Last updated 15 February, 2022
Breaking down can be a stressful and potentially dangerous experience, so it’s important to know the steps to take to keep you and your passengers safe. In this guide you can find out the correct steps to take should your car break down depending on which road type you are on.
Here are the first steps to take if your car has broken down:
It can be very dangerous to break down on a motorway due to the high speeds other drivers are travelling at. However, the first step is always to remain calm and follow the steps below to ensure you remain safe:
If you break down on a smart motorway it can be a little different. Due to the motorway upgrades, there may not be a hard shoulder to pull into. In which case you should try to safely pull into the emergency refuge area where there is one. If you cannot make it to an emergency refuge area, you should pull over as close to the left side of the motorway as possible and put your hazard lights on. Once stationary everybody in the vehicle should exit safely and stand behind the crash barrier.
If you have broken down on an A-road or dual carriageway, the steps you will need to take will be different from when you break down on a motorway. You can keep you and your passengers safe by following the steps below:
If you’ve broken down on B-roads or country lanes, you can still be in danger to yourself and other road users. Therefore, it is important to remain vigilant and follow the steps below:
If you have broken down without breakdown cover, you can call a local garage to come and tow your vehicle. You may be charged a call-out fee, plus any fees for towing and storing your vehicle. If you have broken down on a motorway or dual carriageway where there are roadworks, you may be able to get Highways England to tow you off the motorway free of charge, however, this may not always be available.
To help you stay safe, there are a few things you should not do in the event of a break down:
You can never pre-empt your car breaking down, however, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk including properly maintaining your car. This includes getting the car serviced regularly, keeping your MOT up-to-date and having frequent check-ups at a trusted garage.
You should always keep an eye on your dashboard for any warning lights that appear and ensure your fuel gauge doesn’t get too low. See our article on dashboard lights here to understand what each light means.