Although motors are becoming increasingly reliable, there will be times when a car breakdown happens. Remember, the breakdown might be something simple such as a flat tyre or running out of fuel, but you will nonetheless be stranded at the roadside. We’ve been asked a number of times recently what to do so it’s information that bears repeating. Here’s what you should do.
Before you set off on any journey, it’s sensible to make sure you’ve got a mobile phone with you and that it’s got plenty of charge in it or you’ve got a car compatible charging cable with you.
It also makes sense to have reflective jackets in the car with you. They make a massive difference in how visible you are to other road users. And ensure you’ve got appropriate clothing so if it’s cold or wet, you have a coat to make waiting to be rescued a little less miserable.
TIP: It’s cheaper to buy reflective jackets from builder’s merchants rather than car parts shops.
Where do you stop?
The chances are if you suffer a car breakdown you’ll have a bit of warning. And that should enable you to find somewhere safe to stop. It’s vital that when you pull off the road, your car isn’t in a position that will endanger other road users or you.
If you’re on a motorway, pull onto the hard shoulder. If it’s busy, get out of the car on the passenger side. Then stand behind the barrier. If you can, pull up by one of the roadside phones. This will enable the rescue services to pinpoint your position instantly.
Should you be on a smart motorway, try to make it to one of the rescue zones. If that’s impossible, stay in your car with the hazard lights on and call for help.
What to do when you’re at a standstill
As soon as you come to a halt, put your hazard warning lights on. Then turn your wheels to the left. This is so if the car is shunted by another vehicle it will be pushed into the verge or barrier and not back onto the live carriageway.
You should then get out of the car as quickly and safely as possible. Get everyone out with you but leave pets inside. The last thing you want is to cause a crash with an over-excited dog thinking it’s unexpected walkies time.
Never try to mend your car yourself, unless you’re in a layby that’s away from the moving traffic. For anything other than very simple fixes, a breakdown operator will always recover a car to a services or safe layby to sort it out.
Where do you stand after a car breakdown?
It’s advisable to stand at the roadside behind a barrier if there is one. If there isn’t a barrier try to stand away from the car. It’s best to stand at least a few metres from the back of the car. That way, if the worst happens and another vehicle hits your car, you’re less likely to be struck by flying debris.
Who to call?
This depends on your situation. If you’re on a motorway and you’re not near one of their phones and you don’t have internet access, dial 101. If you’re frightened for your safety, dial 999. Otherwise, Highways England should be the first people to call.
If you have breakdown cover, call your provider. They will want to know your membership details and where you are so try to give them as much accurate information as possible.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.