What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down On The Road

It’s never fun having car trouble, especially if it happens when you are out on the road. Breaking down out on the road can be very dangerous, depending on your location. If you have no clue how to fix the issue puts you in an even worse situation. So, what do you do when your car breaks down on the road?

When Your Car Breaks Down

 There really isn’t too many good places for a car to break down, except maybe in your driveway. Being out on any highway or back-road can be precarious. If it is a flat tire, do you know how to change it? If it quit running, who do you call?

Where Are You Broke Down?

Location of where your car breaks down at is very important. If you are in a parking lot, this is not too bad of a place to be. Being out on he highway or interstate is really dangerous. Even out on some winding urban road can be an issue. Are you able to roll the car onto a shoulder or are you stuck in the middle of the road?

Broke Down In A Parking Lot

Lucky almost isn’t the word for it. If broke down in a parking lot, the only real concern is, are you accessible for a tow truck? Your car being jammed in with many other cars, might make it difficult for a tow truck to get it. Can the vehicle be pushed into a better spot to be picked up? If your car is on an incline, it would be best to let the tow truck drive decide the best avenue to get it.

Being in an empty lot late at night can be dangerous. If this is your situation, I highly recommend staying in your car and call for help. Go into a store if during open hours. There you can safely wait for your help to come.

Broke Down on the Highway or Interstate

when your car breaks downMost highways and interstates have shoulders. It is best to get your vehicle pulled off as far as you can get it on the shoulder. Of course this depends on if your vehicle can still roll. Hopefully, it is a situation where it died while you still had momentum. Then you can coast it off the road. The best thing to do when your car breaks down is to not panic.

It is wise to always have a cell phone with you when you are out on the road. Even if you are an ace-mechanic, being on a busy highway might not be the best place to play Willy the Grease Monkey. Ensure you have the car as far over to give you room to get out of it. It might be best to get out of the car on the passenger side. Or the side opposite of the traffic. Turn on your flashers to make yourself visible.

Most highways have plenty of turn offs. If your car is still rolling, perhaps you could turn onto a side street. This would be much safer to get out of the car than a small shoulder or no shoulder to stop on.

Pulling off onto an off-ramp on the interstate needs to be evaluated. If it is daytime, and the off-ramp doesn’t go off to an isolated area. Pull off, but stop at the beginning on the shoulder of it. If at night time, unless very well lit and populated, just stay on the shoulder of the interstate.

Always run your flashers if you can. Call for help immediately, if you have a roadside assistance, that would be best. If you need the Highway Patrol, you can view contact information for all 50 states here on Trucks On Triangles.

Broke Down On A Back Road

Back roads can be very dangerous. Being stopped in a blind turn is really scary. If your car is still rolling or can roll. Get the vehicle to a more open area or straight-away if possible. Again, run your flashers no matter what.

If you are in a turn, call for help immediately. It might be best to get out of the car and stand on the side of the road where it is safe. Another car can come around the turn and crash right into you.

Carrying flares would be great in a situation like this. You could place your flares down the road a bit to warn any on coming drivers. If you have flares, it is a good idea to always use them if broke down to alert other drivers.

Being on a back-road can also be dangerous due to being an isolated area. There are so many crazy people in the world today, you just never know.

If you have a flat tire and know how to change it, be sure to put out flares or flashers. Changing a tire on a back-road is extremely dangerous. You have no way to get the car out of the road to be safe for the repair. If you do not have a roadside assistance. Call the police to let them know you are blocking the road and need traffic assistance.

Do You Know What’s Wrong?

when your car breaks downDo you know what is wrong with your vehicle? Did it up and stop running while driving? Does the car have a flat tire? Is it on fire or is steam or smoke coming our from under the hood? Did the car lock up and skid to a stop? These are important things to know when your car breaks down.

If you are calling for help, they are going to need to have a general idea what is wrong. All tow truck services will ask you that. They do so to know what type of vehicle to send to service you.

Just because smoke comes out form under the hood, is no reason to assume it is on fire. The most common reason smoke comes out is a burst in the coolant system. You can tell the difference of fire or coolant by the smell. If the smell is sweet, it is coolant. If you smell anything like burning rubber, plastic or even a camp fire. Get out and away from the car immediately.

Just remember, bitter is danger, sweet is most likely safe. However, if you can’t tell, then just get away from the vehicle. If you fear fire, call 911 immediately, a roadside assistance cannot help in that situation.

It is also prudent to carry flares or emergency portable flashers, just in case you have a dead battery. Your emergency flashers on your car will not work if your battery is dead or you have an electrical issue.

What To Do When You Car Brakes Down

  • As soon as you sense trouble, turn on your emergency flashers.
  • Slow down and pull off to the side of the road if you can. Turn your wheels away from the road and apply your emergency brake.
  • If this is a highway or interstate, it is best to stay in your car. If you plan to fix the issue, ensure the road is clear or get out the opposite side of traffic.
  • Make yourself visible to other drivers. Flares, reflective vest, use portable flashers and or the roadside triangles.
  • Call for help. If you have a roadside service, or call a towing service. Unless there is a fire, you’re blocking the road or you are on a dangerous road, do not call 911.
  • If you are going to make the repair yourself, ensure all safety protocols. Ensure you have adequate room to safely work. If you are on an incline, ensure the emergency brakes holds before jacking the car up. Always make yourself visible, wearing a yellow reflective vest would be smart.

