What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down

Learn about the tips to follow if your car breaks down on the road right here with Savvy.

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, updated on February 16th, 2024       

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Car Insurance Banner - Man on the phone standing in front of his broken down car, which his girlfriend is looking at

Experiencing a car breakdown can be a frustrating and unexpected situation that no driver wants to encounter. Whether you're on a remote country road or a busy highway, knowing how to handle a breakdown can make all the difference in ensuring your safety and getting back on the road.

In Savvy’s comprehensive guide, you can learn about the essential steps to prepare for a potential car breakdown and what to do if it happens to you. Keep these tips in mind to navigate this challenging situation with confidence and ease.

How should I prepare for a potential car breakdown?

  • Regular maintenance: regularly scheduled maintenance is the key to preventing breakdowns. Stick to your car manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, including oil changes, tyre rotations and fluid checks. Ensuring your vehicle is in top condition reduces the risk of sudden mechanical failures.
  • Carry a spare tyre and tools: if your car is big enough, having a functional spare tyre, jack and lug wrench in your vehicle will help prepare you for a flat tyre. Learn how to change a tyre before your next road trip, as a flat tyre is one of the most common breakdown scenarios.
  • Emergency kit: prepare an emergency kit which includes essentials such as a first-aid kit, torch, extra batteries, reflective triangles or flares, basic tools, booster cables, a portable phone charger and bottles of water. This kit can prove invaluable during breakdowns or emergencies, especially at night.
  • Keep petrol topped up: running out of fuel can lead to unnecessary breakdowns, so make it a habit to keep your tank at least half full, especially on long trips or when driving in unfamiliar areas. Also, stay attentive when filling up your car to ensure you don’t accidentally use the wrong type of petrol.
  • Check your tyres regularly: inspect your tyres for signs of wear and tear. Ensure they have adequate tread depth and are properly inflated according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

What should I do if my car breaks down?

  1. Stay calm and pull over: if your car starts experiencing issues while driving, try to remain calm and safely pull over to the side of the road or highway, as far away from traffic as possible. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
  2. Assess the situation: once safely parked, try to identify the issue. If it's a minor problem like a flat tyre, you may be able to address it yourself using a spare tyre and tools. If it's a more serious problem, it's best not to attempt any repairs on the roadside and to seek professional assistance.
  3. Call for help: If you can’t resolve the issue yourself, call your roadside assistance provider (if you have one). Many insurance policies offer roadside assistance as an add-on, which can provide services like towing, jump-starting and even locksmith assistance if you're locked out of your vehicle.
  4. Stay in your vehicle if necessary: if you're unable to move your car to a safer location, remain inside the vehicle with your seatbelt fastened until help arrives. Avoid standing outside your car in busy traffic areas to minimise the risk of accidents.

Does car insurance cover vehicle breakdowns?

In most cases, car insurance won’t cover any electrical or mechanical faults, meaning you can’t be covered for repairs in this area. However, if you have car insurance, you can be covered for things such as towing to a repairer and emergency transport and accommodation (with the latter typically being at least 100km or 200km from your home).

Additionally, many insurers offer roadside assistance as an optional extra which can be added to your policy, which enables you to access a service to potentially get your car up and running again after a breakdown or other issue you haven’t been able to diagnose.

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Savvy’s comparison service includes selected products from a panel of trusted insurers and does not compare all products in the market. Any advice presented above or on other pages is general in nature and doesn’t consider your personal or business objectives, needs or finances. It’s always important to consider whether advice is suitable for you before purchasing an insurance policy. We always recommend readers to consult the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) of different policies before purchasing your car insurance.

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