Imagine you are breezing down the highway, right on schedule for your next appointment. Suddenly, your engine splutters, you see smoke coming from your hood, or your ride become very bumpy. You know that something is wrong and that you need to check it out immediately. Before you panic, here are the first four steps to take when your car breaks down on the highway.
Get Off the Road as Quickly and Safely as Possible
As soon as your vehicle gives any indication of trouble, get off the right-hand lane of the road as soon as possible. This is especially important if you are traveling along a highway, because other motorists will likely be driving at over 70mph. Gently let off the accelerator, signal for a lane change, and calmly make your way to the breakdown lane. Avoid braking or veering abruptly, otherwise you will easily lose control of the car and cause other motorists to panic as well. If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of having your engine die right on the highway and you cannot get off to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights and remain in your car. Only exit your car and move quickly to the hard shoulder when you are completely sure it is safe to do so.
Make Yourself and Your Stopped Car Visible
In addition to getting out of the way of traffic, it is important to signal to other motorists on the road that your car is in trouble and is not moving. If it is daytime, make sure you turn on your emergency lights to alert drivers that your car has stopped. However, after dark, it is dangerous to just turn on your emergency lights. The low visibility may cause drivers coming up behind you to assume your vehicle is still moving, which could result in them rear-ending your car. Once it is dark out, turn on your car’s interior light as well to increase your visibility. If you have them, make sure you place highway flares or reflective markers about six feet behind your car to alert oncoming traffic. Finally, it’s a good idea to hang a white piece of cloth outside of the window, as this will signal to other motorists, police officers, or tow truck operators that you need assistance.
Attempt to Call for Help
Because it is dangerous to attempt repairs on your car when you are pulled over on a busy highway, it is recommended that you call highway patrol or your Roadside Assistance program on your cellphone as soon as you have stopped your vehicle. If your vehicle is equipped with an emergency assistance feature, use it to call a live operator so that they can send for help. If this is not possible, you do not have a cellphone, or are in an area with no reception, try to see if there is an emergency call box nearby. If it is close enough for you to access safely, use the call box for help and go back in your car to wait for assistance to arrive. If you have no other option, hang the white cloth or paper out of your window and wait for highway patrol to arrive. The good news is that all interstate highways and most major roads are patrolled on a regular basis, so you should not have to wait too long for rescue.
Figure out the Problem and Attempt Repairs Only if it is Safe and Possible to do so
It is possible to attempt repairs once you are safely off the highway. However, never work on the side of the vehicle that is exposed to traffic. If possible, you can try maneuvering your car on the breakdown lane or coax it further off the road to a safer place. Otherwise, it is safer to just wait for professional assistance. Remember that your safety comes first, and so if you do not feel comfortable or confident attempting repairs, it is always a better idea to wait for help. Lock your doors while you wait for police officers or highway patrol. At the end of the day, one of the best pieces of advice to follow is to always be prepared when you are traveling, especially if you know that it will be a long journey. You never know what may happen to your car when you are on the road. Therefore, it is a good idea to fully charge your cellphone before leaving, keep a spare tire and tools in your trunk, and pack emergency supplies such as matches, flares, a first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food items. Finally, remember to stay calm and stay safe.
Heather is a mother of two and works from home writing on her blog about her adventures as a mother, she also writes for travel sites, and care rental sites such as Hertz car sales site Hertzcarsales.com