what to do if you break down

Broken down? Here's how to stay safe.

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What to do if you break down

Breaking down can be dangerous, particularly if you’re on a motorway. But remember that the hard shoulder is only for emergencies, not for making calls, having a stretch or toilet stops.

If your car has broken down, here’s what to do to stay safe before you call us and while we're on our way.

1. Make sure you’re in a safe place
  • Move your vehicle off the road if possible (watch out for any soft verges).
  • If you're on a motorway and can't turn off at the next exit, pull up onto the hard shoulder. Make sure you stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.

2. Put your hazard lights on
  • Turn on your hazard warning lights.
  • If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.

3. Stay well away from moving traffic
  • It’s usually safest to get out of your car (using the doors facing away from passing traffic) and wait behind a barrier.
  • If you’re on a motorway, move up the bank if you can and stay upstream of oncoming traffic.
  • Leave any animals in the car.

4. Wear a reflective jacket
  • Put on a high-vis jacket if you have one.

5. Don’t put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder
  • If you’re on a motorway, it’s not safe to use a warning triangle.
  • If you’re on a road and it’s safe, you can put a warning triangle at least 45m (50 yards) behind your vehicle.

6. Call us on 03330 046 046
  • Call us if you need our help or use our app if you're already a Member.
  • Don’t attempt even a simple repair if you’re on a motorway.
  • If you don’t have a mobile, walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway. Follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police.

All these steps are in line with the Highway Code Rule 274 which tells you what to do if you break down.

We provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

How to keep safe in vulnerable situations

If you have a disability

If you have a disability which would stop you from following our steps if your car's broken down, here's what to do:

  • Keep your seatbelt on
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights
  • Call us or dial 999 if you're in immediate danger.

If you feel at risk from another person
  • If you feel at risk, get back into your vehicle using a left-hand door and lock all doors.
  • Leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.

If you can’t get to the hard shoulder
  • If you're in a live motorway lane, stay in your vehicle unless you can be absolutely sure it's safe to leave it.
  • Put your hazard lights on, keep your seatbelt on and call the emergency services.

Looking for breakdown cover? Read about how it works:

Help us find you faster

  • Our app is the best way for Members to contact us. You can send us your exact location using your phone’s GPS.
  • If you don't have the app, look for driver location signs on the motorway.
  • If you use the nearest emergency telephone on the motorway, we'll automatically get your location.


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Published: 24 August 2017 | Updated: 26 March 2020 | Author: The AA
Car park breakdown advice

If you car's broken down in a car park, you're not alone. Whether it’s a flat battery, keys locked in or a puncture, lots of people break down in car parks.

The good news is, they're one of the safest places to be if your car lets you down.

  • Call for assistance or use our app to let us know you need help.
  • You don't need to use hazard lights if you’re not causing an obstruction.
  • If you feel comfortable to do so, leave the car and wait by the car park entrance for us to arrive. Or you can arrange a clear meeting spot when our mechanic calls you. Otherwise, it'll be hard to find a broken-down car in a sea of other cars.
  • If you want to wait in the car, open the bonnet so we can spot you.
  • Check you've got enough time left on your ticket or notify the parking attendant if not.
Town or city breakdown advice

Breaking down in a busy town or city can be pretty stressful. You might be causing an obstruction and delaying other road users.

Here's what to do:

  • Try to get to a safe spot where your car isn’t in the way of others.
  • If you are causing an obstruction, put on your hazard lights straight away.
  • Call us or use our app to tell us your location and get help.
  • Call a family member or friend and let them know where you are.
  • Open your bonnet to show others that you’ve broken down (and not just stopped to make a phone call or pick someone up).
  • Wait little way away from your car so you can keep an eye out for our van.
A-road or dual carriageway breakdown advice

Busy main roads are among the most dangerous places to be stranded.

Stay safe by following these steps:

  • Try to exit the carriageway or pull into a lay-by.
  • If you can't, get as far off the road as possible, being careful of ditches and soft verges.
  • Put on your lights and hazard lights. It’s important to be as visible as possible.
  • Call us or use our app to let us know you need help. Say that you're in a dangerous location.
  • Call a family member or friend – let others know where you are.
  • Put on a high-vis jacket if you have one.
  • If you're sure it’s safe to do so, put a warning triangle about 45m behind your car. If you're on a bend, put it where it's most visible (which might be further back around the bend).
  • Wait outside the car behind a barrier if there is one. If you can, move up the embankment but stay upstream of oncoming traffic.
  • If your car's in the road and is obscured by a bend or other road feature, stand in a safe place further back down the road so you can warn other road users of the hazard.
Remote area or country lane breakdown advice

Breaking down in a remote area can be quite scary. But in reality, it's among the safest places to be stranded.

Here's what to do:

  • Call us or use our app to let us know you need help and to send your location.
  • Call a family member or friend to see if someone can come and wait with you.
  • If you aren’t causing an obstruction, stay in the car and wait for assistance. You can lock the doors if you feel vulnerable.
  • Use your hazard lights only if you're causing an obstruction.
Compare breakdown cover

Learn more about choosing the right cover for you in our guide on how to compare breakdown cover. Plus, find out what’s included in breakdown cover from the AA vs RAC.

You can also discover how Green Flag breakdown cover compares to the AA.