car breaks down side of road

10 steps to take if your car breaks down on the side of the road

It happens to almost everyone at some point. No matter how new your car is or how recently it has been serviced, things can still go wrong. Sometimes you just end up stranded on the side of the road due to car trouble – leaving you a little puzzled at what to do.

car breaks down side of road - 10 Steps To Take If Your Car Breaks Down On The Side Of The Road (1)

Here are 10 steps to take if your car breaks down on the road

  1. Don’t panic and slam on your brakes or make a sudden lane change.
  2. Turn on hazard lights and carefully drive to the closest safe spot.
  3. Once off the road engage your parking brake and turn wheels away from traffic.
  4. Make yourself visible with reflective triangles or emergency lights.
  5. If it is just a flat tire, only repair if you are able to do so safely.
  6. If your vehicle is beyond repair, call roadside assistance or a tow truck.
  7. If you have no cell service, wait for help to find you.
  8. Raise your hood and tie something white to the antenna to signal for help.
  9. Only walk somewhere for help if you know where you are going.
  10. While you wait for assistance, stay as far from the road as possible, while visible to traffic.


If it seems like a daunting task, because it is. No one wants to be in this situation and it should be treated as an emergency in order to keep you and everyone else on the road safe. The most important thing to remember is not to panic while you move yourself and your vehicle carefully and calmly. In this article, we will go a little deeper into the steps you need to take so that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll handle it like a professional.

What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down On The Side Of The Road

We said it once and we’ll say it again, don’t panic. You got this. If you follow the steps outlined above, everything will turn out just fine. The most important things to consider are your safety, the safety of your passengers, and of everyone else on the road with you.

Luckily, most roadways are set up with turn off lanes, shoulders, or have some flat area that you can pull onto when your car starts to have trouble. Remember, take it slow.

How Can Mach 1 Roadside Assistance Help?

Mach 1 Roadside Assistance is the first of its kind: A roadside assistance app for mobile. The true beauty of the app is that it requires no subscription plan, you only pay when you use their services, so you’re not paying a monthly premium to keep the service just in case.

You don’t need to worry about your subscription lapsing on you if you do happen to need assistance. They are there when you need them. Mach 1 can help with nearly any problem your car can have, even when help seems out of sight. They offer services that can help with…

Mach 1 uses GPS and mapping technology so that no matter where you break down, help can find you. The app also offers in-app communication so that you know where the tow truck is at and when help will arrive.

They do the work for you by dispatching the closest, vetted service provider. It truly is a one-stop-shop for roadside assistance. For more details on their services and how to get the app, check out their website.

What if you don’t have roadside assistance? That article will help!

10 Steps To Take If Your Car Breaks Down On The Side Of The Road

Now we know what app to use for the best roadside assistance, so let’s take a look at what is required of you when a problem strikes. At the first sign of a problem with your vehicle, it is all on you.

Don’t panic.

When something goes wrong with your vehicle while you’re on the road, you’ll feel it. If a tire blows, or the engine starts to overheat it is pretty noticeable to the person driving the car. As soon as you notice that something has gone wrong you need to focus. Resist any urge to panic and slam on the brakes or pull your car into the next lane in order to get to safety.

Take your foot off the accelerator and signal your intention with your blinkers if you need to change lanes. Your main goal right now is to safely get to the side of the road and pull off.

Turn On Your Hazard Lights

Once you are to the side of the road, turn on those hazard lights. This will signal to other drivers that your car is not working right and they should do their best to give you space to get to safety. It also tells people that you more than likely need some help.

Once you’re off the road, make sure you get your car as far off the road as possible without getting into more trouble. Watch out for mud, sand, water, or gravel on the roadside that you could sink into and make things far worse. Also, be careful of embankments and drop-offs.

Engage Your Parking Brake

Once you’ve reached safety and managed to stop your car, engage that parking brake. The last thing you want at this stage is for your car to roll away, possibly into traffic. To put another buffer of safety around you, turn your wheels away from the roadway so that if the parking brake fails, your car rolls away from the roadway. The more you can do to protect yourself, others, and your vehicle, the better.

