You can reduce the chances of your vehicle breaking down with preventive maintenance. Make sure that your vehicle is serviced at the recommended intervals and carry out some simple checks yourself on a regular basis.
- Do I have enough fuel for the intended journey? Remember that driving at higher speeds will use more fuel – and there can sometimes be quite a distance between service areas on motorways. Allowing your fuel to run too low can cause running problems and even damage the engine.
- Are my windscreen, windows and mirrors clean?
- Are my lights working?
- Are my brakes working properly?
Check the following levels before you use the vehicle, following your vehicle manufacturer’s advice.
- Engine Oil
- Water in the radiator or expansion tank
- Brake fluid
- Water in the windscreen and rear-window washer bottles.
Check your tyres and make sure they’re legal: they must have at least the legally specified minimum depth of tread and be free of dangerous cuts and defects. They must also be inflated to the right pressure.
Having your vehicle serviced at the recommended intervals will help to keep your vehicle reliable and prolong its life.
Breaking down on a Motorway
- If it’s an emergency and you can’t get off the motorway, pull on to the hard shoulder.
- Activate your hazard warning lights.
- Make sure you stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.
- Put your hazard lights on. If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.
- You and any passengers should get out of the vehicle using the doors on the left-hand side and move up the bank or stand behind the barrier.
- Leave animals in the car.
- Wear a reflective jacket if you have one, but don’t put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder.
- Don’t attempt even a simple repair, call for help. If you don’t have a mobile, walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway; follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police.
- If you feel at risk from another person, return to your vehicle by a left-hand door and lock all doors; leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.
- If you have a disability which prevents you from following the above advice, keep your seatbelt on, switch on your hazard warning lights and use a mobile phone, if you have one to call the emergency services.
- If you can’t get to the hard shoulder, stay in your vehicle unless you can absolutely sure it’s safe to leave it. Put you hazard lights on, keep your seatbelt on and call the emergency services.
Breaking down on a smart motorway
If you break down on a smart motorway where the hard shoulder has been converted into a traffic lane, follow these steps:
- Use an emergency refuge area (ERA), motorway service area or leave at the next junction.
- If this isn’t possible, try and get the vehicle off the carriageway.
- If you have to stop in a traffic lane, turn on your hazard lights as soon as possible.
- If you’re in the left-hand lane, and it’s safe to do so, get out of the vehicle on the left-hand side and wait behind the barrier.
- Call for help.
- If you can’t get out, or you’re in another lane and it isn’t safe to leave the vehicle, stay in the car with your seatbelt on and dial 999.
- If you stop in an ERA, you must use the SOS phone to contact the Regional Control Centre when you stop, and before you leave.
Breaking down on a road
- Move your vehicle off the road if you can, but watch out for soft verges that could make it tricky to get going again.
- Put your hazard lights on; if it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.
- It’s usually safer to wait well away from your vehicle and moving traffic, behind a suitable barrier if you can.
- If you get out, take care and use the doors facing away from passing traffic.
- Wear a reflective jacket if you have one.
- If you have on, and it’s safe to do so, put a warning triangle at least 45m behind your vehicle.
- Don’t stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic.
Punctures and blow-outs
If you vehicle suddenly becomes unstable or you begin to notice steering problems, you might have a puncture or a blow-out. Try to stay calm and follow these steps.
- Don’t brake suddenly
- Take your foot off the accelerator
- Try to keep a straight course by holding the steering wheel firmly
- Get the vehicle away from the traffic (onto the hard shoulder if you’re on a motorway)
- If you have to move the vehicle, do so very slowly to avoid further damage to the tyre or wheel rim
- On a motorway, never attempt to change a wheel yourself. Always use one of the emergency telephones to call for help.
- On all other roads, get the vehicle to a place of safety. Before attempting repairs or changing a wheel, put on something to help passing drivers see you, such as a fluorescent jacket. At night or in poor visibility, a reflective garment is recommended.
If you’re driving on a motorway and you see something fall from another vehicle, or if anything falls from your own vehicle, stop at the next emergency telephone and report the hazard. Don’t try to retrieve the item yourself.
If your vehicle catches fire while you’re driving, pull up as quickly and safely as possible. Get yourself and any passengers out and away from the vehicle. Then call the fire brigade. If the fire is under the bonnet, don’t open the bonnet, as this will make the fire worse. If it’s a small fire elsewhere, consider dousing it with a fire extinguisher, but avoid taking any risks.
If you’re involved in a road traffic incident, you should stop whether or not it was your fault if
- another vehicle has been damaged
- someone else’s property has been damaged
- someone other than yourself has been injured
- an animal that was either in another vehicle involved in the incident or on the road has been injured
- an item of street furniture – such as a sign or a lamp – has been damaged.
If you have to stop, you must give your name and address and the registration number of the vehicle to anybody who was involved in the incident. You should also ask for the same information from any other driver(s)/persons who are affected. If you don’t exchange these details at the time of the incident, you should report them to the police as soon as possible.