It’s every driver’s worst nightmare. A breakdown. Whether you are just starting your journey, at the end and trying to leave, or, in the worst-case scenario, you’re driving along a motorway, and something suddenly goes ‘bang’.

In this situation, it’s all too easy to start panicking. There are so many things that are happening at once, you can soon find yourself feeling overwhelmed. But that will only make things worse. So what exactly should you do when a breakdown happens? And what’s the worst thing that you definitely don’t want to be doing in this situation? Here’s our guide on what to do if your car breaks down.

Do: Try to stay calm

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s all too easy to panic in these situations. You can find yourself worrying about how you’re going to pay for all the repairs and breakdown. Worry about missing an appointment you were attending. Start panicking about the passengers in the car. And if you are on a busy road, then you have all the other traffic to bear in mind.

Try and remain calm. Having a clear head means you can think about what you need to do to try and help you get out of the situation. Take a deep breath, give yourself a few moments to think, then take action.

Do: Pull over in a safe place

If your car breaks down while you are driving, try and get your car to a safe place before you stop. This could be off a side road or in the layby. Keep an eye out for potential hazards in the area you are planning to stop. You are likely to have little time to react, so if you are crawling to a halt, then you should try and find the safest place possible in the shortest distance.

Once your car has come to a stop, turn on your hazard lights. If you have a traffic warning triangle in the back of your car, you should be ready to use that too. These triangles should be placed at least 45 metres behind your car.

Don’t: Wait in the car on a busy road

If your car has broken down in a parking space, you can stay with your vehicle. But if you have stopped in a traffic heavy area, you will need to leave the car. You should exit the vehicle out of the door opposite to the traffic. On a motorway, trying to get out of the car normally can be a recipe for disaster.

You should take your fellow passengers out of the car too, especially children. The reason being is that a stationary car can be hit by cars speeding past. Move yourself and your passengers onto the verge and away from the road. Even if it’s raining or cold, it will be a lot safer.

Don’t: Take your pets out of the car

Any animals you have with you are not aware of the danger of the road. It’s easy to be concerned about their safety as you would your family or friends, but they can be another distraction that takes your eyes off the road. A dog on a lead can pull you over into traffic. And if an animal gets loose, it’s hard to resist the temptation to chase them into traffic.

Don’t: Let other drivers affect you

We all know how much drivers hate any sort of disruption to their journey. So you can expect lots of honking and maybe even a bit of shouting if you are slowing people down. Don’t listen to them. Do what you need to do as calmly as you can. Of course, you can try to alleviate the issues by moving your car out of the way. You can even rope in the ranters to help push your car to one side. But you need to do it in your own time, so you don’t make things worse.

Do: Assess for danger

If your car has broken down in the road, you need to have a think about the possible dangers. Oncoming traffic having to navigate round your vehicle, cars behind going into the other side of the road to pass. If you are on the motorway, you will have cars speeding past you at a dangerous rate. If your car is obstructing a main road and its not safe to move it, you should contact the police and let them know about the incident. They can then send a traffic officer to help manage the traffic.

Do: Call for assistance

If you have breakdown cover, you should contact them as soon as possible. This is especially the case if you are on a road blocking traffic. You should call your provider and let them know your situation. Try and be as accurate as you can with your location. There are markers along the side of the motorway that can help you. There are also a few different apps that can help your recovery team locate you as quickly as possible.

Whatever your recovery options, you need to call them as soon as possible. While they are on the phone, you should try and get a rough estimate of how long they are likely to take to get to you. Chances are they will be vague as they don’t want to disappoint. But having a rough ETA can help you on your next steps.

Do: Be prepared in advance

Waiting on the side of the road in the cold and the rain can quickly become uncomfortable, and even potentially dangerous. Leaving the warmth of the car’s climate control or air conditioning, you might have shed some layers to remain comfortable inside. Outside is a different story. And if it’s raining or you haven’t planned to be outside for long, your clothes might not be suitable.

Pack some spare jumpers and blankets in the back of your car at all times, as well as some spare raincoats or anoraks. If a breakdown happens, these will help keep you and your passengers comfortable until assistance arrives.

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