How To Deal With A Breakdown

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

If you drive a vehicle, it’s likely that at some stage in your life you’ll suffer the misfortune of a breakdown when you’re driving.

If nothing else, it’s inconvenient, at worst it’s stressful, expensive and can be dangerous.

Breakdowns can happen for many reasons, from simple mechanical faults and punctures through to something much more serious which requires specialist attention.

While these will impact how stressful a breakdown is, the location in which the breakdown occurs is also going to be a key factor.

Because they can happen at any time, you could be in a village with plenty of places to pullover or travelling at high-speed in the outside lane of a motorway.

The primary concern when your car breaks down is how to safely get the vehicle off the road and to safety without harming yourself or other motorists.

Given the stress and surprise you’re likely to be under when the breakdown occurs, it can make the job of moving to a safe place to pullover even more worrying.

It’s about keeping calm and remembering what you have been advised to do in such situations.

What You Will Learn

In the event of a breakdown, it’s vitally important to know what to do so that the safety of passengers, other road users and of course yourself, remains paramount.

In this guide, we will give you advice on what to do if your car breaks down and what different scenarios may look like.

To make sure we stay consistent with our other guides, we have split this up in to the following sections:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

If You Breakdown On A Motorway:

Our first step-by-step guide will discuss what to do in the event of breaking down on a motorway or dual carriageway.

By their very nature, these are dangerous roads with vehicles moving at high speeds.

Acting safely in these scenarios is key.

  • If your car suffers a failure, you are permitted to use the hard shoulder if you’re able to do so. If you’re not able to, move to step 7.
  • If you’re able to, indicate to the left and safely pull over onto the hard shoulder. When stopping, turn your steering wheel so that your wheels are facing into the kerb away from the roadway. This is in case the car rolls – it will prevent it from rolling into the carriageway.
  • Turn on your hazard lights to warn other motorists that your vehicle is there and stopped.
  • Next, you need to remove yourself and passengers from the car. Most motorways will have a grass verge at the side. If you’re able to, you should look to move yourself and all passengers behind the barrier and on to the verge out of the way of danger.
  • It’s also highly advisable to wear a hi-vis vest or jacket so that motorists have a better chance of seeing you. Additionally, a reflective triangle can be placed on the hard shoulder behind your vehicle as an extra warning sign.
  • Call a breakdown service for assistance.
  • If your vehicle breaks down or suffers a failure and you’re not able to reach the hard shoulder (e.g. you are stuck in another lane), then immediately put your hazard lights on.
  • You should only try to leave the car if you believe it is possible to reach a safe place in a safe manner.
  • Call the emergency services – this is necessary as they’re going to need to slow the traffic down.
  • After you have called the emergency services, immediately follow this up with a call to your breakdown service.

If You Breakdown On A Quiet Road:

Suffering a failure with your vehicle on a quieter road is a little less stressful to deal with, however, it can still be dangerous if your vehicle is likely to obstruct other motorists.

  • Pull over to the side of the road if possible.
  • Get yourself and your passengers out of the vehicle and move them off the road to a safe place. Always wear a hi-vis jacket if you have one.
  • If you have a reflective warning triangle, place this in the road 50 yards behind your vehicle to warn other motorists that there is an obstruction in the road.
  • Call your breakdown service.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

In addition to the steps outlined above, you can also better prepare yourself for breakdowns on the road by doing the following:

  • Always carry a warning triangle – these are a great tool for warning other drivers that there is an obstruction or hazard in the road ahead. They’re available in most motoring stores and are included in some emergency breakdown kits.
  • Have a hi-vis, fluorescent bib/vest in your car – this is vital for when you have to get out of the car on a busy road, especially at night. You can buy them relatively cheap at motoring stores or get them as part of a breakdown kit.
  • Never try to fix faults yourself on the side of motorways or dual carriageways – this is too dangerous. Get to safety and allow trained professionals (breakdown services) to resolve any issues or move you away from the roadside.

Useful Information

While it’s not compulsory, having breakdown cover for when you’re out on the road is really important.

Many types of cover are available and are offered at different levels, covering only your own car or even any car you’re a passenger in.

For more information, or to get a quote on breakdown cover, we recommend using an industry-leading comparison website.

Final Thoughts

Being prepared and aware of the simple steps to take is the best way of making a breakdown as stress-free as possible.

If possible, purchase a breakdown kit from your local motoring store – this will include items such as a hi-vis vest and a warning triangle.

Also, take the time to get at least some basic breakdown cover and know the simple things such as how to turn your hazards on.

Further Resources