What to do when your car breaks down

By Allstate

Last updated: August 2022

Having car trouble can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be a safety issue if you're already on the road. Here are some tips that may help keep you and your passengers safe if your car breaks down or you get a flat tire.

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1. Turn on your hazard/emergency lights

Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers as soon as you sense something's wrong. Keep them on until help arrives, recommends the National Motorists Association (NMA).

2. Slow down and pull off the road

Aim for the right shoulder of the road. Consumer reports recommends that you pull over to a safe, flat location that is as far away from moving traffic as possible.

3. Turn your wheels away from the road and put on the emergency brake

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends pulling your emergency brake, sometimes called the parking brake. If you have to park on a hill or slope, turn the car's wheels away from the road to help prevent the care from rolling into traffic, says the California DMV.

4. Stay in your vehicle

If you're on a highway or crowded road, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that you avoid getting out of your vehicle to look at the damage or fix a mechanical problem. If you need to get out of the car, get your vehicle to a safe place and make sure the road around you is completely clear. If you're stopped on the right-hand side of the road, get out through the passenger-side door.

5. Be visible

Once you're safely out of the vehicle, prop up your hood to let other drivers know they should proceed with caution. This will alert other drivers that you're broken down, according to the NMA.

6. Set up flares or triangles

Place flares or triangles with reflectors behind your car to alert other drivers to the location where you've stopped, says the III.

7. Call for help

Call or use an app to get a tow truck, mechanic or roadside assistance with your insurance company or other provider to help. If you're in an emergency situation or are not sure who to contact, call 911 or the local police for help.

Consider a roadside assistance membership plan

Before you find yourself in a tough situation, you may want to consider getting roadside assistance. Knowing you'll have help in case of a breakdown, or another unexpected car issue can offer peace of mind. Roadside assistance plans may provide services like:

  • Towing
  • Jump starts
  • Fuel delivery
  • Lockout services

You may be able to purchase roadside assistance from your car insurance company or from an independent provider.

It's important to be prepared for the unexpected, especially on the road. Hopefully you'll avoid any bumps in the road, but it's helpful to know what to do just in case.