Make Yourself Visible

You’ve already turned on your hazard lights, you’ve driven your car to the safest possible area, and you’ve turned your tires and pulled the parking brake. Now, your next task is to make sure you are as visible as possible to others on the road and for when help arrives. In order to do this, you’re going to need to get out of the car and you need to make doubly sure that it is entirely safe to do so.

You’ll need to set up whatever type of emergency signals you have in your vehicle, which may be reflective triangles that you set on the road behind your car, LED flashers that you can set on the trunk or the roof, or emergency flares if necessary.

If It Is A Flat Tire

If you are capable and comfortable with changing a flat, and you have the necessary equipment, only do so if you are certain that you can make the repair safely. If you are able to get far enough away from traffic, make sure the ground is stable enough for you to use your emergency lift. Learn how to change a flat tire in that link!

Uneven ground can cause slippage and that would only make things a thousand times worse. If it isn’t safe to change a tire, you can call someone to change your flat tire and wait for assistance. Whatever service charges you’ll accrue are worth the added security.

Call For Assistance

If your car is beyond repair, you’re going to need some professional help. Once all of your safety measures are in place it is time to call for assistance. If you have Mach 1 or other roadside assistance services provided by your insurance company, you will need to use the app, or give them a call.

Don’t try to flag down other vehicles for help as that could cause an accident, and that’s the last thing anyone needs.

If You have No Service, Wait For Help

Unfortunately, there are still parts of the country that have shoddy cell service or none at all. Maybe you just forgot to charge your phone. That’s on you, bud. Whatever the reason, if you can’t get through to anyone on the phone, your best option is to hold tight. Waiting in one spot may seem counterintuitive, but it is the safest way to get some assistance. If someone does pull over and offer assistance, ask them to call for help if possible. Otherwise, your best, and safest bet is to wait for help and go onto the next step.

Raise Your Hood And Make A Flag

A raised hood is a good signal that someone is in need of help. To boost your signal even further, you should tie something white to your antenna or place it in the driver’s side window if your car lacks an antenna.

It can be anything from a napkin to a sock or a rag if you’ve got one. Whatever you can use to create a white flag will help alert others to your predicament. An automobile with a white flag and a raised hood will let any passing police officers or service professionals that you need help.

Only Walk If Absolutely Necessary

If chances are slim that anyone will drive by, you may need to take action into your own hands, or rather, your own feet. If your problem is that you’ve run out of gas, and you can see a gas station up the road, you may be able to rescue yourself fairly easily. Just make sure to proceed with utmost caution if there’s traffic or you have to cross roadways.

Make sure that your vehicle is secure and your safety measures and signals are all in place. If you have to walk far enough that you will be away from your vehicle for some time, leave a note fixed to the window if possible so that if emergency personnel does show up, they will know to wait, or where to go to find you.

Wait Safely

If all there is left to do is wait, you need to make sure you do it safely. Stay off the road and away from your vehicle but maintain your visibility from the road.

(A lot of the things you need during a break down can be found in a roadside safety kit!)

What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down At Night?

If you happen to a breakdown in the dark, it is important to follow all of the safety steps with added caution. It is always a good idea to keep a flashlight of some kind in your glove compartment for such emergencies.

Take extra caution when pulling your car off the road and look for hazards on the roadside that might be difficult to see. Make sure you go above and beyond to make yourself and your vehicle illuminated and visible. If possible keep your vehicle running to use the interior lights. Keep an eye on your surroundings and don’t wander too far from your vehicle.

Do You Call 911 If Your Car Breaks Down?

If you have roadside assistance, you should call them immediately. If you don’t, you should call a tow truck. If that isn’t an option, then you should call 911. Emergency responders will be able to help with the problem or contact services for you.

Keep in mind that if there is an injury, illness, or some other emergency, such as a vehicle fire, you should call 911 straight away.

A car breakdown is a major inconvenience but it doesn’t need to turn into an emergency situation. If you are prepared, calm, and have the added security of a roadside assistance program, you should be able to handle a breakdown, no sweat.

Sometimes, a simple trip inspection report will make sure that you get to your destination safely.