towards the nearest emergency phone
Wait near your car for assistance: Make sure your vehicle’s locked and you’re standing safely away from any moving traffic
On other roads
Breaking down on quieter roads in towns and cities can still be dangerous. Follow these steps to stay as safe as possible.
Pull over to a safe place: Find somewhere away from the traffic flow to park your car
Turn on your hazard lights: If it is dark or if visibility is poor, leave your sidelights on too
Use your red warning triangle: Place this at least 50 metres behind the car to warn any oncoming traffic that your car is broken down
Call for assistance: Find the nearest telephone or use a mobile phone to call for help
Stay in your car and wait for help to arrive: Assuming your car is safely parked it’s safer to wait in the car. You might feel safer locking the doors if you don’t know the area you’re in
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