Breakdown advice

What to do when your car breaks down—a step by step guide

Many of us rely on our cars, so having a break down is inconvenient and costly. Knowing what to do if you break down in traffic is halfway to getting back on the road sooner and safely.

The following advice is adapted from the Highway Code. Read the Code in full at NI Direct

On the road

Above all, stay calm and take your time.

  1. Get your vehicle off the road if possible.
  2. If your vehicle is causing an obstruction, use your hazard warning lights.
  3. If possible, wear light-coloured fluorescent clothing in daylight. Wear reflective clothing at night or in poor light.
  4. Put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 m (147 feet) behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road. Be careful when placing or retrieving them, and never use them on motorways.
  5. Keep your side lights on in poor light and darkness.
  6. Do not stand (or let anybody else stand) between your vehicle and oncoming traffic.
  7. Do not stand where you will prevent other road users seeing your lights.

On the motorway

If your car breaks down on the motorway, try to take the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t, stay calm. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your wheels turned to the left.
  2. Each mile of the motorway has an emergency telephone. Try to stop near one of these.
  3. Exit the vehicle by the left-hand door and ensure your passengers do the same. Never attempt to place a warning triangle on a motorway. Keep any pets on a leash and under control.
  4. Do not put yourself in danger by attempting even simple repairs.
  5. Ensure that passengers keep away from the carriageway and hard shoulder. Keep the kids as still as possible.
  6. Walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway. The telephone is free of charge and connects to the police. The authorities prefer that you use the emergency phones, rather than your mobile. It allows them to pinpoint your location.
  7. Give full details to the police. Inform them if you are vulnerable—you are disabled, older or travelling alone.
  8. Return and wait near your vehicle (well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder).
  9. If you feel at risk from another person, return to your vehicle by a left-hand door and lock all doors. Leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.

If you cannot get your vehicle onto the hard shoulder

If you cannot get your vehicle onto the hard shoulder:

  1. Do not attempt to place any warning device on the carriageway.
  2. Switch on your hazard warning lights.
  3. Leave your vehicle only when the traffic is clear and you can get off the carriageway safely.

Remember that Hughes Car Insurance offers roadside assistance.

UK Roadside Assistance: 028 9048 5219

Republic of Ireland Roadside assistance: 01 804 4328

Re-joining traffic after a breakdown

Build up speed on the hard shoulder before you re-join traffic. Keep in mind that there may be cars parked in front of you. Watch for a safe gap in the traffic.

Disabled drivers

If you have a disability which prevents you from following the above advice you should:

  1. Stay in your vehicle.
  2. Switch on hazard warning lights.
  3. Display a ‘Help’ pennant. Contact the emergency services on your mobile phone. Be prepared to give them directions.
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