What to do When a Car Break Downs
Prevention is always better than cure. If you keep your car well maintained and make sure it gets a service as and when the manual recommends you should have trouble free motoring. For our car maintenance guide. This includes details on how to change a flat tyre and how to deal with a tyre blowout.
It is also highly recommended that you buy breakdown cover. The piece of mind this can bring is worth the cost alone. Without breakdown cover, if you were to breakdown away from home and were forced to call out a local garage to tow your car back to their workshop, the fee they would charge you would pay for several years breakdown cover at least.
For around £35 a year you can get a good level of cover. Enough for a professional to come to your assistance if your break down away from home. In the event that you car can't be fixed roadside, and the changes are it can, the breakdown service will tow you to a garage that can fix it.
If your car does breakdown whilst you're out driving then your first priority is to ensure your car doesn't become a danger to other road users.
Turn on your hazard lights and if possible pull off the road and park somewhere safe.
Sitting in broken down vehicle can be a dangerous thing to do. If possible you and any passengers should exit the vehicle and if help is on the way, wait somewhere safe away from the road.
If this occurs you will instantly lose power steering and power assistance to the brakes. It will become harder to steer and you will need to press harder on the brake pedal. Turn on the hazard warning lights as soon as you can. This will warn other road users of your plight.
Poor maintenance, not checking your engine coolants or the hoses used to transport the coolants around the engine on a regular basis can lead to your engine overheating.
If you're out driving and your engine overheats then pull over somewhere safe and let the engine cool. If you open the bonnet to investigate then be careful, hot steam may emerge from underneath. You MUST NOT remove the radiator cap for a good 45 minutes or so. If you do very hot steam may spray over you.
- Turn on your car's heating system to maximum. This will take heat away from the engine.
- If you can, add engine coolant to the engine. If you don't have such coolant then, in an emergency, you can use water. The water must be lukewarm. Adding cold water to a hot engine can cause it to crack.
- With the radiator cap cool and using a rag to cover your hand slowly unscrew it. Steam is likely to gush out so be careful. Once open carefully pour in the coolant or water.
- Only drive the car when the temperature gauge has returned to normal.
- To avoid more serious damage you should take the car to a mechanic ASAP.
A Car Fire
Modern cars have a great deal of electrical components. Faults can cause fires. If this happens to you and you don't have a fire extinguisher you must stop and get yourself, and any passengers, out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. In real life cars don't explode as quickly as they do in the movies, however, you should move a safe distance away from the fire and call the fire brigade.
When driving if you start to smell petrol or diesel fumes you should always park somewhere safe and investigate.
If you suspect a fire in the engine compartment:
- pull up as quickly as you can, in a safe position.
- get all passengers out safely.
- Call 999.
- DO NOT open the the bonnet.
- If you have a fire extinguisher you may be able to direct it through the small gap created when the release catch is released.
- If the fire is large, leave it for the fire brigade.
Breaking Down On The Motorway
Breaking down on a motorway is always a dangerous situation to be in. If it happens to you here's what to do:
- If you can get your car to the hard shoulder park as far to the left as you can.
- Turn your steering wheel all the way to the left. This will point the front wheels to the left so if you're hit by another car your car will not be pushed back onto the carriageway.
- Turn on your hazard warning lights. If it is nighttime or there is poor visibility turn on your sidelights.
- Exit your vehicle using the left hand doors and wait on the verge or as far away from the carriageway as you can.
- If you have any animals leave them in your vehicle.
- Phone the emergency services. If you know your location, between two junctions then use your mobile. If you don't know your location then walk to the nearest emergency phone and call from there. This will pinpoint your location.
- Do not attempt to repair your vehicle.<
- Wait for the emergency services on the grassy bank and as far from the carriageway as possible.
- If your car can not make it to the hard shoulder then turn on the hazard warning lights. Only exit your car when it is absolutely safe to do so. Take into account that other road vehicles are likely to be traveling at 70mph. Once out move to the hard shoulder.
For a guide to dealing with a puncture and a tyre blow-out see our car maintenance page.