Car breakdowns are a pain in the neck at the best of times, even though it always seems to happen on the way to a job interview or when the kids are on their way to a karate grading, but here are five things to make the experience less painful…
Safety, safety, safety. Sorry, that’s only counts as one thing, but wherever your car conks out, make sure you and you passengers are as safe as they can be. On a motorway, that means getting out of the car and behind the armco barrier. As soon as you feel you and your passengers have moved to a safe area, phone for assistance. This is where you will massively regret ignoring the stall at the shopping mall selling breakdown cover, because there are precious few discounts when you’re stranded at the side of the road and you’re not a member. Join now or at the very least next time you renew your insurance. Or buy from a reputable main dealer and as well as a warranty, the car will usually come with breakdown cover.
Remember there are different rules for motorways and other roads. Stopping on the hard shoulder is illegal unless it’s an absolute emergency – needing to go to the toilet is not considered an emergency by the police. And it is also illegal to use a warning triangle on a motorway, whereas it’s advisable to use one if you break down on an A or B-road. Place it 50 yards behind the car, on the same lane. And again, if you feel if you or your passengers are at risk, get everyone out of the car to a safer place.
Wherever possible get the car off the road, especially if you’re in a live lane. On a motorway, try to get the next junction. On any other road, make every effort to stop in a lay-by or any other opening, such as a farm entrance. If you have to stop on a hard shoulder or at the side of a road, keep your side lights and hazards on and turn the wheels to the left.
Now, this might sounds obvious, but try to avoid breaking down in the first place. Most call-outs are for very avoidable issues. So make sure your car is serviced according to the maintenance schedule and regularly carry out basic checks, such as oil and radiator levels. The two most frequent reasons for breakdowns are for batteries and fuel. So ensure your battery is sufficiently charged and that the charging system is working properly, especially during winter and if you’re not driving the car regularly.
Running out of petrol or filling up with the wrong type of fuel is another popular cause of a car grinding to a halt. Both are going to be embarrassing when the breakdown truck turns up, so concentrate when you’re filling up and before, or as soon as you can after, the warning fuel light pings on, stop and slosh more gas in. The right type, of course.
You can’t choose where to break down, so make every effort to ensure you don’t in the first place. If you do, think safety first, then phone for help.