What to do if your car breaks down


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Breakdowns can happen to anyone at anytime. Read this guide from Admiral to prepare yourself should the worst happen


Breakdowns can be stressful.

While they can’t always be prevented, you can reduce the risk by keeping your car well-maintained with servicing, winter engine checks and regular inspections of oil, coolant and petrol.

However, in the unfortunate event of a breakdown, there are certain things you can do to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Why do cars break down?

There are so many reasons that a car might break down. However, a 2018 survey conducted by Which? found that the most common faults in new cars occurred in the brake systems, the suspension and the exhaust system. However, the overwhelmingly most common reason for break downs were battery failure. 

To avoid this, we recommend that your car is serviced at least once every 12 months. There are also a number of checks you can make to ensure that your car is in good working order before you set off on a journey.

What type of car breaks down the most?

There is no easy answer to this. According to the 2017 What Car? Reliability Survey, the three least reliable car brands in the UK are Tesla, Land Rover and Jeep. However, it always pays to do your own independent research when looking into buying a new car. 

Take a look at our top pics of summer convertible or family cars

What should I do if my car breaks down?

Firstly, make sure you find somewhere safe to stop. Avoid stopping in dangerous places such as roundabouts or around a blind bend - if you can keep driving safely for a short distance, drop your speed right down, turn on your hazard lights and try to pull off the road completely or onto a straight section.

When you come to a halt, try and steer away from the road so your wheels are facing inwards. If you have a reflective emergency warning triangle in your car, display it at least 45 metres behind your vehicle.

Once you’ve come to a safe stop, step out of the vehicle. Do not attempt to fix it yourself, and call your breakdown service. If you are involved in an accident that obstructs the road or involves injuries, call 999 as soon as possible.

What if my car breaks down on a motorway?

Breaking down on any road can be dangerous, but the increased speed can mean that you have to be more cautious on a motorway. The most important thing is safety - yours, your passengers' and other road users'. 

If your car develops a problem on the motorway, your first action should be to find a safe place to stop. If you can, try and leave at the nearest exit, or if that’s not possible, come to halt at the next service area.

If you have to come to an immediate halt, pull onto the hard shoulder and keep your wheels facing to the left (away from passing traffic). However, keep in mind that 1 in 10 motorway crashes involve vehicles parked on the hard shoulder. It is imperative that you do not attempt to fix your vehicle on the hard shoulder as it’s very dangerous. 

Turn your hazards on, and leave your car via the passenger door. Never display the warning triangle on a motorway. Stand as far away from the car as possible, behind the barriers or up a grass verge. You should then call for help as soon as possible. If you are near an emergency telephone, use that over your mobile phone - they give the operator your exact location. If you have to use your mobile phone and you're uncertain of your location, give the operator the number on the nearest marker post so they can find you easily.

How can I be prepared for a breakdown?

There are a number of things that you can do to make sure you’re equipped when you break down.

In the event that you are unable to stop near an emergency motorway telephone, carrying a mobile phone with you can make it easy to contact the breakdown service. Keeping a road map to hand can also help you explain your exact location when you call for assistance. 

Putting together an emergency kit for your car including a warning triangle, a torch, warm clothes, a blanket, a reflective jacket and water can ensure you’re comfortable while you wait for the recovery services. For more ideas, read our emergency car kit guide.

Make sure you have the right breakdown cover. If you're ever stuck on the side of the road, it's always good to know that someone is on their way in the event you can't solve the issue yourself. Find out more about with our guide to breakdown cover

Admiral Insurance Breakdown Cover

Admiral Breakdown Cover can be added onto your existing car insurance policy to give you peace of mind before setting off on a journey.

There are three different options when it comes to cover, with numerous benefits including Caravan and Trailer cover, Alternative Transport and Overnight Accommodation, and Roadside Assistance. For more information, contact our customer service team


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