What to do if your car breaks down!

Author Name – Louise Helsby

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What to do if your car breaks down.

Breaking down can be dangerous and scary particularly if you are alone. Knowing what to do in this situation is important for the safety of you and other road users.

car breakdown

Ensure you get to a safe place:

If possible, make sure you move your vehicle off the road and out of harm’s way from on-coming traffic. If on a motorway try and move to the hard shoulder if you are unable to make it to the next exit. Smart motorways have no hard-shoulder so pull into the left-hand side of the road, as close as possible to the verge and turn your wheels into the left.

Once safely parked up, exit the car from the passenger side and wait, if possible behind the safety barriers. If there are no barriers, ensure you are away from the vehicle.

In the event that your vehicle suddenly stops on the motorway and it is not safe to exit the vehicle, keep your seatbelt buckled up and call 999 immediately.

Make sure you are visible to other road users:

Ensure your hazard lights are on to warn other road users to take care when approaching your vehicle. If it’s dark or visibility is poor due to fog, switch on your sidelights and fog lights. If you have a reflective hi-vis jacket, ensure you keep it in your car at all times; if you do breakdown this is the time to wear it whilst waiting to be rescued.

Warn other motorists:

If you are carrying one, put the red warning triangle up behind the car to warn on-coming traffic of your situation. The triangle needs to be placed approximately 50 yards (60 steps) from your vehicle. The Highways England do not recommend the use of triangles if you have broken down on a motorway.

Call for help:

Once the safety measures above have been carried out, it is time to call for help. This could be your roadside assistance / breakdown provider or a local garage. If you are on the motorway, use the SOS phone to call Highways England. Highways England will send a patrol car to you to assist.

If you are on a smart motorway and your vehicle is causing an obstruction, call the non-emergency police number 101 to alert them to your situation. They will need to make the area safe for you and other motorists.

Roadside repairs:

If you sustain a flat tyre whilst driving and plan to fix it at the side of the road, it is important that you follow the safety procedures above; get to a safe place, ensure you are visible, warn other motorists you are there.

Mending a puncture with a repair kit

Rather than a spare wheel, more modern cars tend to carry a puncture repair kit. Once you are out of harm’s way, switch off your engine ensuring the handbrake and hazard lights are on. Get your repair kit from the car then you need to locate the puncture in the tyre. Once found, you can re-position the car by edging forward so that the puncture is at the top of the tyre and is easily accessible.

The repair kit will include a compressor and a bottle of sealant. Usually, the sealant is squeezed into the tyre through the air valve coating the inside of the tyre and sealing the hole. The compressor will need connecting to your car’s 12v socket or cigarette lighter and to either the valve or the bottle of sealant (please read the instructions carefully).

Check your vehicle's manual to see what pressure your tyres should be, start the car and begin inflating the tyre. Once the correct pressure is achieved, the compressor can be detached from the power source and the valve.

You may need to drive on the repaired tyre to spread the sealant around inside the tyre casing. Read the repair kit instructions for specific advice on this.

Changing a spare wheel

You may have a spare wheel rather than a repair kit, if this is the case, make sure you are parked on a level surface and the handbrake is on. Locate the spare wheel, if you have them place the chocks either side of the wheel, diagonally opposite the wheel you are changing, this stops the car rolling.

Untighten the wheel nuts and bolts then jack the car up using the jacking point nearest the wheel you intend to change. Wind the jack until the wheel is no longer touching the ground. Once in position, remove the wheel nuts and place them carefully aside. Remove the wheel from the hub and replace with the spare. Once it’s all aligned and all the nuts and bolts are in place, tighten them with the wheel brace and carefully remove the jack.

Once you’re happy with the repairs, whether using a repair kit or changing a wheel it is important that you get the punctured tyre checked by a professional.

Here at National we will carry out a thorough check of the damaged tyre and repair it to the British Standard BS AU 159 if repairable.

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