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Dealing with a breakdown

Even the best maintained cars can break down from time to time, such as by sustaining a puncture or a blow out, and the older your vehicle, the more likely it is to break down on you at some point. While breakdowns can be unsettling and worrying, there is no need to panic as help is at hand to get you on your way again very quickly.

The crucial part of any breakdown situation is to ensure that you, your passengers and other road users are as safe as possible, and that your broken down vehicle isn’t putting other drivers at risk. By following the simple advice below, you can minimise the risks to everyone involved, whether your breakdown occurs on a fast moving motorway or on a quiet country road.

Be prepared for a breakdown

You may not think that a breakdown is going to happen to you, but you should be prepared nonetheless. Breakdown cover is essential, and can be bought as an additional benefit to your Octagon Insurance policy. If you do not have breakdown cover you may not know who to turn to in an emergency. Should the police have to rescue you from a motorway incident, you could be looking at a bill of well over £200.

Breakdown or recovery cover generally costs between £60 and £90 per year, or you can add 24 hour roadside breakdown cover to your Octagon Car Insurance policy from as little as £3.12 per month – a small price to pay compared to the cost of an uninsured breakdown. You should always make sure that your car breakdown cover includes travel abroad if you intend to take your car on holiday, as a breakdown overseas can be even more expensive. Octagon Insurance provides a European breakdown cover option.

You should also ensure that your car is equipped with everything you need in an emergency. This includes:

Breaking down on the motorway

Breaking down on a motorway can be quite scary, as you will be surrounded by fast moving cars and lorries. As soon as you suspect that there is a problem you should pull over to the hard shoulder to avoid breaking down on the main carriageway. Very few breakdowns will stop your vehicle dead, so you should be able to coast to safety.

Once your vehicle is safely on the hard shoulder, turn the wheels in towards the left away from the lanes and passing traffic, and put your hazard warning lights on, as well as your side lights if visibility is poor. You and your passengers should then exit the vehicle by the passenger side and climb over the roadside barrier for maximum safety. You should not stay in your car, even if it is raining, unless you fear for your own safety from a person but you should exit the car again once the danger has passed. If possible, climb a short distance up the bank to be completely safe. Keep children under close control and leave pets such as dogs in the vehicle to avoid them running out into the traffic.

You should note your position from the roadside posts and call for help. (The roadside posts will also indicate your nearest SOS phone should you need it). Never try to fix your car at the side of the road, even if it is a simple wheel change, as it is just too dangerous. Similarly you should never try to deploy a warning triangle as it is simply not safe to do so. Call for help using the roadside emergency telephones, or on your mobile, and wait for professional assistance.

Breaking down on other roads

If you break down on any other kind of road, you should assess the situation carefully before deciding on your best course of action. If there is somewhere safe to wait, then get out of your vehicle, otherwise stay in your car. Use your road map and any landmarks or signposts to identify your location and call for help.

If your vehicle cannot be seen clearly, or if it forms a significant obstruction, then you should deploy a hazard warning triangle around 50 yards behind your car. In all cases, you should switch on your hazard warning lights as well as your side lights if necessary.

If you feel unsafe, or you are alone in an unfamiliar area after dark, stay in your vehicle and lock the doors. Most roadside recovery companies will prioritise the most vulnerable drivers and try to get to them as quickly as possible to avoid causing unnecessary distress.

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