There’s not much that motorists dread more than a winter car breakdown. Nobody wants to be stuck on the side of the road in darkness and freezing weather waiting for the recovery service to arrive. Although car breakdowns occur less frequently than in the past, they do still happen, so it’s important to know what to do if you find yourself stranded. Here are our top tips for staying safe in the event of a breakdown.
If at all possible, get your vehicle off the road, or onto the hard shoulder if you’re on a motorway. Stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left. Watch out for soft verges – you don’t want your car to get stuck in mud as well!
Put your hazard warning lights on to indicate to other motorists that your vehicle is stationary. If it’s dark or foggy, it’s also a good idea to leave our sidelights on to ensure your car is visible.
Keep as far away from moving traffic as you can – getting out the car is normally advised. Wait behind a barrier or, if on the motorway, move up the bank. Animals, however, should be left in the car for safety.
Breakdown kits are useful in an emergency – indeed, they are required by law in some countries. Put on a reflective vest or jacket to ensure you ca be seen and if it’s safe, set up a warning triangle at least 45m behind your vehicle. Warning triangles should not be used on a motorway or hard shoulder though, as they can pose more of a risk than they deter.
Give your recovery service a call as soon as possible. If you are with your family or a woman by yourself, it’s advisable to let them know this, as many recovery services prioritise families and women travelling alone. If you don’t have a mobile phone or your phone’s battery is dead, walk to the nearest emergency phone. On the motorway, you can find these by following the arrows mounted on posts on the hard shoulder. Emergency phones are free to use and connect directly to the police.
There are a number of things you can keep in your vehicle to take the edge off if you’re in a winter car breakdown. A blanket can help keep you warm, and ensuring there are snacks and drinks in the cabin means you can sustain yourself if there’s a long wait for the recovery service.
A torch with spare batteries is also valuable in winter as the days are short and darkness can set in quickly. Think about popping a small shovel in the boot and an ice scraper in the driver’s side door pocket too.