What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down
Follow these steps if you wind up stranded on the side of the road.
When a flat tire or vehicle breakdown disrupts your travel plans, take these precautions to stay safe:
- Slow down gradually and steer your vehicle into the breakdown lane, if present, or out of traffic to a nearby parking lot, exit ramp, or the far right side of the road. At night, choose a well-lit spot if possible.
- Activate your vehicle’s hazard lights and, if it’s dark outside, turn on the dome light. If you can safely do so, set out warning reflectors behind the vehicle or raise the hood and tie a piece of bright material to the antenna.
- After setting up your warning signals, remain inside with your seatbelt on, doors locked, windows rolled up, and engine turned off.
- If you can’t remove your vehicle from the road, exit from the door farthest from traffic and stand away from the road.
- Call roadside assistance or 911 for help.
- If another driver offers assistance, roll down your window slightly to let that person know help is on the way. If you haven’t been able to call for help, ask that person to call for you.
- Fix a flat tire or make other minor repairs only if you’re sure you can safely complete the task.
- Use extreme caution if you must go for help on foot. Attach a note to your car with your name, the date, and details about your destination and passengers. Walk on the right side of the road and never cross high-speed traffic lanes.
To help prevent and prepare for future breakdowns:
- Equip your car with an emergency kit that includes a first aid kit, a flashlight, a blanket, jumper cables, maps, a shovel, flares or warning triangles, and a tire repair kit and pump.
- Perform regular maintenance on your vehicle and have your car serviced before road trips.