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Whether it’s down to a flat battery, a punctured tyre or an unexplained fault, it’s important you know what to do if your car breaks down.
The action that you take depend largely on what type of road you are on, for example, it’s far more dangerous to break down on a busy motorway than it is on a quiet residential street.
In this instalment of the Cash Emergency Bible, we look at what to do if your car breaks down, including keeping you and your passengers safe and avoiding excessive recovery call-out fees.
Staying safe when your car breaks down
The key priority when your car breaks down is ensuring the safety of you and your passengers, plus other road users.
Switch on your hazard warning lights as soon as you suspect that something is wrong with your vehicle.
This signals to other road users that there is a hazard ahead and that you may slow down or stop suddenly, so they will approach you with care, helping to avoid accidents.
Keep your hazard lights on when stopped and waiting for assistance and if the weather is dull or dark then also put on your headlights and side lights to increase visibility.
What to do if you break down
The type of road that you break down on determines the type of action that you should take.
Breaking down on the motorway
The motorway is one of the most dangerous places to break down due to the volume and high speeds of traffic.
If you have enough control of your vehicle, then slow down and get off at the next exit to stop somewhere safer than the hard shoulder.
In a real emergency, however, you may have no choice but to pull onto the hard shoulder.
Ideally do so next to an emergency phone, which is free to use and will immediately connect you to the police who will be able to locate you quickly and easily.
If you can’t get to the external phone then use your mobile phone, giving as clear and full a description of your location as possible.
Stay well away from the moving traffic and if you have a reflective jacket then put it on.
It’s usually safest to get out of your car (using the doors facing away from passing traffic) and wait behind a barrier, moving up the bank if you can.
All of the road-safety organisations recommend against attempting to repair your car or leaving a warning triangle on the hard shoulder as it’s too dangerous.
Breaking down on a road
Whether it’s a busy dual carriageway, a single-track road or a residential street, it’s important that you try to move your car out of the way of other vehicles, so long as it is safe to do so.
This keeps the flow of traffic moving and, more importantly, helps avoid accidents as other motorists might not see you if you have broken down at a bend or on a hill.
Put down a warning triangle at least 40 meters away from your vehicle but only if it’s safe.
Leave your car using the doors furthest from the traffic and stay well back, ideally behind a barrier.
If your car is obstructing traffic then call the police who will divert it for you.
Recovering your broken-down car
Once your car is safely out of the way you can try to fix it yourself or call your breakdown cover provider, or a local garage, who will send help.
If you have used the emergency phone on the hard shoulder then a recovery truck may also be sent for you, which will tow you to the nearest garage but this can cost hundreds of pounds, on top of repair charges.
In any of these situations, it pays to have breakdown cover as with one call to your provider, they will aim to get an engineer to you as quickly as possible.
If you don’t have breakdown cover in place, then call the AA, RAC or a similar organisation who will sign you up on the spot but usually for a one-off fee of up to £90.
Alternatively, call a local garage, who may send out a tow truck to take you back to their garage, although there is usually a cost for this too.