What to Do if You Have a Car Breakdown Away From Home

If your car breaks down, make sure you pull over to a safe location before you call roadside assistance services or a towing company. Handle out-of-town breakdowns by following these steps.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
If your car breaks down, the first thing to do is pull over to a safe location and put your hazard lights on to reduce the chance of an accident.
Road trips can be a lot of fun when you're exploring new places and avoiding the hassle of airport security lines, but taking your car out of town can also be a little stressful when you consider potential breakdowns and vehicle malfunctions.
Breakdowns near home or the city you live in are often easier to cope with because you know the area and likely have a trusted mechanic nearby. If your car breaks down while you're out of town, you have to follow a slightly different playbook.
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What to do when your car breaks down

Get to a safe area where people can see you

Step 1: Get to a safe area first. If your car breaks down or starts showing signs of a mechanical issue, it’s important to act quickly to find a safe area.
If you are traveling on the freeway, it’s helpful to pull off on a nearby exit if possible. If there isn’t an exit nearby, then pull off on the side of the road in a visible area.
Avoid an area directly after a turn or hill because it will be more difficult for other motorists to see you.
Step 2: Be visible. Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights to let others know that you are experiencing a problem.
Step 3: Turn off your vehicle. You don’t want to keep your car running if it is having a maintenance issue or overheating. Turn off the car but remain inside until help arrives.
If it is unsafe to remain inside the vehicle (such as if your car has caught fire), move yourself and any passengers to a safe place away from the road and the vehicle while you call for help. If you have
road flares
and they would be appropriate to use, place them at this point.

Who to call if your car breaks down

Step 1: Call 911 in an emergency. If your car breakdown is putting you or others in danger, then it is important to contact emergency services. Call 911 to get help quickly.
Step 2: Call roadside assistance or a towing company. If you have roadside assistance coverage, you can contact your provider using the information on your membership card.
If not, you can use your phone’s internet access to find a local
If neither of these are an option for you, then call the police, let them know it is a non-emergency and that you need a tow truck.
Step 3: Be ready with specific location information. Be prepared to answer information about where you are located.
If you are on the freeway then you can use mile markers as a guide. If not, you can look for the nearest cross street.

Make a backup plan

Step 1: Determine how serious the problem is. If the issue is a simple fix and you contacted roadside assistance, then you should be able to get back on the road shortly.
If the problem is more serious, then you might need to come up with a backup plan. Have your car towed to a local mechanic and communicate them about the repair.
Step 2: Find a place to stay and a method of transportation. If your car needs more serious repairs, then you will want to find a place to stay and a way to get around. Find a local hotel and a rental car company while you wait.
Your insurance coverage might include the cost of a rental car if your car is going to be unusable for a period of time. Contact your agent for more information if needed.
Car breakdowns are stressful situations, but if you remain calm and focus on your safety, you should manage everything just fine.
It’s always a good idea to carry an emergency kit in your car in the event of unexpected car trouble. Your emergency kit could include a flare or triangle, flashlight, jumper cables, tow rope, battery charger, and drinking water. Being prepared will help ease the stress when car trouble happens unexpectedly.


How often does a car breakdown?

Car breakdowns aren't incredibly common, but it'll probably happen to you at some point. If you have an older car or a vehicle with a history of malfunctions, it's more likely that your car won't be able to make a long roadtrip without breaking down.
If you have a safe reliable car, you should probably make sure you have roadside assistance coverage anyway–you never know when disaster will strike.

How much is roadside assistance coverage?

Roadside assistance coverage costs anywhere from $14 with GEICO to $100 a year with OnStar. The costs will depend on how much coverage you get and what services are offered.
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