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What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down

In the course of your driving career, you will likely break down at some point. Breaking down happens to all of us and is something that every driver needs to be equipped to deal with. In order to keep yourself and other drivers safe, you must know how to react to a breakdown when it happens to you.

What to do after a breakdown varies depending on where and when the breakdown occurred. A residential neighborhood is obviously very different from a highway.

Follow these five steps when your car breaks down.

Step 1: Turn on Your Hazards

Hazard lights warn other drivers that there is something wrong with your vehicle. Once on the side of the road, hazard lights make other drivers aware of your presence and allow them to avoid your car safely. Your hazards should remain on until your car is safely towed.

Step 2: Pull Over

Preferably, you want to pull over to the right-hand shoulder of the road. If there is no shoulder, try to get into the right lane as quickly as you safely can. The left-hand shoulder is the last resort, but pulling over there is an option. Try to pull over on a straight stretch of road, as opposed to a curved one. Curved roads make it harder for traffic to see you and react accordingly. If you are in a residential area, pull into a parking spot or alongside the curb. Just be sure not to block driveways or fire hydrants.

When pulling over, make sure you do not slam on the brakes. Drivers often panic when they begin to break down, and they brake suddenly out of panic. Instead, just remove your foot from the gas pedal and carefully guide your car to the shoulder.

Once you have pulled over, you should turn your wheel away from the road and put the car in park. You should also put on your emergency brake. These steps are to prevent your car from rolling away. If it does roll away, it will roll away from the road, preventing further accidents.

Step 3: Check the Area

Check around your car to make sure it is safe to get out. This is especially important on busy highways where cars are going by at high speeds. If you are on the right-hand shoulder, get out through your passenger door so you are not stepping out toward traffic. If you feel that it is unsafe to get out of your car, then stay in your car with the seat belt on. If you broke down in the middle of the highway, then staying in your car is likely the safest option. However, if there is smoke or fire coming from your car, you need to exit as quickly and safely as possible.

Step 4: Warn Other Drivers

Once you have safely pulled over, you should make your car as visible as possible. If you have flares or traffic triangles, then you should set them up. You should place one flair near your vehicle about 10 feet behind it. The other flare should be placed further down the road to alert motorists that there is an upcoming distraction or hazard. If you do not have flares, then you should turn on your interior lights to make your vehicle more visible.

Open the hood of your car and tie something white to your antenna or hang it out of your window. This lets police officers and truck drivers passing by know that you need assistance.

Step 5: Call for Help

Once you are safely pulled over and have exited your vehicle, you can call for help. If you cannot make the necessary repairs safely on your own, then you should call for assistance. Call your roadside assistance provider if you have one. If not, then call a tow service or 911 if you require more assistance. Never try to change a tire or work on the car if it requires you to stand near traffic.

Final Thoughts

Having your car break down should not panic you if you know how to deal with it. Getting out of the road as safely and quickly as possible is important. If you can, you should pull over to the right shoulder and make sure it is safe to exit your car before doing so. Once you are pulled over, make your vehicle visible so that oncoming traffic can see it. Call roadside assistance or a tow company and wait inside your car (as long as it is not smoking or on fire) until they arrive and they can get you to a vehicle repair shop. As long as you keep these steps in mind, you will be well equipped to handle the situation when your car breaks down.

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