Survival Guide: What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

Madness due to broken car

Despite the fact that breakdowns happen to the best of us, it seems to catch most people completely off guard.

Most of the time a breakdown makes for a highly stressful situation – especially if your car is on a highway, in the middle of nowhere, it’s night time, or you’re completely alone.

It’s in these situations that common sense flies out the window and people can become so disoriented that they do things like let their kids wander around the car or leave the vehicle in the middle of an intersection – slip ups that can be seriously dangerous, and even fatal, mistakes.

So we’ve put together a survival guide for you, top tips for when your car breaks down…

1. Get out of the way

Too often in the stress of a breakdown people leave their car at a petrol bowser, forget to roll their car out of a dangerous intersection or let their kids wander onto busy roads.

If you’ve had a breakdown, the first step is always to get your car, your passengers and yourself out of the way of danger. If you hear your car stuttering or stalling, turn on your hazard lights and move to the side of the road as far left as possible, keeping your wheels turned to the left. If you’re on a highway or a busy street, try and take the next exit and get the car to a quieter street. If you can’t, attempt to move your car to a safe shoulder with a call box.

Worst case scenario, if you’re stuck in the middle of a lane and your car won’t go any further you will have to wait in your car. You’ll get beeped at, but they’ll just have to get over it.

Note: Many people don’t realise that if your tyres are flat you can still drive. The same rule applies: get your car to a safe place.                                                          

2. Be visible

At night turn on your headlights and interior lights for visibility. If possible, also keep your car running to prevent your lights from draining the battery. If it’s safe, get out of your car and lift the bonnet. This alerts passing patrols, tow truck operators and even other motorists that you’re broken down and you may be lucky enough to have someone stop and help.

3. Stay safe

On a busy highway or in busy traffic, don’t get out of your vehicle unless it’s safe to do so from the passenger side. You shouldn’t have to cross any lanes and you should be able to remove yourself from the road and the situation.

If you’re stuck in busy traffic, the safest place is inside your car with your seatbelt on. It’s a sad fact that many people have been killed trying to get out of their cars or attempting to fix a problem on the driver’s side (such as changing a tyre).

The exception to this is when you’re on a bend. An unsuspecting car (or semi) might not be able to stop in time. If this is the case, assess the external situation. Is there a barricade you can stand behind? Is there a good clearance area? If so, get out of the car from the passenger side and get as far away from the traffic as possible.

4. Call roadside assistance

Call roadside assistance and describe your situation. If you have a flat tyre on the driver’s side and you’re in the line of fast traffic, they won’t attend to your vehicle as it’s considered unsafe. Instead they’ll call a tow truck to take you somewhere safe to repair the vehicle.

Even if you don’t have roadside assistance at the time of the breakdown, you can generally join on the spot by paying a premium. If your car can’t be restarted on the spot they’ll call a tow truck anyway, so you might want to weigh up whether you pay the premium to join or call a towing company directly.

If you don’t have a working phone on you, then look for those call boxes that are on the side of major highways. If it’s daytime and you can safely walk beside the highway, try and get to the nearest call box on your side of the road. Don’t ever cross the highway though, it’s far too dangerous.


When it comes to car breakdowns, most people put their head in the sand and assume it just won’t happen to them. It does happen though – every single day! Be prepared and hopefully you will avoid finding yourself in an overly stressful situation.

For tips on how to avoid a breakdown check out the Blue Toro Blog



Written by Janelle Gonzalez

Corporate escapee and mechanic’s wife Janelle Gonzalez has spent the last 24 years in garages, pit lanes and on road trips. Living a double life - corporate by weekday, trackside on the weekends - she shares her husband’s passion for cars. She has now turned her skills to building Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise. Her mission is to help Australians trust mechanics by educating car owners and returning to good old fashioned service values, while changing the lives of mechanics and their families.

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