What’s the Best Way to Handle a Car Breakdown on the Highway?

Experiencing a car breakdown on the highway can be a daunting experience. Whether it’s a blown tire, an overheated engine, or an unexpected mechanical failure, these incidents can disrupt your journey, leaving you stranded on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to effectively manage these situations and ensure your safety. Let’s explore the best practices for handling the aftermath of a vehicle breakdown on the highway.

Prioritizing Safety After a Breakdown

When you realize your vehicle is malfunctioning, your first instinct might be to panic. However, it’s crucial to stay calm and prioritize safety. This begins with activating your hazard lights immediately to alert other drivers of your situation.

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Steer your car safely to the side of the road. If possible, try to reach a hard shoulder or an emergency refuge area. Once parked, you should exit your vehicle from the side facing away from the traffic and stay behind the safety barrier if one is present.

Having a high-visibility vest in your car is recommended. Wearing it will help other road users see you clearly, especially in poor light conditions. You should also place a warning triangle at a suitable distance behind your vehicle to alert approaching traffic.

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Calling for Roadside Assistance

Once you have secured your immediate safety, it’s time to call for assistance. Your insurance provider should be your first call. Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance as part of their auto insurance packages.

When you call your insurance provider, provide them with as much information as possible about your location and the nature of your vehicle’s problem. This will help them send the right help your way.

While you wait for help to arrive, stay in a safe location. If you can’t find a safe place away from the traffic, it’s safer to stay inside your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened.

Assessing the Damage and Possible Repairs

While waiting for help to arrive, you might be able to identify the cause of your vehicle’s breakdown. This could be a flat tire, an oil leak, or overheating, among other possible issues.

If it’s a flat tire and you have a spare, you could consider changing it yourself. However, only do this if you’re confident in your ability and it’s safe to do so. Remember, on a busy highway, changing a tire can be potentially dangerous.

For other issues, it’s best to wait for professional help. Trying to fix a mechanical problem without the proper knowledge and tools can cause further damage to your vehicle.

Planning for Future Breakdowns

While no one wants to anticipate a vehicle breakdown, being prepared can make handling the situation a lot smoother.

Frequent vehicle maintenance is key. Regularly check your tire pressure, oil, and coolant levels, and have your vehicle serviced according to the manufacturer’s schedule. This proactive approach can help prevent many common causes of breakdowns.

It’s also wise to have a breakdown kit in your car. This can include items like a spare tire, a jack, a wrench, jumper cables, a flashlight, a high-visibility vest, a warning triangle, and a first aid kit.

Moreover, having a roadside assistance plan can be a lifesaver. If your current insurance policy doesn’t include one, consider investing in a separate roadside assistance plan. These services can provide help when you need it most, making a breakdown less stressful.

Understanding Your Insurance Coverage

Knowing what your car insurance covers in the event of a breakdown can also be very beneficial. This can help you avoid unexpected costs and ensure that you get the necessary help quickly.

Go through your insurance policy to understand what’s covered and what’s not. Does it cover towing costs? Does it provide a replacement car while yours is in the shop for repairs? Are roadside repairs covered?

If you’re not happy with your current coverage, consider shopping around for a new provider. Many companies offer comprehensive breakdown cover as part of their policies or as an additional option.

In conclusion, dealing with a car breakdown on the highway can be less stressful if you’re prepared. From ensuring your safety to understanding your insurance coverage, taking these steps can help you handle a breakdown effectively. The key is to stay calm, prioritise safety, call for help, and wait for professional assistance to arrive.

Importance of Communicating Your Breakdown

Experiencing a vehicle breakdown can often feel isolating, especially if you’re on a highway far from home. But remember, you’re not alone. Communicating your situation to the necessary parties is a key part of managing a breakdown.

Start by alerting your family or friends about your situation. This is particularly important if you’re expected somewhere – you wouldn’t want anyone worrying unnecessarily about your whereabouts. Moreover, if your breakdown has occurred late at night or in a secluded area, having someone else know your location provides an extra layer of safety.

Next, if you are in a dangerous situation, such as being stuck in a lane of oncoming traffic or if your car breaks down in bad weather conditions, call the local highway patrol or the police. They will be able to provide the necessary resources to ensure your safety and facilitate smoother traffic flow.

Lastly, don’t forget to inform your employer if you’re going to be late for work due to the breakdown. They will appreciate your proactive communication and understand the delay.

Post Breakdown: Vehicle Repair and Insurance Claim

Once your vehicle is towed from the highway, the next step is to address the car repair. If you have a trusted auto repair shop, have your vehicle towed there. If not, many roadside assistance services partner with reputable auto repair shops and can recommend one.

Once your vehicle is at the repair shop, they will assess the damage and provide you with an estimate for the repairs. It’s crucial at this stage to contact your auto insurance or travel insurance provider, if the breakdown occurred while you were traveling.

Every insurance policy is different, so it’s important to understand what your policy covers. Generally, vehicle insurance should cover the costs of repairs if the breakdown was caused by covered risks like accidents or collisions.

However, if the breakdown was due to mechanical failure, the repair might not be covered by your regular auto insurance, unless you have a specific breakdown cover. In that case, you’ll need to assess if the cost of repair is worth it, or if it would be more cost-effective to consider a replacement vehicle.


A car breakdown on the highway can be a challenging experience. However, being prepared can make a big difference in handling the situation effectively. Prioritize your safety by moving to the side of the road, activating your hazard lights, and staying away from oncoming traffic. Call for help immediately and use a call box if you do not have cell service.

Understanding your insurance coverage is important, particularly when it comes to post-breakdown vehicle repairs. Regular vehicle maintenance can help prevent breakdowns, but having a roadside assistance plan is also beneficial.

Remember, the key to handling a car breakdown on the highway is to stay calm, ensure your safety, communicate your situation, and wait for professional assistance to arrive. By following these steps, you can turn a potentially stressful situation into a manageable one.