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What to do if you break down

Fear not. Follow these steps to ensure you stay safe and get the right help.

Last updated: 31/08/2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Breaking down on the road can be a stressful experience for even the most experienced drivers. While you can’t always prepare for the unexpected, our guide will help you ready yourself should the time come.

In This Guide:

What to do if you breakdown on the motorway

  • Firstly, pull over onto the hard shoulder or other designated non-traffic area and turn off the ignition. Put your hazard lights on and exit the vehicle.
  • Ensure that yourself and any passengers are out of the vehicle and stand behind the safety barriers, a safe distance from traffic. Attempt to leave via the verge side of the vehicle if possible.
  • Put on any high visibility jackets/clothing if available in the car. Do not attempt to place a warning triangle behind the car as wind and speeding traffic can push the sign onto the motorway causing a hazard.
  • Any pets should be left in the vehicle with the windows slightly open.
  • Contact your breakdown provider for help.
  • Do not attempt to fix the problem yourself unless it is totally safe/easy to do so. It is highly recommended that you contact your breakdown provider before attempting any repair yourself.
  • If you’re on a smart motorway you should look for the nearest Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) as there is a higher risk of an accident.

Breaking down on other roads

While not as immediately hazardous as motorways, breaking down on other roads, especially narrow or country roads, can still be dangerous.

  • Switch on your hazard lights (as well as side lights if dark).
  • Pull over to a safe place, as far from traffic as possible.
  • Exit the vehicle on the side furthest from traffic if possible.
  • Put on high visibility clothing if possible.
  • If you have a red warning triangle available, place it 45 metres behind the vehicle on the same side of the road as your car.
  • Contact your breakdown provider or a local garage for assistance.
  • If you cannot get your vehicle into a safe position that does not obstruct traffic, contact 101 and inform the police. They may need to divert traffic to ensure yours and others safety.

Preparing for a breakdown

While it isn’t possible to prepare for all types of breakdown, there are a few things you can do to help should the time come:

  • Put your car in for a free health check before travelling on long journeys.
  • Watch out for warning signs that may indicate a potential breakdown, such as tyre durability and dashboard warning indicators.
  • Keep a breakdown kit, including high visibility clothing, warning triangles and flashlight. These take up little space and can be very useful.
  • Make sure your spare tyre is fully inflated and that you have the appropriate tools to change a flat or faulty tyre. However, only attempt to change your tyre if you know how and are in a safe position away from traffic.

What to do if you don’t have breakdown cover

There are a couple of options available to you should you have a vehicle failure and don’t have breakdown cover:

Call the local garage

The first option is to phone a local garage to try and fix your vehicle at the side of the road or tow it back for repairs. The call out charges will vary, but you should expect to pay around £40 for the call out and around £2 for every mile you are towed. However, this does not include the cost of parts and labour, so it can be a costly option as well as a timely one if you are far away from the nearest garage.

If you happen to breakdown on the motorway, then it may not be possible to locate a garage nearby. This could result in having to call the highways agency to tow you to a local garage, which comes with a much higher call out cost of £105 minimum.

Get emergency breakdown cover

You can also arrange breakdown cover on the spot. Almost all breakdown cover providers will charge an additional one-off fee for emergency cover, usually between £70 and £90, and will likely charge an excess fee too.

The benefit of this option is that you will then be automatically covered under the policy and a roadside engineer will be sent out to you as quickly as possible, or a tow vehicle will be arranged to take you to the nearest garage. You will also be covered for any future issues under the terms of the policy.

Though this may prove to be the most cost-efficient solution over all, it is best to make sure you have breakdown cover already in place to avoid unnecessary stress and costs should the unfortunate happen.

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