It is an appropriate concern for most of us who find ourselves on a highway frequently: what do you do if your car breaks down? It is an immense safety hazard for yourself and those around you if you don’t act fast when your car is having trouble on the open road. With cars whizzing by at incredible speeds — your car, yourself and your passengers left up to the whims of the road — it is helpful to think about this before something happens and plan accordingly.
Causes of a Breakdown
There are a handful of reasons a car might come to a halt abruptly; cars are incredibly complex pieces of machinery. Here are several reasons why a breakdown might happen:
Battery- Your battery is responsible for all the complicated electrical components in your car. If there is a battery problem, your engine will take longer to turn over, a red battery light might flash on while you are driving, or your car might have trouble moving after it is on. This is a very common reason your car might breakdown.
Alternator- The alternator is responsible for keeping the battery charged. If you have a faulty alternator, your battery will have a difficult time holding its charge. Some hazardous signs might include a flickering battery light, slower windshield wipers, and dimmed lighting in your headlights and dashboard.
Motor- Regular maintenance will help you alleviate any trouble you have with your starter motor. However, if your battery is charged and your engine fails to start, the starter engine is a likely culprit.
Electrical- These are, arguably, the most dangerous types of maintenance issues. Cars are becoming more complex by the day, which means more electrical wiring. AKA, more room for glitches and erratic behaviour. These issues are often hard to fix on the road and require a hard reset of the system. If you experience any strange behaviour with your car, immediately take it in to have a maintenance check.
Tires- Never get on the road without a spare tire in your trunk. Tire failure, such as a flat, a blow or under-inflation, can be caused by debris in the road. Stay vigilant about junk in the road. Regularly check your tire pressure and be aware of how your car is running. If it is running smoothly, you have little to worry about, but if it is driving unevenly, go get your tires checked and serviced.
Read here to find out common car engine problems you should never ignore.
Emergency Checklist (Provided by AAA)
- First Aid Kit
- Cell Phone Charger
- Flashlight & Extra Batteries
- Vehicle Operation Manual
- Emergency Service Information
- Spare Tire
- Car Jack
- Extra Fuses
- Jumper Cables
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Flares/Warning Device
- Signal Flag
- Toolkit with Screwdriver, Duct Tape, Wrench & Pliers
Before You Get on the Road: Locate Your Hazard Lights, Emergency Brake, and Consider a Roadside Assistance Plan.
Turn on Your Hazards/Emergency Lights
In any form of emergency, your emergency lights are your best friend. They signal to everyone on the road that something is amiss. It warns other people on the road that you will also be moving incredibly slow, or that you’ve come to a complete stop. If anything is happening to your car, or you think something is wrong, immediately turn on your hazards.
Pull Off the Road
Sometimes this isn’t always feasible depending on where your car has broken down. However, if possible, slow down and pull off onto the side of the road and get yourself to safety. Pay attention to the road for highway shoulders and take notice if your vehicle is behaving strangely. Try to move as far away from moving traffic as possible.
Turn Your Wheels Away from the Oncoming Traffic
Depending on where you are, make sure that a collision will not send your car straight into oncoming traffic. Engage your emergency brake, or your emergency brake, and turn your wheels away from the road (depending on whether you have automatic steering).
Call for Emergency Help
Whenever you are in a car, always make sure your cell phone is completely charged. In some instances, an emergency phone is present off of a highway, but that likelihood is becoming lower and lower. Call a tow truck, a mechanic, a family member, or a roadside assistance provider. In some instances, your car insurance might be able to help. In the event that you don’t know who to reach out to, call your local first responders for help.
Be Visible or Set up Flares or Reflective Triangles
Find some way to let oncoming vehicles know you are there – stick your hand out the window, wave a signal flag. Use flares or reflective triangles. Especially during the night, this will alert other cars (especially behind you) that you are stopped. If you don’t feel comfortable getting out of your car to do so, just keep your hazards on.
Stay in Your Car
Please avoid getting out of the car and trying to fix the maintenance issue yourself. Only get out of your car if the road, and surrounding area, are clear and safe to do so. Otherwise, stay put until help reaches you.
Following these tips and tricks can help severely lessen your chances of danger if you breakdown on the highway. Be aware, take care of your vehicle, and stay safe on the road.