What to do when your car breaks down on the motorway

Breaking down on a motorway is a nightmare. It’s the worst place to have to stop and there are legal as well as common-sense restrictions. Good value, low-cost Breakdown cover will help you sort the problem out once you’ve put the car somewhere safe, but in the meantime you have to deal with the practicalities of a car that’s in a dangerous place. Here’s how Direct Line can help…

The first thing to bear in mind is that the motorway is safe for moving vehicles – if you can get your car off the motorway and somewhere safer, so much the better. If you can’t do this, however, and it’s a real emergency you should pull over to the hard shoulder. Make sure that any passengers are safe and don’t let children or pets out if you can possibly help it. Safety is everything, so turn your wheels to the left (the right if you are in Europe), so that if the car rolls it will move away from the traffic.

If possible, try to stop near an emergency phone – this will be free of charge and will connect you with the police immediately. They are there to help and will be able to locate you very quickly and from the emergency phone – this is actually better than using a mobile phone. Of course, people who cannot get to the external phone should use their mobile phone, giving as clear and full a description of their location as possible. Whichever phone you use to contact the police, always tell them if you’re in a vulnerable group, such as a lone female, elderly, disabled or with children.

When you get out of the car, exit on the left (or the right if you are in Europe) so that you are away from the traffic, and make sure that any passengers do the same. When travelling abroad, you need to carry a reflective jacket to wear whilst doing this – they’re available from numerous outlets and the standard to look for is EN471.

Tempting though it is to change your own tyre or attempt what might be a simple repair, all of the road-safety organisations recommend against doing so. They also recommend against putting an ‘accident’ triangle out behind the car. Wait with the car for expert help as long as you can do so without letting child passengers get out of the car. If you do have to get out, take cover behind a barrier of some sort, or walk up on the embankment, if there is one, and wait there.

If you’re covered with Direct Line you’ll find that for a premium of as little as £23 per year, you’ll be covered for roadside labour up to a reasonable period once you are ¼ mile away from home. If we can’t fix it, we’ll tow you to a garage that can.

Different levels of cover are available from our breakdown service; you can opt for cover from home or to be taken to your destination or, if you prefer, we can cover the cost of overnight accommodation and we’ll pay for a standard-class rail ticket for you or another driver to go and pick up the car when it’s ready. We’ll even call your friends to let them know what’s happened.

Our breakdown service is good value and should you choose to take your vehicle abroad, we can cover you in Europe as well as the UK. There are discounts available for people taking out cover online. For more information, go to the breakdown cover welcome page.