accessibility & help

Car breakdown

If you've broken down it can be dangerous to stop and it’s always inconvenient. Here are our tips on how to prevent a car breakdown and how to deal with them safely when they happen:

Preventing car breakdowns

To prevent your car from breaking down, it is important that it is serviced regularly. The AA has a helpful list of the ten most common causes of car breakdown and how to prevent them. Most problems can be avoided with the correct preventative care, either through a little DIY or by a qualified mechanic.

During a car breakdown

Most of us suffer a car breakdown at some time, though, and when we do, it’s important that we know how to stay safe.

The AA has guidelines on what to do in the event of breakdown. On a motorway, stop only if it’s a real emergency and you have no other choice. It's best to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway, if you can, rather than stopping on the hard shoulder.

You must not stop on the hard shoulder to use a mobile phone, go to the toilet or to check a route or map. If an emergency forces you to stop – pull on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your wheels turned to the left. Leave your sidelights on and use your hazard flashers.

Leave the vehicle by the left-hand door and ensure that passengers keep away from the carriageway and hard shoulder. Don’t attempt even simple repairs. Walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway (follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder) – the telephone is free of charge and connects directly to the Highways Agency. Use these rather a mobile phone. If you must use a mobile phone make sure you can describe your location – there are reference numbers on all telephones and marker posts.

Return and wait near your vehicle. Stay well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder. It is best to retreat up the bank, or behind a barrier if this is possible.

After a breakdown

Before you rejoin the carriageway after a breakdown, build up speed on the hard shoulder and watch for a safe gap in the traffic. Be aware that other vehicles may be stationary on the hard shoulder.

And remember, prevention is certainly better than the cure for car breakdowns.