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What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down

Flat tires, engine problems, electrical problems - there are countless reasons why your car might suddenly stop working and you find yourself stranded on the side of the road. A vehicle breakdown can be a stressful and dangerous experience, especially if you do not act quickly.

So, what should you actually do in these unfortunate scenarios? Here are five important steps to follow if your car breaks down to prevent a bad situation from becoming even worse.

Move Your Vehicle to a Secure Location if Possible

The immediate priority when your car breaks down is to ensure the safety of all occupants. If possible, use your vehicle’s remaining momentum to move to the side of the road or onto the shoulder, maintaining a safe distance from traffic. Once stopped, angle your wheels away from the roadway and activate the emergency brake. Stay inside the vehicle if you are unable to move it off the road. After securing your position, note your location using nearby landmarks, exit signs, or mile markers, as this information is vital for calling for help.

Increase Your Visibility

Once you have determined the safest resting place for your vehicle, make it noticeable to passing drivers. Turn on your hazard lights, which are usually marked by a red or orange triangle button on your dash. We strongly recommend that everyone purchase an emergency roadside kit, which will include reflectors and/or flares. Utilize these items to increase your visibility if appropriate.

If you do not have roadside kit and your hazard lights are insufficient, consider attaching a clothing item (brightly colored if possible) to your antenna or trapping it in the road-facing door of your vehicle. Opening your hood is also another effective way of drawing more attention to your vehicle.

Contact Emergency Services and Roadside Assistance

If your vehicle is obstructing traffic, your first phone call should be to 911. Inform the dispatcher of your situation and location.

If you are in a safer location or after you have contacted 911, you should call for roadside assistance. We strongly recommending paying the annual fee for a roadside service such as AAA. Many auto insurance carriers offer roadside service packages as well. If you are not enrolled in a roadside assistance program, you will want to look up the number of a nearby tow service.

After contacting the authorities (if your vehicle is blocking the road) and calling for raodside assistance, it is always advisable to inform a family member or friend of your predicament. Generally, it is best to refrain from attempting to flag down other motorists, as this can lead to sudden breaking and create additional hazards.

Assess the Condition of Your Vehicle

If it is safe to exit the vehicle, do so through the door furthest from the road and perform a preliminary assessment. Look for visual cues like warning lights on the dashboard, check for any unusual smells indicating electrical or engine problems, and recall any strange sounds heard before the breakdown. This information can be useful when help arrives and for future repairs. However, avoid attempting complex repairs or tire changes in unsafe conditions.

Leaving Your Vehicle on the Highway: Guidelines and Precautions

In situations where you must leave your vehicle on the highway, you generally have 24 hours before it needs to be moved, provided it’s not causing an obstruction. Inform the local police of your situation to reduce the likelihood of your vehicle being towed. Before leaving, secure your vehicle, take valuables with you, and consider leaving a note explaining the situation.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Future Breakdowns

Regular vehicle maintenance is crucial in preventing breakdowns. Keep an updated record of all maintenance tasks in your auto log. This practice is especially important before long road trips, before which you should check fluids, tire pressure, and lights to ensure everything is in working order.

By following these steps, you can handle vehicle breakdowns with a level head and ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other road users. Remember, preparation and calm decision-making are key in these situations.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact Phillips & Associates at (818) 348-9515 for a free consultation today. You will immediately be put in touch with John Phillips or Patrick DiFilippo, who can help determine whether you have a case and advise you on the best course of action moving forward.


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