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No one plans for when their car breaks down on the morning commute or even a long trip, but it happens. While your surroundings, traffic patterns and vehicle hazards can vary, it’s important for you to know the basics of what to do if your car breaks down. Being familiar with a few suggested guidelines will help get you back on the road sooner.

6 steps to follow if your car breaks down on the road

1. Assess your vehicle’s operating problem

While driving, be aware of and know how to respond to warning signs. Issues such as steering problems or steam or smoke coming from under the hood should not be ignored. Always listen for unusual noises or other abnormal problems. If you get a flat tire, don’t panic. Slow down gradually and carefully pull onto the shoulder of the road, avoiding any sudden maneuvers or hard braking. If you run out of gas or your engine stops, switch on emergency/safety flashers, carefully steer your vehicle out of traffic and let its momentum get you off the road to a safe place. Avoid applying the brakes until necessary.

2. Pull off the road

If you encounter a problem while driving, try to move your vehicle to the right shoulder if possible. Pull your vehicle as far off the road while still remaining on level ground. If you get out of your vehicle, proceed carefully and watch for oncoming traffic, especially at night or in bad weather, when visibility is limited. Avoid standing directly in front of or behind your vehicle. Other drivers may not see you, and you run the risk of being struck by another vehicle.

What if when your car breaks down, it loses power and is inoperable? If you CANNOT pull off the road, switch on safety/emergency flashers and attempt to coast to a location out of the way of traffic. Never attempt to push your vehicle to a safer location. If you cannot get your vehicle to a location away from traffic, or if you are uncertain about your safety and think your vehicle may get struck from behind, do not stay in your vehicle.

3. Note your vehicle’s location

Once you are in a safe location, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and general location. Know where you are in relation to major exits or cross street. Look for well-lighted areas and notice landmarks such as service stations, restaurants, shopping centers and business complexes. If you are on an interstate highway, note the mile marker, last exit number or nearest rest area. You may need this information when calling for assistance.

4. Alert other motorists

Make sure your vehicle is visible to other motorists. Remember they may be traveling at a high rate of speed. The sooner they see your vehicle the easier they will be able to stop or move to another lane. Turn on emergency flashers, especially at night or during inclement weather. Raise your vehicle’s hood. If you have a brightly colored scarf or jacket, tie it to the antenna, door handle or hold it in place by closing it in a window.

Place flares or warning triangles to direct oncoming traffic away from your vehicle. Avoid the use of flares if you can smell fumes or think your fuel is leaking. As a rule of thumb, place the first flare or triangle 10 feet directly behind the side of the vehicle closest to the road. Set the second 100 feet directly behind the vehicle, inline with the middle of the car’s bumper. Place the third device behind the vehicle’s right side 200 feet on undivided highway, 300 feet on a divided highway. When doing so, always watch for oncoming traffic.

5. Contact help

Once you and any passengers are in a safe location use a cell phone to immediately call for help. Make the call from inside your vehicle if you are safely out of traffic. Otherwise, do so at a safe distance from the vehicle and roadway. You may need the information you gathered about your location to aid in assistance finding you.

6. Remain with your vehicle

Safety experts recommend that under most circumstances, if you are able to pull away from traffic, it’s safest to remain in your vehicle until law enforcement or roadside assistance arrives.

– If you choose to exit the vehicle, do so safely and away from oncoming traffic. When possible, you and any passengers should exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from the road.

– If you choose to stay inside your vehicle, keep the doors locked. Should a stranger stop to offer help, ask the person to call for emergency roadside assistance if you haven’t.

What to expect from emergency road service

After you’ve called roadside assistance, determine how long you have to wait. Your service provider should be able to give you an estimated time of arrival. Depending on the circumstances, it could take as little as a few minutes or as long as several hours. If you are in a remote area, or the breakdown occurs late at night or in severe weather, be prepared for a longer wait. If you feel you are in an unsafe situation, make sure the dispatcher is aware of your concern.

Most roadside technicians will able to provide fuel, change tires or jump start a dead battery. However, if the breakdown is due to more severe mechanical or electrical problems, it will need to be towed to a service center. Describe as thoroughly as possible, the nature of the problem and any other information, such as warning signs or sounds before the vehicle broke down.

When a car breaks down, it can be frustrating, but knowing the proper steps to take can help keep you and your loved ones safe. For more ways to protect what matters most, just call us at 724-929-2300. We can tailor a policy that fits your needs, so you never pay for coverage you don’t need. Save even more when you bundle home and auto!