What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down on the Highway

man talking on side of the highway next to broken down car

Vacations, weekend getaways, and day trips are go-to activities in the warmer months. Yet, more driving means more chances of a breakdown.

How would you handle it if you set out for the beach but wound up with a broken down vehicle on the side of the road? A little preparation and some basic knowledge will help if bad automotive luck strikes you. Learn what to do if your car breaks down on the highway.

Before a Breakdown: Prepare

Keep Up with Regular Maintenance

Prevention is the best medicine. Keep your car’s maintenance up-to-date by booking regular service appointments at Firestone Complete Auto Care. Pay special attention to preventative maintenance for the most common car problems if you’re traveling in the heat of the season. Our technicians can diagnose and correct issues before they ruin your day.

Inspect Your Vehicle Regularly

Check your vehicle periodically and before long trips. Perform a walkaround inspection, check fluid levels, evaluate windshield wiper condition, and ensure your vehicle has no safety recalls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. You can also help stop problems before they happen with a free car inspection at your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Even with meticulously maintained cars, breakdowns happen. This is why it’s essential to keep an emergency toolkit in your vehicle. According to the NHTSA, a cell phone is the most crucial component. It’s your lifeline to help. A well-rounded kit will also include:

  • Phone charger/extra battery
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares and white flag
  • Jumper cables
  • Jack and ground mat
  • Work gloves and change of clothes
  • Basic repair tools and duct tape
  • Water and paper towels
  • Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets, towels, and coats

During a Breakdown: Don’t Panic

Brake with Caution

Don’t slam on the brakes. Don’t crank the steering wheel. Instead, slowly take your foot off the gas and decelerate. If your car is functional enough to maneuver, guide it off the road. The last thing you need is to be rear-ended or deal with the stress of angry drivers honking their horns.

Exit the Highway

If possible, exit the highway and find a parking lot or other open area free of traffic. If an exit isn’t close, or the degree of vehicle damage impacts your ability to maneuver, determine the best possible alternative.

Avoid the left side of the road, which exposes you to the fast-moving traffic in the passing lane. Instead, pull onto the aptly-named “breakdown lane” on the right. Look for wider shoulders and straightaways. Avoid pulling off on bridges or along sharp curves.

Take a Moment to Breathe

You are probably frustrated. Fun in the sun just turned into a day of dealing with car trouble on the side of the highway. Worrying won’t get the car to start moving (or the kid’s to stop pouting) so take a moment and let yourself breathe. Inhale, exhale, and evaluate the problem at hand. You got this.

Stay Visible

Stay within clear view of other drivers, especially when it is dark or rainy. Set out road flares or emergency triangles, and turn on both your hazard lights and interior dome lights! These steps will alert oncoming traffic to your disabled vehicle, allowing them ample time to slow down and give you space to maneuver, change your tire, or just wait for roadside assistance.

If possible, open the hood and affix a white flag or something brightly colored to your antenna or window. Such displays allow police and other emergency personnel to identify your vehicle as one that has broken down.

Evaluate the Situation

Assess the extent of your vehicle’s damage and make an honest evaluation of your ability to fix the problem on your own. For example, you may know how to change a flat tire. If you had the foresight to equip your vehicle with an emergency toolkit and the breakdown lane offers adequate cover from oncoming traffic, you may be able to change the tire yourself. But if your engine is smoking, your brakes are questionable, or you’re just not sure what’s going on, you might save time by calling for help instead.

Call for Help

If the repairs are beyond your capacity, consider calling Firestone Complete Auto Care Roadside Assistance at 877-799-8779. Towing service is available 24/7. Do not attempt to flag down other drivers. Our professionals are equipped to perform several on-site repairs. If the problem is too severe to fix by the road, we will tow your car to a Firestone Complete Auto Care location of your choice.

Wait Patiently

After calling for help, remain in your car. Walking on an interstate is not only dangerous; it is also illegal. Remain aware of oncoming traffic. Ensure that your hazard lights, flares, and other warning signals are still functioning and visible to other drivers. If you have restless kids in the backseat, try playing one of these car games that are actually fun for the whole family.

Taking these precautions may not save your beach day, but they can help prevent a minor annoyance from spiraling into an avoidable disaster. No jobs are too small for Firestone Roadside Assistance and Towing Service so give us a call at 877-799-8779—whether you need a jumpstart or a tow truck.

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