What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down On A Motorway

No driver wants to breakdown on the motorway. A motorway breakdown can be nerve-wracking – not to mention highly inconvenient.

But so long as you take certain precautions, you will be able to keep yourself and your other passengers safe, while getting the help you need as soon as possible.

motorway breakdown

Motorway Breakdown: What To Do

Where To Go If You Breakdown On The Motorway

The most important thing to do is head for a safe place, where you can call for help. It’s best to try and get off the motorway if you can. But if you can’t, head for the hard shoulder. It is recommended that you try and stop your car as far to the left as you can, and turn your wheels towards the left.

If you breakdown in a live lane and you can’t move any further, put your hazard lights on and wait in the car, with your seatbelt on. Then call 999.

Put On Your Hazard Lights

In order to make your car as visible as possible, turn on your hazard warning lights. And if it’s dark or foggy, also turn on your sidelights.

Get Out of the Car

If you breakdown on the motorway, and can get to the hard shoulder, it’s often safest to get yourself and your passengers out of your car and away from passing traffic. Use the doors facing away from the traffic, then get behind the barrier (if there is one) and move up the bank or verge.

If you’re travelling with any animals, it’s best to leave them in the car. Outside of the car they might panic and run into the traffic, which will make a bad situation even worse.

Can You Change a Tyre on the Motorway?

It’s far too dangerous to attempt any repairs yourself on the motorway, even if they’re only minor. So instead, your next step is to call for help.

Call For Help

Call your breakdown recovery provider. It’s at times like this when you’ll be glad to have breakdown cover on your car insurance policy!

Don’t have a phone on you? Don’t worry. All UK motorways have emergency phones.

Where To Find Motorway Emergency Phones

There’s usually one every mile. So it shouldn’t take you long to walk to your nearest phone. Walk in the opposite direction of the traffic, staying behind the barrier if you can, so you can stay as visible and protected as possible to other drivers.

These emergency phones are free to use, and they’ll either connect you directly to the police, or else to a motorway control centre. Either way, they’ll be able to call for recovery on your behalf, if need be.

It might be a good idea to use one of these emergency phones anyway, even if you are able to call for help yourself. Through notifying the authorities of your breakdown, they may be able to update signage on the motorway, to give other drivers advance warning.

For more information about staying safe during a motorway breakdown, check the Highway Code.

What To Do If You Breakdown on a Smart Motorway

Not all smart motorways have hard shoulders, but some have emergency refuge areas (ERAs). So if you breakdown on a smart motorway, try to get to your nearest ERA.

If there is no ERA within safe driving distance, then head for the left-hand lane, before following the steps we outlined above: Turn on your hazard lights, leave the car through the doors facing away from the traffic, get beyond the barrier and call for help.

If you’re in an ERA, then you must use the nearest SOS phone to contact the smart motorway’s control centre – even if you’ve already called your own breakdown support service.

If you can’t get out of your car, or you can’t make it to the leftmost lane, then stay in your car with your seatbelt on, turn on your hazard lights, and call 999.

Worried About a Breakdown?

If you’re reading this, then you’re either already dealing with a motorway breakdown, or you’re wondering what you should do if this ever happens to you.

You’ll get the help you need much quicker – and usually for much cheaper – if you’re already a member of a breakdown recovery company.

That’s why it’s a good idea to add breakdown recovery to your car insurance policy. For a small extra fee each month, you can get total peace of mind that you’ll have all the help you’ll need in the event of a breakdown.


Get your instant online quote today!


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