8 things to do when your car breaks down on a roadway

These tips can help keep you and your passengers safe if your car breaks down while on the road.

Sandrina Rodrigues

Jul 7, 2021, 3:40 PM

Updated 753 days ago


8 things to do when your car breaks down on a roadway
Car trouble while on a busy roadway can put you and other drivers at risk.
Your car breaking down on a busy highway or interstate not only puts you at risk, but other drivers as well.
The tips below can help keep you and your passengers safe if your car breaks down while on the road:

1. Turn on your emergency lights

Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers as soon as you sense something's wrong. Keep them on until help arrives, recommends the National Motorists Association.

2. Slow down and pull over

At the first sign of car trouble, gently and smoothly take your foot off the accelerator. Do not brake hard or suddenly. Carefully move your vehicle toward the side of the road. If you are on an interstate, try to reach an exit. Signal your intentions to drivers behind you. If it is necessary to change lanes, watch your mirrors and the traffic around you closely.

3. Emergency brake

Pull your emergency brake, and if you have to park on a hill or slope, turn the car's wheels away from the road to help prevent the car from rolling into traffic, says the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

4. Stay in your vehicle

If you're on a highway or busy road, Insurance Information Institute recommends that you never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you've been involved in an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.

5. Be visible

Once you're safely out of the vehicle, prop up your hood to let other drivers know they should proceed with caution. You can also place triangles with reflectors behind your car to alert other drivers, according to Insurance Information Institute.

6. Contact help

If you are not able to find a good place to stop, contact help using your cellphone or in-car service. Do not try to flag down other vehicles - doing this on a high-speed road with no shoulder could result in a larger accident. If you're in an emergency situation, or are not sure who to contact, call 911 or the local police for help, says the National Motorists Association.

7. Prepare for car breakdowns

Nationwide recommends you be prepared for a car breakdown by keeping these items in your car:
Cellphone with charger
Notebook and pencil
Extra medications
Vehicle operating manual
Emergency service info, such as phone numbers - CLICK HERE for a list of numbers for your contact list
Flashlight and extra batteries (these should be checked often)
Drinking water and preserved food
Jumper cables
Tire-pressure gauge
Reflectors or flares
Signal flag or reflective vest or scarf
Windshield-washer fluid and wiping cloth
Fire extinguisher
Ice scraper, snow brush, snow shovel and cat litter, in lieu of sand, where needed
Heavy gloves
Thermal or safety blanket
A chemical heat source such as hand warmers
Candles and waterproof matches
Jack and a flat board for soft surfaces
Lug wrench for changing flats
Toolkit with screwdriver, pliers, duct tape and adjustable wrench
Extra fuses and fan/alternator belt
First-aid kit
Also, consider buying a spare tire if one didn’t come with the car

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