There are days when your car just breaks down – If you have ever experienced this, then, you can probably tell that it is rarely a great experience, especially if you are a car owner.

When your car breaks down, time, effort and energy are inevitably dispensed. Sadly, safety is sometimes compromised. In some cases, the source of the malfunction or breakdown is easy to trace but at other times, it can constitute a headache – It could be overheating, flat tires, smoking engine or another mechanical failure.

Knowing what steps to take when/if you find yourself in such a sticky situation can make a world of difference – While prevention is always better than experiencing this ordeal, it is always wiser to have a solid knowledge of what you need to do if your car breaks down on the highway. The following are some protocols you if you ever find yourself stuck with a car that suddenly develops any kind of fault on the road.

Pull Off the Road

The first thing to do when your car breaks down is to pull off the road. Try as much as possible to pull onto the highway shoulder to prevent other cars from colliding with yours from behind. It is important that you signal while trying to do this.

In the event that there’s no alternative, pull over onto the hard shoulder; parking as far to the left as safely possible.

In extreme cases where you are unable to pull off the road, use your hazard lights. Stay safe as well while trying to get your car to safety. Do not sit in the car if there is any possibility of any car hitting you from behind. It is most times advisable to leave your car and find a safer place around to wait until help arrives.

Park with Your Wheels Turned Right

When you park your car at a safe side of the road, make sure the wheels are turned to the right so that if your car is struck from behind, it will not cross the lane into moving traffic. If you must exit your car, always do so from the right side to avoid traffic.

Reflective Triangles

This is a popular sign for distress on the road when a car breaks down. Put reflective triangles behind your car in the following order – one near your car; usually about 10 feet behind it and the other much farther away.

Study Your Car’s Location

While stranded, look for a major exit. Study the landmarks for petrol stations, eateries or any prominent business centres. Try to recall the last exit name before your current location as this will be useful in calling for help.

Evaluate the Cause of the Break Down

After you must have taken refuge away from danger from oncoming traffic or bad weather, you can try to detect anything unusual that is happening to your car; such as strange sounds, steam or smoke from the bonnet or even leaking oil.

While doing this still, be careful not to stand behind or directly in front of your car. This is important so that you don’t end up getting struck by drivers who may be oblivious of your presence.

If your engine is smoking, or you suspect an impending flame, get out of the car as quickly as you can.

Leave the Hazard Lights On

At night and in bad weather, a broken-down vehicle could be an invitation to grave disaster to both yourself and oncoming traffic. It is advisable to turn on your hazard lights if you find yourself in such circumstances. Also, turn on the interior dome light if it is dark. These steps are designed to keep you within clear view of other drivers.

Alternately, raise your car’s hood. Tie a bright coloured piece of cloth, handkerchief or light jacket to the antenna or door handle. This is supposed to alert drivers that your vehicle is in trouble and that they should slow down and proceed around you.

Call for Assistance

There are a couple of roadside assistance providers you can call once you have looked for a safe place to park. If you don’t have them around that area/neighbourhood/location, call a tow truck for assistance.

In cases where you don’t have a cellphone or your battery is down, you can wait for highway patrolmen.

If you are caught in this unpleasant situation at night, you need to be extremely cautious of accepting help from strangers. Stay in the car if you have parked it at a safe spot; lock the doors and keep your windows raised.

It is important you ensure that your hazard lights, flares and other warning signals are still on and perfectly visible to other road users while you patiently wait for help to arrive.