What Should I Do When My Car Dies on the Road?

Warren Clarke

It happens to most people, so be ready when it happens to you. The tips below will help you stay safe if your car dies on the side of the road.

Turn on Your Hazard Lights, and Pull Off the Road

In the event of a breakdown, the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends that you turn on your hazard lights, and steer your vehicle off the road, if possible. Stay in the car, and never try to push a stalled vehicle to safety -- that puts you in the even greater danger of being struck by oncoming traffic.

The Insurance Information Institute advises that if you're unable to steer the car off the road, you should remain in your vehicle with your hazard lights on until help arrives.

Use All the Warning signals at Your Disposal to Alert Oncoming Traffic

Whether your stalled vehicle is still on the road or pulled over on the shoulder, it's important to let other drivers know you've suffered a breakdown. Consumer Reports says that in addition to turning on your hazard lights, you should use a hazard triangle (if you have it) to let other drivers know you've had a breakdown. Flares will also help attract attention, but avoid using these if you smell gasoline. Raising the hood of your car is another signal to other drivers that you need police assistance. If you car is stuck in the middle of the highway, however, it is safer to stay in the vehicle rather than getting out to set up flares, etc.

Take Note of Your Location

To get assistance, you'll need to be able to direct help to your exact location. Look for nearby street names or intersections. If you're on the highway, look for freeway exit signs or mile markers to get a sense of where you are. And if you have a smartphone with service, pin and send those coordinates.

Call for Help

If you have a cell phone, promptly call a tow truck company, AAA or similar roadside assistance for help. The longer you stay on the road, the more at risk you are for getting struck by an oncoming vehicle.

Warren Clarke is a writer/editor who loves providing information that helps people find useful solutions. His pieces about cars, home and garden, health, and finance have appeared in both digital and print. He lives in Los Angeles.