What To Do If You Break Down On The Motorway
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What To Do If You Break Down On The Motorway

No one likes an unexpected breakdown, and the motorway is perhaps the scariest place to do so. With higher speeds, more vehicles and three lanes to manoeuvre; not acting fast can result in you becoming stranded on the road.

Different situations should also encourage different reactions, a warning light is not always a reason to pull over instantly; and smart motorways are an entirely different beast.

Find out more about what to do if you break down on the motorway dependant on the problem you are experiencing, along with tips on preventing breakdowns.

Burst or Punctured Tyre

A burst or punctured tyre is perhaps the most common and dangerous drivers may face on the motorway. A puncture is often prompted early by a low-pressure warning light, this is a warning light you should always pull over safely and investigate.

If the puncture does occur, you should aim to do the following:

  1. Switch on your hazard lights to let driver behind you know you are about to pull over or stop.
  2. Make your way over to the hard shoulder – keep your hazard lights on and check your mirrors before moving over. Your car may start to weave or pull off to one side so ensure you move gradually over.
  3. Be cautious of any slip roads where traffic may be joining the motorway, also be aware of HGVs travelling slowly in the left-hand
  4. Once you are safely pulled over, assess your tyre, call a breakdown recovery company and wait behind the barrier.

Autocare Tip: When pulled over, keep your tyres turned to the left! This way in the unlikely event of your vehicle being hit it will be propelled into the barrier as opposed to into traffic.

Power Failure

In the event of your vehicles battery, power steering or ABS dying, you will need to act fast to ensure that you don’t end up stranded in lane. If you do notice any of these warning lights appearing, you should aim to do the following:

  1. Switch your hazard lights on, check your mirrors to assess the traffic around and behind you.
  2. Begin to make your way over to the hard shoulder, power failure issues can result in your vehicle not driving as you are used to so be extra cautious.
  3. Once pulled over safely on the hard shoulder, assess the issue and call a breakdown recovery company; remember to wait outside of the vehicle behind the barrier.

In the event of a complete failure in the fast lane, you should keep your hazards on and move over to the edge of the lane. You should then remain calm and call 999 – they will be able to get a traffic officer out to you.

Warning Lights

Warning lights are a heads up that something is not right with your vehicle. Sometimes they are ignored by drivers, but in some cases, panicking can make situations worse. If a warning light comes on whilst you’re driving on the motorway you should aim to do the following:

If you notice no underperformance with your vehicle, there is probably no reason to be alarmed – pull over at the nearest service station and consult your vehicles handbook.

If you begin to notice underperformance such as loss of power or control, pull over on the hard shoulder to assess the issue.

Preventing the Risk of Breakdowns on the Motorway

  • Stick to the speed limit (70 mph).
  • Drive in the left most-lane whenever you reasonably and safely can – doing this makes your journey to the hard shoulder quicker than if in the fast right lane.
  • Drive safe!
  • Make sure your tyres are properly pumped up before long journeys.

Breaking Down on a Smart Motorway

Smart motorways, unlike regular motorways, do not have hard shoulders, they instead have emergency refuge areas every 1.5 miles.

If you find yourself breaking down on a smart motorway you should aim to get to one of these emergency refuge areas and use the emergency telephone to alert the relevant authority – these refuge areas are constantly monitored by CCTV so a traffic officer should come to your aid promptly.

If you are unable to get to a refuge point, you should put your hazard lights on and move over to the left-hand lane if it is safe to do so. At this point you should attempt to contact the authorities, smart motorways are under constant surveillance so remain calm and do not attempt leave your vehicle.

Reduce the Chances of Unexpected Breakdown with Autocare

The most effective way of preventing breakdowns on the motorway is through proper care and maintenance.  At Autocare, we provide servicing, repair and maintenance for all makes and models of cars and vans within the Chepstow area; why not give one of our team a call on 01291 627137


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  • Jonny
    September 14, 2018, 4:27 pm REPLY

    Always hated driving on the motorway – some great tips here for any drivers who might also be nervous!

  • Erwin Magalang
    November 26, 2018, 4:04 pm REPLY

    You made a good point when you say that auto car reduces the chances of unexpected breakdowns. Keeping up with your car’s maintenance schedule is an extremely important part of keeping your car at its best performance. Getting your car serviced regularly keeps almost all of the parts working together correctly as well as putting it to its best performance making it less likely to break down unexpectedly on the road. Auto care, in general, will not just lessen your chances of a car breakdown, but also it can save you money and keep you safe on the road. I will surely share this with my friends.

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