WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CAR BREAKS DOWN

It’s a nightmare situation when your car breaks down. You feel so exposed and vulnerable – especially if it happens on a roundabout, or worse, on the motorway. And when it happens, panic can set in, causing even the most intelligent and capable people to do… not very intelligent things.

We’ve seen it all, out on the road. Silly stuff, downright dangerous stuff – and even actions that have gone on to cause accidents. So-called “smart motorways” have caused people to do some really ill-advised things, and the amount of near misses we’ve seen on them makes us wince just thinking about it.

So, what are you supposed to do when your car breaks down in a less than ideal spot? Let’s find out.

First up – get prepared, because breakdowns can happen whenever. From our driving in heatwaves article, we’ve got this piece of advice:

“Make sure you’ve got water, a phone charger, tow rope, a first aid kit and a warning triangle

in your car whenever you’re on the road. Any one of these things could become your saviour

when you break down in a heatwave – but water’s the one to prioritise.”

We’d add blankets, hats and some hi-vis jackets to that list, too, in case it happens in winter.

CAR BREAKDOWNS ON THE MOTORWAY

The number one piece of advice we always see is” stay calm”. And yeah, that’s good advice, if you have the time to get calm.

But let’s face it; you’re not likely to remember this advice when a breakdown happens, let alone act on logic. When you panic, you panic. Your body is responding to the danger all around you, and being aware of that danger is a good thing.

Your priority right now is to get safe. You can do some breathing exercises later – but you’ve got to be safe first!

The catch-22 here is that panic makes you do silly stuff, like freeze on the spot, or jump out of your car at the worst possible time. Think SAFE. Move SLOW, but don’t FREEZE.

Panic and adrenaline make everything feel like it’s going faster than it is. It’s why first-time public speakers race through presentations at 300 words a minute. Make deliberate, slow actions instead of quick, rash ones.

First – can you coast to safety, off the motorway?

Try to get off at a junction or service station, if at all possible. 

If not, get onto the hard shoulder.

Stop your car as far to the left as possible, with your steering wheel at full lock to the left.

Turn on your hazard lights.

If it’s foggy, rainy or dark at night, put your side lights on.

Leave through the left passenger side door. Make sure everyone in the back does the same.

Put on your hi-vis gear.

Place a warning triangle 60 paces away to the rear of the car – DO NOT do it if you’re still on the motorway.

Get as far from the car and carriageway as you can, and call your breakdown service.

WHAT IF YOU’RE ON A SMART MOTORWAY, OR THERE’S NO HARD SHOULDER?

Some smart motorways have built-in refuge areas. If you can get to one, pull in and get your car as far to the left as possible.

Turn on your hazards, and leave the car through the left side. Put on your hi-vis.

Get as far from moving traffic as possible, over the barrier.

Immediately head for the SOS phone in the refuge area, and use it – this is VITALLY IMPORTANT, don’t use your mobile phone!

Give the operator as much information as you can. After the call, stand behind the barrier and wait for help.

NO REFUGE AREA – OR CAN’T REACH THE HARD SHOULDER?

Of course, smart motorways don’t all have refuge areas. I this instance, or on a motorway with no hard shoulder, do the following:

Move as far over to the left as possible.

If it’s NOT safe to leave the car, keep your seatbelts on and stay put. Call 999 on your mobile phone.

Only if it’s safe to do so, leave the car through the left-hand door.

Wait behind any safety barriers, and call 999.

PREVENT BREAKDOWNS – BOOK A FULL CAR SERVICE

Want to avoid having to find out what to do when your car breaks down? Book your full car service with Master Tech Autos. Prevent breakdowns, and to keep your car running safe and sound. Call us on 023 8061 1161 or book online today!

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