Analyze and Diagnose the Situation

To actually diagnose the problem, you will need to use your senses. A flat tire is something that is going to be heard and felt. If you are going down the road and the tire goes flat, it will make the car harder to steer. You will also hear a flopping noise or roar.

Any kind of steam or smoke coming from the front of the car, you will need to rely on your nose at first. If  the smell is sweet, look at your dash for an engine light, or at your temperature gauge. That sweet smell is possibly indicating a cooling system failure, so the engine could be overheating.

If you smell rotten eggs, it is possible that your car battery that has burst or burned out. Any smell that resembles a camp fire, burning wood or plastic, you possibly have a fire. The smell could be gasoline, if so, you have something leaking. For all gasoline smells and or possible fire smells, get away from the vehicle.

An oil leak can also cause smoke. If oil leaks down onto the exhaust system, you will be able to smell it as well as see smoke. Burnt oil smells like kind of has an acid smell, perhaps bitter. Smoke from oil is highly dangerous. Oil vapor is highly flammable and can even explode. If you think the smoke is from oil, get away from the vehicle.

Anything On The Ground

If the vehicle has quit running or quit pulling the vehicle. After you have stopped, look on the ground to see if you have puddles of anything coming out from underneath. Notice the color or smell of any liquid rolling out from your car.

Oil has very little smell if it isn’t hot or burning. Burning oil as mentioned has an acid smell if hot enough to smoke. Red fluids could be one of two things. If it seems to be like a red oil, this is more likely transmission fluid. If it seems like red water, this could be antifreeze. Toyota’s and a few other import cars, use red antifreeze. It is always a good idea to carry the correct coolant for when you car breaks down.

Hanging From Underneath

You may have broke a belt on the engine. Sometimes these belts will dangle from the engine compartment. Other times they will fall out the bottom. If you see what looks like a rope laying in the road, that is more than likely your engine belt.

Parts or sections of your exhaust system could be hanging or dragging the ground. This would be rounded piping or possibly an oblong cylinder which could be the muffler. Do not attempt to grab hold of this until at least 25 minutes after the engine has been shut off. It isn’t uncommon for a hanger to break and the exhaust drag the ground.

A Blown Tire Isn’t Always Flat

If you feel and hear that your tire has blown, don’t assume it is always flat. I am sure you have seen tire tread laying all over the highway before. Sometimes, the tread will sling off the main tire. It leaves a web of steel belts. These steel belts are sharp as a razor blade. 

If you see tire tread laying on the road not far from you, inspect your tires visually only. Do not run your hand over the tire for inspection. This can result in injury.

When your car breaks down from tire problems. First try to get your car out of the way of traffic as much as possible. Before feeling anything with your hands or climbing around on the ground, always do a good visual inspection.

Who You Gonna Call?

Before you get out on the road, have an idea of who to call in case of an emergency. Keep a list on your phone or in your glove box for if and or when your car breaks down.

when your car breaks downDo not flag down other drivers. This could be dangerous on many levels. You could be putting your life in danger by an unknown driver, there are crazy people out there. The other reason being, it’s a distraction. Another driver could wreck paying attention to you or crash into you.

Call a roadside service and let them know your situation. Wait in the car until they arrive. Always ask what tow service is being dispatched. If another tow truck pulls up that is different than what you were told. Call the service back to confirm. If uncertain, call 911.

Call a friend or family member to come and help if the condition is mild. At least call to let someone know your situation.

If your car is blocking traffic or you are on a dangerous road, call your roadside service and also call 911.

Be Prepared For When Your Car Breaks Down

No one ever knows when your car breaks down is going to happen or have a collision. So, it is always best to be prepared for said situations. They make emergency kits for cars, both in repair and medical. It isn’t a bad idea to purchase these kits. However, the kits do not always cover everything you could need. Here is a list to help you be prepared.

Tools To Have

  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Heavy gloves
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Ice scraper
  • Car jack, either OEM or aftermarket
  • Lug wrench
  • Screw divers, both flat and phillips
  • Pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Duct tape and or electrical tape
  • Extra Fuses
  • An extra fan/alternator belt if feasible

Roadside Gear

  • Reflectors or flares
  • Signal flag
  • Reflective vest or scarf
  • Thermal or safety blanket
  • First-aid kit
  • Roadside Emergency Kit – CLICK HERE TO SEE CONTENTS
  • Candles
  • Waterproof matches
  • Snow brush and snow shovel


  • Drinking water
  • Preserved food
  • Coolant
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Cat litter or sand

Additional Items

  • Cell phone charger
  • Inverter 12VDC to 110AC
  • 12 Volt battery jumpstart
  • Pencil and notebook
  • Shop towels or rags
  • Cardboard to lay on
  • Umbrella
  • Owner’s operator manual
  • List of emergency numbers and contacts
  • Ensure you have a properly inflated spare tire if applicable

In Conclusion

Even though you may have short commutes everyday or just a few times a week. It is still a good idea to ensure you are somewhat prepared for an emergency. The above list is perfect if you drive long distances or travel. If your car has a spare tire, always check its inflation every time you get your tires rotated.

If you drive regularly, the best practice is to have a roadside assistance service available to you. You can get these services for about what one towing would cost you per year. These services always offer other benefits beside just towing. You get services for when you run out of gas. When you lock yourself out of the car. They even offer discounts for hotels and restaurants.

If you want to ensure you or your families safety, for when your car breaks down. Look into the offer below.