What you should do after your car breaks down is determined by the environment and circumstances surrounding the breakdown. Your actions following the breakdown will determine how fast a towing service can get to you and ensure your vehicle and occupants are safe in the interim period. This article highlights things you should always do, whether your car breaks down on a busy highway or in a deserted rural road.
1. Clear from the road
Seldom will a car go off in the middle of the road without warning. Once you notice your speed declining, always turn on your hazard lights and safely switch lanes to move to the shoulder so that you don't hamper movement of oncoming traffic. Once you're on the shoulder, you may exit the vehicle through the passenger side door and make a call to a tow service or friend, depending on the situation.
2. Ensure you are visible
This is especially important at night. During the day, turning on your hazard lights and safely laying emergency/reflective triangles at the back and front of the car is sufficient to warn other motorists. If you don't have triangles for any reason, you can also use small branches a few metres away from the car on both sides.
At night, leave your headlights and hazard lights on and stay in your vehicle with the doors locked, particularly if you're in a deserted/dangerous area. As you wait for the tow service, call local law enforcement and ask them to send a patrol car to keep you company until the tow service arrives.
3. Have all the data
Make use of technology by ensuring your phone has GPS. Some tow services also have apps that can help you to communicate your location so that they can reach you speedily. It's important to make arrangements for tow services if they are not provided for in your insurance or auto-service shop.
When calling the tow-service, the more details you have, the easier it will be to send you the right assistance. For instance, if you're out of fuel, they can come with some rather than get to you then go back for it. You should have the following details within reach:
Vehicle information – model, make, body style and year (this determines the towing method). Also mention any special modifications such as trailers
Load information – any special/sensitive cargo, number of passengers, passengers with special needs e.g. using wheelchairs.
Problem – if you know or can safely check, give details on what you think the problem is. If not, just tell them what happened shortly before the breakdown
Finally, have your phone on and close (or give all details if your battery is low) so that the service can communicate when there are delays or they need additional information. If you change locations for any reason, always notify the tow-service in advance.