What to do if your car breaks down

What to do if your car breaks down

I’ve broken down – what should I do?

  1. Stay calm and think of other road users
  2. Attempt to pull over so you’re off the road
  3. Turn on your hazard lights
  4. Leave the car by the left-hand door and ensure you’re wearing light-coloured clothes or a hi-vis vest (especially at night or when visibility is low) 
  5. Take your warning triangle and place it 45 metres (147 feet) behind your vehicle, that’s about 60 paces. Don’t do this on a motorway
  6. If visibility is poor or you’re stood waiting for help at night, keep your sidelights switched on and make sure you’re not blocking others from seeing your lights
  7. Finally, call your breakdown service

Get breakdown cover here or call for recovery if you’re already an RAC member.

Do not stand, or let your passengers stand, between your car and oncoming traffic.

Broken down on a motorway

1. Take your car off the motorway

Try to leave the motorway at the nearest exit or by pulling into a service station. 

If this isn’t possible, pull over onto the hard shoulder and stop your car as far to the left as possible with your wheels also turned to the left.

2. Leave your car safely and stand away from traffic

Turn on your hazards and if you’ve broken down at night or visibility is low, use your sidelights too.

Make sure you and your passengers leave the car using the left-hand door, wearing hi-vis jackets if you have them.

Climb over the safety barriers to distance yourself from passing traffic. Wait for help here.

3. Give us a call

Members and non-members can call us on 0333 2000 999 to get instant breakdown support.

If you don’t have a mobile phone available, walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the motorway.

Emergency telephones are found roughly one mile apart should you need to use them. Breakdown services can also use these sites as markers to help us locate you more quickly.

The emergency telephone service is free of charge and you should always face traffic when speaking on the phone. And don’t forget to inform the operator if you have any additional needs to be aware of.

Do not…

  • attempt any repairs yourself
  • place a warning triangle anywhere on the motorway, that includes dual carriageways
  • stand on the carriageway or stand between your car and other passing vehicles

3 months FREE breakdown cover

With 12 months of Ultimate cover, new customers get 3 months for free!* Plus, get roadside and home rescue as standard, only with the RAC.^

Broken down on a motorway and can’t get to the hard shoulder

  1. Try to get into the leftmost lane and as far off the carriageway as possible
  2. Keep your seatbelt fastened and switch on your hazard lights
  3. Get out of the car only if you can safely get clear of the carriageway
  4. Do not attempt to place a warning triangle
  5. Call 999 first
  6. Then give us a call

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

If you’re disabled and unable to follow advice about leaving the car, also stay in your car with your seatbelt and hazard lights on, then call 999.

Broken down on a smart motorway

Your car may break down on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder. If you break down on one of these roads you should:

1. Try to take your car off the motorway

Move to the left-hand lane with your hazard lights on, then exit the motorway at the nearest junction, service station, or emergency refuge area – you can find these safe sections of road by following orange SOS signs.

2. Leave your car safely and stand away from traffic

Turn on your hazards and if you’ve broken down at night or visibility is low, use your sidelights too.

Make sure you and your passengers leave the car using the left-hand door, wearing hi-vis jackets if you have them.

Climb over the safety barriers to distance yourself from passing traffic. Wait for help here.

3. Use the emergency phone service

You MUST use the emergency telephone found in the emergency refuge area and give as much information to the operator as you can.

You can ask the highways agency to contact the RAC on your behalf.

When you’ve completed the call, stand behind the emergency barrier.

Do not…

  • attempt any repairs yourself
  • place a warning triangle anywhere on the motorway, including the dual carriageway
  • stand on the carriageway, or between your car and other passing vehicles

Smart motorways – what are they and how do you use them? Video guide

Broken down on a smart motorway and can’t get to an emergency refuge area

  1. Try moving your car as far over to the left-hand verge as possible.
  2. Only if it’s safe to do so, leave the car along with your passengers using the left-hand door and wait behind any safety barriers.
  3. Call 999 immediately.

IMPORTANT – If your car unexpectedly stops in a lane away from the verge, do not attempt to get out.

Keep your seatbelts and hazards on and call 999 immediately.

3 months FREE breakdown cover

With 12 months of Ultimate cover, new customers get 3 months for free!* Plus, get roadside and home rescue as standard, only with the RAC.^

*With 12 months of Ultimate cover for new customers. Ends 5/05/21 7am. ^Vs AA and Green Flag.

*With 12 months of Ultimate cover for new customers. Ends 5/05/21 7am. ^Vs AA and Green Flag.