What to do if your car breaks down

This video will show you how to handle an unexpected vehicle breakdown.

A vehicle breakdown can be dangerous if it happens on a busy road. If this happens to you, there are several things you can do to stay safe.

Get off the road

If your car engine is stalling or has died, or you have a flat tire, your first move should be to get your car to a safe spot if you can. Avoid the temptation to slam on the brakes and instead use your momentum to safely edge to the side of the road. Using emergency blinkers, try to find a spot on the shoulder away from any curves behind you.

If your car dies on the highway and you can't make it to a shoulder, turn on your emergency blinkers and stay in your car. Crossing a high-speed highway is more dangerous than sitting in your car.

Stay safe when breakdowns happen

If you've made it to the side of the road or are still in the road, there are several steps you can take to stay safe, including:

  • Turn on your emergency blinkers.
  • Activate your emergency brake.
  • Secure a hanging white piece of cloth or paper in the window.
  • Call for help – if you don't have the number for a local towing company or roadside assistance, call 911.

On the shoulder after a breakdown

If you've made it to a safe spot on the side of the road and traffic is clear, you should:

  • Pop the hood of your car.
  • Place reflective triangles, cones or flares, if you have them, behind your vehicle.
  • Turn on your car's interior lights if you don't have markers.
  • Move a safe distance away from your car if you see smoke or flames.

Things not to do when your car breaks down

For safety, there are several things you should not do including:

  • Changing a tire that is on the side of traffic.
  • Checking for damage on a busy highway.
  • Standing on the shoulder of the road – it's safer to remain buckled in your car unless there is smoke or flames.

Watch the video below to learn more about how you can stay safe if your car breaks down.


Video Transcript

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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