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What to do in a breakdown situation

vehicle breakdown

Breaking down is not only inconvenient but also dangerous. Whether you breakdown on a motorway or on a winding country road, there is always the risk that someone won’t see you have stopped or cause an accident avoiding you. And the seasons and weather can also contribute to the issue.

Regardless of how new the vehicle you’re driving is, or how often it is serviced, everyone should be prepared for breakdown and know what to do if the situation occurs. We’ve pulled together a guide with tips and suggestions of what to do and how to stay safe in a breakdown situation.

Don’t panic
Easier said than done but try to stay in control and approach the situation in a calm way. This will help ensure you, and your passengers if you have any, stay safe and you stay in control of your car too.

Make others aware there is a problem
Even if you haven’t come to a stop yet, switch on your hazard lights to make other road users aware there is a problem whilst you handle the situation.

Find a safe place for the car if possible
• If feasible, move your vehicle off the road, or, if you’re on a motorway and are unable to come off at the first available exit, pull onto the hard shoulder.
• If you’re on a smart motorway and can, move into an emergency refuge area signposted with an orange SOS phone symbol.
• Pull your vehicle as far to the left as possible with your wheel turned left also.
• If you’re on a smart motorway and breakdown in the middle lanes or you are unable to get to a hard shoulder on a standard motorway, stay in your car, keep your seatbelt fastened and call 999 immediately.

Hazard lightsMake other road users aware there is a problem

Warning TriangleDO NOT use a warning triangle if you're on a motorway

Keep away from the traffic
• If you can, exit the vehicle via the passenger door – the door furthest away from the traffic.
• Wait behind the barrier if there is one or up the bank if you’re on a motorway.
• Keep well clear of the vehicle as best you can.

Stay safe
• If the weather is bad or it’s dark, as well as your hazards, switch sidelights or fog lights on so you can be well seen.
• If you have a red warning triangle put one around 45 metres (60 steps) from your car – DO NOT attempt this in a motorway situation.
• If you carry a reflective jacket or vest in the vehicle, put this on.
• As hard as it may be, leave any animals in the car.

Who are you going to call?
• If you’ve broken down on the middle lanes of a motorway or smart motorway, call 999 immediately.
• Call your breakdown provider if you have one or a local garage – in some roadwork areas there may also be a breakdown number displayed you can call.
• If your vehicle is obstructing a road or roundabout, call the non-emergency police number 101 and let them know the situation.

Hi-vis jacketCarry a reflective vest in your vehicle if you have one

First aid kitA first aid kit is a handy item to keep in the glove box

Be prepared
Inevitably, most of us will experience a breakdown at some point. Ensure you covered with a reputable breakdown provider or, if you’re hiring a vehicle, the company provides you with breakdown cover. As well as the obvious vehicle checks that should be done before a journey such as checking water and oil, there are also things you can either keep in the vehicle or take with you in case of emergencies. Again, if hiring, check to see if any of these articles are included as standard.

• Red warning triangle – Available online and at shops such as Halfords, these tend to be compact so use limited space in your boot
• Mobile phone charger or power pack – Keep a charger in your vehicle or ensure you have a fully charged power bank such as the Belkin 10k Portable power bank in your glove box so you never run out of juice.
• Invest in a hi-vis vest – A reflective jacket or vest is another useful item that takes up little room in the boot of your car and will help you stay safe in a breakdown situation. You can buy from many stores online retailers such as Screwfix.
• A torch – A simple item to keep and useful in lots of situations. Ensure you get one that gives out enough light if you breakdown somewhere without streetlights.
• Warm and waterproof clothing – This is especially important during the winter months. If you have to wait for someone to get to your vehicle you need to be as comfortable as possible. We recommend you never leave home without suitable clothing and outerwear in the car with you.
• Water – Not only for the car but for you as well. If you are waiting around for a long time you may need a drink.
• Non-perishable food – Keeping snacks in the vehicle may help if you’re kept waiting. Also, useful if you are transporting children who may be more easily distracted with a snack.
• Wellies – Again, a good to have if the room in your vehicle to keep them in there. In case of a breakdown in a flood situation or inclement weather, they may just help you stay dry and warm.
• First aid kit – Useful in many situations, from breakdowns to minor accidents. You can buy a compact first aid kit that fits easily in your glove box or car storage from online retailers such as Boots.

Warning triangleInvest in a warning triangle

Roadside assistanceMost of us will experince a breakdown at some point

If you hire a vehicle through Nationwide Hire we automatically provide a fixed level of protection with every vehicle rental that will cover most emergency situations and breakdowns. On top of this, we also offer an upgrade to a comprehensive level of cover for an additional charge. To find out more, talk to one of our friendly team on freephone 0800 5244 780 or chat to us online between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday or 8 am and 5 pm Saturday and Sunday.


* The brands or products mentioned in this article are included for information and reference purposes only and Nationwide Hire does not endorse or have any affiliation with the companies mentioned