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If you break down

It's all good and well looking after your car; keeping it serviced and MOT'd and ensuring that it's always ready for summer/winter driving or for any long journey. Even if you've got the most comprehensive breakdown cover on the market. What do you do if you actually break down?

Breaking down on a motorway

Breaking down on a motorway can be quite scary, and dangerous. The most important point to note is, where possible find a safer place to stop, only stop on the hard shoulder if you don't have a choice, and only if it's an emergency. Do not use the hard shoulder for toilet breaks, map reading or to use your phone, not only is this dangerous but you could be prosecuted for misappropriate use of the hard shoulder. If your car breaks down on a motorway, follow these simple rules;
  • Pull onto the hard shoulder, steer your car as far to the left hand side of the lane as is possible. When you stop, leave your front wheels pointing left. Turn on your side lights and your hazard lights. If you cannot make it to the hard shoulder dial 999 and ask for police assistance, then call your car breakdown provider. Do not place any reflective devices on the carriageway. Only leave your vehicle when you are clear of the carriageway.
  • Leave your vehicle by the left hand door, and ensure all other occupants do the same. Leave any animals in the car unless you're able to properly restrain them by the roadside, and wear something reflective. Do not place any reflective devices on the carriageway (i.e. a triangle). 
  • Ensure that everyone stays away from the road, under no circumstances should you ever try to cross a motorway. Move everyone a safe distance from the vehicle, either behind the barrier or up the embankment is best. Ensure children and animals are kept under control. Do not attempt to repair your car, no matter how minor the problem is.
  • Once you are a safe distance from the vehicle call for assistance (see telephone numbers below), be prepared to provide accurate details of your location so that you can be found easily. Roadside location signs, markers, or telephones have identification numbers on them. If you do not have a mobile phone, use an SOS roadside phone, these calls are free and are routed to the police/highways agency and your location will be easily identifiable from the telephone that you are using. If you do not have a car breakdown policy, see relevant section below.
  • If you feel you may be at risk from another person, return to your vehicle (entering via the left side door) and lock your doors until the potential danger has passed.
  • When re-joining the carriageway accelerate slowly until your speed matches that of traffic already on the carriageway, before pulling off the hard shoulder. Also be aware of other stationary traffic on the hard shoulder in front of you.

What if your car breaks down on another road?

While on any other road your actions may be a bit different to those you would take on a motorway. Follow these easy steps;
  • If possible remove your vehicle from the road, if you are unable to do this warn other vehicles that you are there by turning on your hazard lights. Leave your side lights on if it is dark or if visibility is poor.
  • If you are at all concerned that your vehicle is at risk of being hit by other traffic, make all passengers get out of your car and move a safe distance away. Ensure that anyone outside of the car, are standing well clear of the road and other traffic (if it is dark or there is poor visibility, ensure there is nothing obstructing your lights from the view of other traffic - this includes people standing in front of them).
  • If you have a reflective triangle (or any other permitted warning device) place this approximately 45 meters behind your vehicle, on the same side of the road. Only do this if it is absolutely safe to do so.
  • Decide if it safe to conduct any required repair work, but only do so if it is safe. If it is not then;
  • Use your mobile phone to call for assistance (see telephone numbers below).
  • Once your ready to get mobile again, remember to remove any warning devices (such as a warning triangle) which you had previously positioned in the road.

What do I do if I have breakdown cover

The answer is simple, call them on the relevant number, and they will come and assist you as per your policy terms.

What do I do if I don't have breakdown cover?
If your car breaks down and do not have breakdown cover, you have the following options;
  • Call a breakdown provider and request instant cover. You will pay a premium on top of the regular yearly fee which will generally be in the region of an extra 65 - 100. The provider will generally request you to pay this in full before they will come and offer assistance, you do not have the option to pay monthly.
  • You can call the police for assistance. They will recover your vehicle from the motorway to a safe place, but you can expect to pay at least 100 for this. They will only take you to a safe place, so may still have to pay more to have your vehicle recovered to a location which is convenient to yourself.
  • Call a local mechanic if you have a telephone number for one. There will usually be a call out fee of 50 plus a rate per mile towed which will be somewhere in the region of 1.25 - 1.75 per mile.

As you can see, it's much better to be prepared and take out an annual car breakdown policy rather than to have your day completely ruined at the last moment, not to mention all the hassle involved if you are not covered. Considering how cheap basic breakdown cover actually is, it makes so much sense to cover yourself rather than being a risker. We have a comprehensive car breakdown cover comparison tool which will assist you in choosing the most suitable breakdown plan - don't leave it to chance, this can be really expensive.


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