I’ve had a breakdown on a motorway, now what?

Having a breakdown on the motorway can be very serious, as it may put you in danger of having an accident. Nobody expects their car to break down (especially on the motorway), but it’s something all road users should be prepared for.

Whilst it may be a stressful situation, there are some steps you should take in the eventuality that you do breakdown on the motorway. Our tips could save your life, so it’s important to read through this guide in case the unthinkable happens. 

You may also want to bookmark this page on your phone, so you can read through it if you do experience an emergency situation on the motorway.

What should I do if I break down on the motorway? A step-by-step guide

Depending on the circumstances, breaking down on the motorway can be very dangerous. It’s important to have a clear plan in mind of how to deal with the situation if it does occur. 

The steps you take will differ depending on things such as:

As such, it’s crucial that you are prepared for any eventuality, should you require emergency breakdown assistance on the motorway. Whilst every situation is different, this step-by-step guide should help you in the event that you have a motorway breakdown:

  1. If your car develops a fault whilst driving on the motorway, your first priority should be to get off the motorway via the nearest exit or service station. Once off the motorway, you should park your vehicle in a safe area. Remember to always use your indicators when changing lanes or leaving the motorway – you should also put your hazard lights on to warn other drivers.
  2. If you’re not able to get to a nearby exit junction, you need to pull into the left-hand lane. Depending on the stretch of road you’re on, there may be an emergency refuge area with emergency telephones provided beside the left lane. If you can pull into one of these areas and stop your car, you should be able to use the emergency phone to ring an emergency assistance team. If you are not near a refuge area, you should pull onto the hard shoulder instead.
  3. Once parked in the refuge area or on the hard shoulder, you need to keep your hazard lights on. You should also keep your exterior lights on, as this will provide more visibility to passing motorists. 
  4. Next, you need to evacuate every person and animal within the vehicle and stand behind the safety barrier. If there isn’t a safety barrier, you should stand as far away from the motorway as you can, in case an accident occurs. If you have a high-vis jacket or any brightly coloured clothing, you should put this on, particularly if there is poor visibility.
  5. You should not put a warning triangle out or attempt any repairs yourself if you break down on the motorway. If you find yourself on a verge, you also need to be aware of any unseen hazards or dangers, such as debris or uneven ground.
  6. Next, you need to contact National Highways on 0300 123 5000National Highways are an emergency service that has several duties – if you find yourself in an emergency situation on the motorway, they will attend to help you. Even if you have breakdown cover, you still need to contact National Highways first, to make them aware that you have broken down on the motorway. You should consider adding the National Highways phone number to your mobile phone, so you can easily find it if you break down on the motorway.
  7. Once you’ve contacted National Highways, you should then contact a roadside assistance company to rescue you. If you already have a breakdown recovery provider, they should be your first port of call. However, you will still be able to pay for emergency breakdown assistance, even if you don’t already have a policy with a breakdown provider.

The main aim is to try and get yourself to a safe place, so you can avoid any accidents from happening. However, if you break down on a motorway without a hard shoulder, or you’re unable to exit your vehicle and get to a safe place, you should stop your vehicle and immediately put your hazard warning lights on.

If you’re stuck on the motorway and can’t get to a refuge, you should not leave your vehicle – instead, you need to ensure that everyone in the vehicle keeps their seatbelt on. You should immediately call 999 and press the SOS button in your car, if you have one.

What if I am a disabled driver and I break down on the motorway?

If you or someone else in your party has a disability and breaks down on the motorway, you may find yourself unable to follow all the steps in this guide. If you are unable to safely leave your vehicle, you should stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard warning lights on. 

You should then contact the emergency services on 999, who will relay the information immediately to National Highways, so they can shut down motorway lanes and send out a traffic officer. It’s imperative that you tell the operator if a member of your party is disabled or is classified as a vulnerable road user – for example, if you are travelling alone or are elderly.

If you are unable to make a phone call for emergency road assistance, you can contact National Highways via text on 0738 028 3600British Sign Language users can also use the SignLive service to get urgent roadside assistance during a breakdown

If you have a condition that requires you to take medication, you should always carry this with you.

How can I prevent breakdowns from happening?

If you’re concerned about a possible breakdown occurring in the future, there are several things you can do to mitigate the risk of breaking down on the motorway. It’s not always possible to prevent faults from occurring with your car, but having careful control of your vehicle when driving is key to avoiding most accidents. 

You should always follow the motorway rules and the Highway Code, as this will help you keep safe, as well as preventing you from breaking the law. Always make sure you pay attention when driving and eliminate any distractions such as using your mobile phone.

Most breakdowns are avoidable via regular servicing and maintenance, so it’s important to get your vehicle checked regularly. If any faults appear (no matter how small), or a warning light comes up on the dashboard, you should take your car to a repair garage as soon as possible. If in doubt, ask your local mechanic for advice on the situation.

It’s also worth taking out a roadside assistance policy with a breakdown provider – whilst this won’t prevent you from breaking down, it will give you peace of mind and mitigate some of the costs for recovery.

However, some breakdowns are unavoidable, so you should memorise or bookmark this step-by-step guide so you can make preparations if you do break down on the motorway.

Stay safe with Finance Rate

Breaking down on the motorway can be a very stressful situation, even if you are prepared for the eventuality. As such, it’s important to ensure you’ve read through this guide carefully, making a note of all the important points.

At Finance Ratewe’re a website dedicated to giving you the most accurate and informative information about a huge range of topics. Whilst our initial focus was largely on financial matters (such as current accounts and mortgages), we’ve recently extended our remit to cover other areas that our readers might need guidance on.

We aim to bring you more advice about breakdowns and car issues in the near future. If there’s something else you’d specifically like information about, please head to our Site Map to start your search.