How to prepare for a breakdown
You might think that breaking down is something that will never happen to you. The stats tell us something different: one breakdown cover provider attends around 7,000 breakdowns each day, that’s 2.5 million a year. And, it’s not uncommon for the AA to attend close to 1 million breakdowns in summer.
Breakdown situations can happen to anyone and, it seems, everyone. So, it could easily happen to you, being prepared just makes sense.
Firstly you should consider buying breakdown cover, and keep the contact details safely stored somewhere in your car: the glove box, perhaps, just in case. Some breakdown companies, such as the AA, have Apps which make it really easy to call for help, so as long as your phone has battery (see below) and a signal you'll be able to use the App to help the rescue team get to you. Buying cover before you breakdown means you won’t be paying for expensive tows, garage callouts or roadside repairs.
Secondly, make sure your car is well maintained; look after your car and you are far less likely to breakdown in the first place.
Next, try to remember to charge your phone before all journeys and especially long ones (in-car chargers are useful to keep in the glove box and don’t place too much burden on your battery).
It might sound a bit over the top, but no car boot is complete without a torch, a reflective jacket, a warm, waterproof coat and a warning triangle. If you find your self stranded for any length of time, particularly if it's cold, night time, or both, you will thank your lucky stars you have an extra layer to put on. Similarly, have some comfortable walking shoes in the car. If you find yourself broken down and needing to make a journey on foot, you don’t want to have to do it in business shoes or, worse, stilettoes!
What should I do if I breakdown?
According to the AA, if your car breaks down your first priority should always be your physical safety and that of any passengers in your car. Where possible move your car from the road. If you are on the motorway and unable to leave via an exit, try to pull over to the hard shoulder or into a service station. On a smart motorway, where there's no hard shoulder, pull over into the closest emergency refuge area (ERA).
Left, left left!!!
Remember, the further left you are off the carriageway, the less likely you are to be hit by passing traffic. As soon as you realise that your car is breaking down, you should attempt to safely move off the carriageway and put your hazard lights on. If it is dark or visibility is limited for any other reason, you should keep sidelights on when parked.
To triangle or not to triangle
If you are carrying an emergency warning triangle you should place it 45m behind your car, but do not use a warning triangle on the hard shoulder of the motorway.
Should I stay in my car?
In the vast majority of situations it is advisable to get out of your car and move to a safe place, especially on a busy dual carriageway or motorway where the risk of your car being hit by other vehicles is greatest. However, remember that you, and your passengers, should only use the doors on the side of the car that is not opening onto the flow of traffic. Once you are out of your car, you should wait safely back from the road – ideally behind a barrier – while also wearing a reflective jacket if possible.
Who should I call for help?
As soon as it safe to do so you should attempt to call your breakdown service, if you have one, from a location that is away from traffic. Do not attempt to repair the car yourself (see below) unless you have managed to stop away from other traffic, in a lay-by perhaps, and never attempt repairs if you are on a motorway.
If you don’t have a phone, walk to the nearest emergency phone or to the nearest place where you can call for help. If you are on the motorway, the arrow posts by the hard shoulder will direct you to the nearest emergency phone; these are free to use and provide a direct line through to police.
What if can’t leave my vehicle?
If for any reason you are unable to leave your vehicle, you should remain sitting, with your seatbelt fastened; switch on your hazard lights and use your mobile phone to call emergency services.
If you are able to leave your vehicle but feel it is unsafe to do so, perhaps it's night-time and you are in an isolated area, then you should remain in the car until you feel safe to leave, but stay aware of the movement of traffic around you and call the emergency services on 999.
Can I use a breakdown service if I am not a member?
In short, yes. There are many providers, including the AA, who provide instant cover to those who are stranded in difficult situations. However, getting instant breakdown cover is likely to come at a cost, as many providers charge fees of more than £100 for would-be members requiring emergency assistance.
It is a far better idea to have cover already in place. With Coverbox you can add AA breakdown cover to your black box car insurance policy, as an optional extra. You then have the reassurance of quick access to cost-effective and reliable breakdown & recovery assistance every time you make a trip.
How can I get cheap breakdown cover
Often, if you buy breakdown cover at the same time as your car insurance, you can get a really good price. Coverbox is partnered with the AA to help bring our customers quality breakdown cover alongside our technologically advanced car insurance. It's a great package and all you have to do is choose the level of breakdown cover that's right for you, when you're getting a quote.
Is there anything I can fix myself
If you are not on a motorway and have succeeded in getting your car somewhere safe, you may just be lucky enough to have a breakdown problem that you can fix yourself.
The following can all be done relatively simply if you have the will and the skill, but only attempt them if you are confident of doing a reasonable job:
- Flat tyres – Knowing how to change a wheel is basic car maintenance knowledge, but something all drivers should be able to do. There are plenty of online tutorials to help you along your way.
- Dropped exhaust—sometimes it is possible to come up with a stopgap solution for this problem. Try refastening with a something like a belt or a piece of wire and then get your car to the nearest garage.
- Blown radiator hose—if you have blown your radiator hose it may be possible to wait until your car is cool enough before applying some self-sealing tape as a temporary patch-up.
- Flat battery—if you have portable jump leads and a willing accomplice you may be able to get going again without the need of a call out.
Be prepared for a breakdown
In short, the way to make breakdowns less of a problem, is to always be prepared and to know how to stay safe.
Having breakdown cover in place is always a good idea and understanding what to do if you break down on a motorway or busy dual carriageway should also be at the top of your list.
- Be prepared
- Buy breakdown cover
- Keep your emergency numbers to hand
- Stay Safe
- Be Seen
- Only do it yourself if you’re sure you can