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What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

By Safelite // May 11, 2015

It can be a dangerous and scary situation, when your car breaks down, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area or are unsure what’s wrong. We’re sharing some tips that every driver should be aware of, in case they find themselves in this potentially dangerous situation.

1. Find a safe place to stop. As soon as you notice your car is acting funny, move over into the right-hand lane of the road. You’ll only want to stop in the left-hand lane or right where you are as a very last resort.

Next, you’ll want to pull off of the road entirely, but be careful to make sure you’re doing it in a safe place. Coast over to a spot off the side of the road where there is plenty of room. You’ll also want to try to find a place where there are no curves. This can help to ensure that drivers on the road can see you as well as you seeing them, and when you’re ready to rejoin the road, it’s a much safer and easier way. If you’re on a residential road, try to locate a parking lot or parking spot.

2. If you’re stuck on the road, stay put. If you can’t make it off the road and your car breaks down on the street or highway, it’s critical that you stay inside the car. It’s a nerve-racking situation, because it’s likely that traffic will pile up, but staying where you are is still much safer than trying to cross the road on foot.

Make sure you immediately turn on your hazard lights, and if it’s dark out, you can turn on an interior light as well. While remaining in your car, if you have emergency roadside assistance service, dial them from your cell phone (if you have one). If you don’t have roadside assistance service, call for a tow truck or by dialing your local non-emergency police station. If you don’t know the number offhand, call 911.

If you don’t have a cell phone, look for an emergency call box nearby. However, you want to make sure that the roads are completely clear before leaving your car to use the emergency call box. If the roads are not clear, or the call box is quite a distance away, you may be better off waiting in your car for police patrol to find you.

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3. If you see smoke, get out. In most cases, it’s safer to stay in your car until help arrives, especially if you’re on a busy road, however, if you see smoke or flames, get out. You may put yourself in more danger by sitting in a car with the potential to catch on fire. Trust your instincts.

4. If you’re working on your car, be cautious. In most cases, it’s safer to wait for help, but if you have knowledge of how to fix the car, know how to change a flat tire and more, you may feel comfortable fixing the problem yourself. However, there are some safety precautions you should take.

Make sure that you aren’t working on the side of the car that is exposed to the road. If you have no choice than to change a tire or check something else on that side of the car, try to pull it off even further from the side of the road. You want to ensure that there is plenty of distance between you and the rest of oncoming traffic.

If it’s dark out and you have safety reflectors in your car (hint: you should!), you may want to set them up in front of the car, so that those cars traveling in the lane closest to you can see them in advance and move over to the next lane. If you don’t have lights or markers, another good option is to leave an interior car light on.

5. Pop your hood. A car on the side of the road with a hood open is the universal sign of a broken down car. It’s a good way to let other drivers know what happened.

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