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What to do if your Vehicle Breaks Down

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
What To Do If Your Vehicle Breaks Down

If you’re unlucky enough to break down while travelling abroad, there are a number of rules to follow to not only keep yourself on the right side of the law, but also to keep you safe. Knowing these rules before you leave can save you a lot of trouble at a later date, so learn all about what to do when your vehicle breaks down and always make sure you have the correct insurance. Around 48% of people surveyed by the RAC revealed that they wouldn’t know what to do in the event of a breakdown abroad, so being prepared is essential.

Breaking Down on a Motorway Abroad

If you break down on a motorway abroad, you should try to make use of the hard shoulder if possible. If you’re able to pull onto the hard shoulder then do so and exit your vehicle only when it is safe to do so. Always exit on the side nearest the kerb and then local the door of the car. From here, if you are able to make a call using a mobile phone, call your roadside assistance. If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can call the emergency services in the country you’re in – always take a note of the number before setting off.

If you don’t have a mobile phone, walk along the hard shoulder towards an emergency phone to call for assistance, staying alert and as far away from traffic as possible. If you are unable to get your car to the hard shoulder, switch on your hazard lights and follow the same procedure mention above.

  • In many European countries, the number to call for emergency assistance is 112

Breaking Down on a Regular Road Abroad

When driving abroad, you may find that much of your time is spent off the motorways enjoying the scenery. If this is the case, you need to know how to deal with a breakdown on a non-motorway road. In the event of a breakdown, you should move your vehicle to a safe area off the road if possible. Immediately switch on your hazard warning lights and use your reflective triangle to warn other traffic that you are stationary.

Many countries, such as France, require that you have a reflective jacket also and you should wear this if you’re exiting your vehicle in a breakdown. It is also important to know what is an acceptable distance for you to place your warning triangle and each country differs slightly in this. Don’t worry if you’re not sure though, just use best judgement and remember to stat safe. If you’re in an area with poor visibility, switch on your car sidelights also so that people can spot you from as far back as possible.

As with motorway breakdowns, get out of your vehicle when safe, always on the kerbside door and lock the car manually.

Important Points to Consider

  • Move your car to the hard shoulder or side of the road where possible
  • Use your hazard warning lights where applicable
  • Wear your reflective vest if the country requires it
  • Contact local emergency services or your recovery provider
  • Remain outside of your vehicle and ensure all passengers are removed and safe
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