What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down on the Highway

What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down on the Highway

Few things are more inconvenient or frustrating than having your car break down on a busy interstate or road. Not only does it affect your schedule, but it could be expensive calling for roadside assistance, especially if you do not have a breakdown kit. Then there’s the added stress of dealing with other drivers and disrupting the flow of traffic when you happen to breakdown on a highway.

If you spend enough time driving a vehicle, the odds are that you’ll eventually experience some type of car break down. And, if you’re unlucky enough to have your car break down on a busy road or interstate, it’s important that you proceed with caution and take smart, calculated steps towards remediating the situation to keep yourself and other driver’s lives out of danger. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Move to Safety

When your car breaks down on the highway, it’s not just inconvenient – it can also be extremely dangerous. Vehicles are whizzing past and may not know that your vehicle is standing still. This can result in a direct collision, accidents with other vehicles, and traffic jams. This is why you need a car breakdown cover, as it will help alleviate some of the burden off yourself if your stalled vehicle causes a minor accident..

Assuming that you’re physically okay, your first priority should be to pull your vehicle over to a safe spot – such as a shoulder, median, or curb. Turn on your hazard lights and attempt to get over when there’s a break in traffic. When your car breaks down and won’t start, you may need some help from a passenger or good Samaritan to push the vehicle while it’s in neutral.

In addition to turning on hazard lights, you may use reflectors, flares, or other bright objects that draw attention towards your vehicle and warn people to slow down and proceed with caution. Thankfully, most of these items can be found in a breakdown kit.

2. Identify the Problem

Once you’re in a safe place and out of the way of traffic, you should attempt to identify the problem. While car breakdowns can result from any number of issues; the most common reasons for a breakdowninclude:

  • Faulty battery

Car batteries don’t last forever. If you’re only driving short distances, your engine might not have enough time to recharge the battery properly. This could cause it to die at an inconvenient time and cause a breakdown on a highway. Or it could be that your battery needs to be replaced altogether. Using jumper cables that can be found in a breakdown kit to jumpstart the battery may momentarily fix your issue and give you time to reach a mechanic.

  • Empty fuel tank

It’s possible that you weren’t paying attention to your fuel level and your vehicle ran out of gasoline. Assuming there’s a gas station nearby, this is an easy fix. On the off chance that there is not a gas station close to your location, you can always call roadside assistance to help you get to the nearest gas station to refill your tank, usually this cost can be reduced when you have a breakdown cover plan.

  • Alternator issues

Failing alternators are a fairly common reason for a car to breakdown on a highway. They’re typically preceded by a red warning light on the dashboard, as well as quick loss of battery power and/or rising engine temperatures.

  • Flat tire

Your engine may be running fine. It could be that you have a flat tire, which is preventing you from driving safely and properly. Putting on a spare tire will give you some time to find a more permanent replacement, do not .

  • Broken clutch cable

If you have a manual vehicle, it’s possible that your clutch cable will wear thin. Eventually this will lead to your clutch cable failing, which prevents you from safely shifting gears. If it breaks completely, you’ll need a tow to the nearest auto shop, if you have a car break down cover, this cost may be lowered based on your coverage plan.

  • Clogged fuel filter

“A clogged fuel filter is the main cause of a car dying as it is driven down the road,” Tatotech explains. “Your car’s engine needs fuel in order to make it run. Over time, the filter for the fuel can become clogged with contaminates that enter your gas tank when you are adding gasoline. This clogging causes a blockage in the flow of gasoline, and that lack of gas will cause your car’s engine to stop running.” If your car breaks down on the highway, you may need to replace your fuel filter with a new one in order to free the blockage and get your engine running again.

If you don’t know much about cars, it’s wise to call a towing company or mechanic to you. You can also utilize a roadside assistance service, which can be expensive if you do not have a car breakdown cover. Fishing around for a problem (when you’re unsure of what’s wrong) can actually make the underlying issue worse.

Related: 12 Amazing Car Care Tips You Should Know About

3. Call for Assistance

If you can’t immediately diagnose and fix the problem, you’ll need to come up with a different plan if your car breaks down. It’s also important to place a call to a towing company as soon as possible. If you’re in the middle of rush hour traffic or some other busy period, having assistance on site as soon as possible will prove to be extremely helpful.

Wait with your vehicle for roadside assistance to arrive and then have the tow company take you to a nearby mechanic or auto shop to correctly diagnose and solve the issue. If you’re unsure about the price they provide you with, feel free to call another auto shop and ask for a quote on the same repairs. You’ll find that prices often vary dramatically from one shop to the next.

4. Prepare for and Prevent Future Problems

One breakdown is enough. After fixing the issue, your priority should be to prepare for and prevent future problems like this from occurring. In addition to investing in preventative maintenance and car breakdown cover plans, it’s wise to keep items like these in your vehicle at all times:

  • Phone charger
  • Vehicle manual
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire-pressure gauge
  • Engine coolant
  • Engine oil
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Basic tool kit

The more prepared you are, the less likely it is that you’ll run into a situation that you can’t handle.

Related: How to Safely Drive Through a Tire Blowout

Personal Safety Comes First

When your vehicle breaks down on a busy road, your immediate reaction is, “Oh, no! My car!” But it’s even scarier to have a breakdown on a less traveled road. And, while it’s natural to be worried about your vehicle, personal safety should always be your first priority.

A car is nothing more than an expensive assortment of metal and mechanical components. No matter how expensive, a car can always be fixed or replaced. You, on the other hand, only have one life. If you ever feel endangered or that your life is at-risk, stay in your car, lock the doors, and call for help. By waiting until help arrives, you’ll lessen your chances of being hurt or targeted. Keep this in mind as you encounter situations like these in the future.

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