Here at Creditplus we love cars, but we hate it when they break down. Hopefully you won’t ever be driving a car when it breaks down, but in case it does happen to you, we’ve put together a list of essential and helpful things you can do to take the stress out of the situation.
Always be prepared for the event that your car might break down. Even if it is brand new, and the chances of it breaking down are slim, unexpected problems can occur, so it’s best to prepare for the worst.
Take out a breakdown cover policy – and shop around for the most competitive price. Remember to compare the levels of service, and ask questions such as:
How quickly will a recovery vehicle reach you?
Does the company carry out roadside repairs?
What is the protocol if the car cannot be fixed by the roadside?
Is there a limit on the amount of times you can make a call out?
Do they offer home assistance on the policy?
Once you’ve settled on a breakdown cover policy, remember to keep a copy of the policy details and the emergency number to phone in case you breakdown in your car, and make sure these are kept up to date if you ever renew your policy or change your car.
As well as this, it’s a good idea to keep a small essentials kit with you whenever you drive to make sure that you stay safe in the event of a breakdown. We recommend that this includes a warning triangle, a luminous vest, a torch, jump leads, a tow rope, a tyre pump, a pair of gloves and of course, a mobile phone with a spare in-car charger in case you run out of battery.
In the winter, it’s a good idea to bring a few more items along, such as warm winter coats and a shovel for moving snow – for further advice on preparing to drive in winter conditions, check out our video and infographic for some handy tips!
Finally, consider learning some basic fixes that could help when you breakdown. For example, knowing how to change a tyre is a valuable resource, since you never know when you might get a puncture. Ask a car mechanic or trusted friend in the know to show you how, but only perform the fix if you are 100% confident, otherwise you might risk damaging your car further or worse, hurting yourself.
Here at Creditplus, we recommend downloading a troubleshooter app onto your phone, such as the Jalopy app, which guides you through a set of questions to help determine the issue with your car. By identifying the problem, you can determine if it has an easy fix you can perform yourself, and if not, save time (and possibly money) at the garage and by the roadside.
It is not always the case that a breakdown is an immediate reaction to a problem. Often, the car will show signs of an issue long before it breaks down. If you ever notice that your car is not performing as it should do, or hear a noise from the engine or wheels that you can’t identify, take it to a garage as soon as you can. Leaving a problem is not only dangerous, but could end up costing you a lot more in the long run. For example, a tyre with a slow puncture can usually be repaired cheaply at a garage, but if it is run flat, the tyre will need to be replaced completely.
If the problem comes on suddenly and your car is unsafe to drive, pull over and put on your hazard lights to make yourself visible to other drivers. Equally, if your car engine stops completely whilst you are driving, switch on your hazard lights, and do your best to direct the car away from the flow of traffic.
Turn the car engine off and put the handbrake on, then leave your car, taking the keys with you. Put on a luminous vest to make yourself visible to traffic, and place a warning triangle around 30m down the road from your car, to give oncoming traffic plenty of warning that your car is stationary on the road ahead. Retreat to a safe place away from both the road and your car and call your breakdown provider for further instruction.
Often, the cause of a breakdown is a basic fix that can be done at the side of the road with just a small amount of mechanical knowledge. We recommend downloading an app such as Jalopy, which takes you through a simple step-by-step troubleshooter to help you identify and potentially even fix the problem. It’s free to download, and includes plenty of handy information that could help you if you break down.
When help arrives, don’t try to flag them down by getting too close to the road as this can be dangerous, especially when busy. Stay where you are but ensure you are visible – the breakdown mechanic will identify your car and stop nearby.
Depending on the type of breakdown cover you have, the mechanic who attends to your car may try and fix the problem by the roadside. Listen to their explanation as to what they think the problem is, and pay attention to what they are doing with your car – it will come in handy when you speak to mechanics at a later date. Often, the roadside fixes may only be temporary so be sure to find out from the breakdown mechanic what follow up you need to do; you may be advised to take the car to a mechanic and have certain parts replaced, or perhaps buy a new tyre (in the event of a puncture.)
Sometimes the car can’t be fixed by the roadside, in which case the breakdown mechanic will tow your car to your home, your destination, or the nearest garage, depending on your cover. Make sure you know what your policy covers for – some will pay for a hotel if you are far from home, or your travel home on public transport, whereas some will give you a lift in the breakdown vehicle.
When you get your car back home and everyone is safe, it can be easy to forget to check up on the problem that caused it all in the first place. However, this is one of the most important things you need to do, as otherwise the problem may happen again, and many breakdown cover providers will not finance a second call out for the same problem if it has not been fixed by a reputable garage.
When you use a garage to repair your car, be sure to know what repair you need and how much you should expect it to cost. Go Car Warranty have a great video outlining the costs of some common repairs that need doing so that you know how much to expect on your invoice.
And finally our biggest tip – avoid breakdowns altogether by ensuring your car is properly maintained and any problems are fixed quickly. Consider buying an extended car warranty – meaning you are covered for the costs of most problems that go wrong with your car.