The worst has happened. Your car has kicked out in the middle of the road. Maybe the engine spluttered, clunked and finally gave out. Maybe you heard a huge pop and now your tyre’s blown. Maybe all the electrics powered down and you the car began its slow crawl to embarrassment at the side of the road.
Worst of all, you don’t know what happened, but you’re on the hard shoulder in the middle of nowhere wondering what on earth to do. You’re lost in the south of England and worried that your next stop is a car scrap in Surrey.
Thanks to Stephen Clarkson for the image.
Make sure you’re safely off the road
If you managed to coast into the hard shoulder, great. If you can, coast to a straight part of the road. Being parked on a bend is bad news. Put your hazard lights on. If your hazards are dead then try a white cloth or piece of white paper out of the driver’s window. (Sounds weird but it’ll be more visible than you think). Finally, if you’ve got reflective markers put them a good few meters either side of your car. Especially if it’s dark.
See if you can fix it
Most breakdowns at the side of the road are fairly easy to fix (so long as you’re prepared). The most likely problems are:
- Your battery’s gone.
- Flat tyre.
- Over-heated engine
- You’ve run out of petrol
Your battery can die for a number of reasons (leaving headlights running, lack of maintenance, not starting a car for a long time or just low temperatures). You should check it regularly with a voltmeter and make sure you’re not heading into danger. Keep a charger with you at all times too. If you’ve got one, problem solved, give it a charge and off you go.
If you haven’t, you’ll need to jump start it. Call a friend of try flagging down another driver. Connect your batteries with the jump leads, let the healthy car run for a while and then try kick starting yours. It should work after a few tries.
Always pay attention when your dad teaches you how to change a tyre! The knowledge is passed down from father to son and it’ll serve you well. Practice changing a tyre at home and always keep a spare and a jack on the road. When the worst happens, you’ll be prepared.
This often happens in older cars. Especially if you’ve been stuck in traffic on a hot day. You should feel this one coming on. The warning light will kick on and you might see steam rising from the bonnet. Get to the side of the road quickly and let it cool off.
You’ve ran out of petrol
Or perhaps it’s an electric car and you’ve run out of power. This happens to the best of us. You think you can make it that extra couple of miles but you just can’t. I’m afraid you’ve got a walk of shame with a petrol can ahead of you, my friend.
If it’s none of these things, you could be in for some trouble. Please make sure that you’ve got breakdown cover and help will soon be on its way.