What to do if you break down

Knowing what to do if your car breaks down is important to help keep you and other road users safe, and to help get your car recovered as soon as possible.

If you’re driving when your car breaks down, brake as gently as possible and pull over to the left side of the road as far as you can. If the problem affects your control of the car

  • try to keep in a straight line by holding the steering wheel firmly
  • avoid braking severely
  • steer gently to the side of the road as you slow down.

Breakdowns on motorways

Use the hard shoulder on a motorway or dual carriageway if your car breaks down and you cannot make it to the next exit or service area. Stop your vehicle as far to the left as you can, away from the traffic.

While you’re waiting for help

  • turn on your hazard lights
  • turn on your sidelights if visibility is poor or at night
  • get out of the vehicle, with any passengers, using the nearside doors (the doors furthest away from passing traffic)
  • keep animals inside the vehicle
  • lock all the doors except the front passenger door
  • ask your passengers to stay near the vehicle, on the embankment so they’re away from the hard shoulder
  • telephone the emergency services.

It’s best to use a roadside emergency telephone to call for help: the number on the phone box will make it easier for the services to understand where you are and get to you quickly.

If you cannot use an emergency telephone, you can use a mobile phone to call for help. You’ll need to give precise details about where you are: use the numbers given on the nearest marker post on the hard shoulder to help the services identify your location.

Warning other road users

Use your hazard warning lights to warn other road users that your car is blocking the road or is in a dangerous position. You can also use a warning triangle if you have one. Put the triangle on the road, well back from the car.

  • On a straight level road, put the triangle 45 metres (147 feet) from your vehicle.
  • On a winding or hilly road, put it where drivers will see it before they have to deal with a bend or hump in the road.
  • On a very narrow road, put it on the nearside verge or footpath.
  • Never use a warning triangle on a motorway.

Always use your hazard warning lights as well as a warning triangle.

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