Last updated March 08, 2021
Breaking down isn’t just an inconvenience, it can also be dangerous, therefore it’s important to know what to do if your car breaks down and how to stay safe. In this guide, you can find out what steps you should take depending on where you’ve broken down.
Breaking down on a motorway can be particularly dangerous due to other vehicles moving at high speeds and the amount of traffic. If you find that you have broken down on the motorway, you should follow the steps below:
If you break down on a smart motorway, there may not be a hard shoulder to pull into. In this case, you should instead try to pull into the closest Emergency Refuge Area or the next exit of the motorway, depending on whatever is closer. If you are unable to reach either, you should pull up as close as you can to the left of the motorway with your hazard lights on. Once stationary, you and your passengers should exit the car from the passenger’s side and move behind the crash barrier.
In the unfortunate case that you cannot reach the hard shoulder or Emergency Refuge Area, and you’ve broken down in the middle or outside lanes you should remain in your vehicle. You should keep your seatbelt on, turn on your hazard lights and call 999 immediately. If you’re on a smart motorway there will be an operator checking the cameras for any breakdowns and they can close the lane to traffic once they’re aware your car has broken down.
If you have broken down on an A-road or dual carriageway, the steps you will need to take will be different to if 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:
Whether or not you need to call the police will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you feel unsafe or if you feel that you are risking the safety of other road users, you may need to call the police for them to assist and close off a section of the road.
Whilst it is impossible to rule out the possibility of your car unexpectedly breaking down, you can reduce the likelihood by ensuring your car is properly maintained. This includes getting the car serviced regularly, keeping your MOT up-to-date and having frequent check-ups at a trusted garage.
Furthermore, you should keep an eye on your fuel gauge to ensure it’s not running low and get your car seen by an expert as soon as any dashboard warning lights illuminate.