Broken Down Car? What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down

This guide has some general road side safety tips to follow and some common reasons why you might end up with a broken down car and what to do.

Here’s What You Should Do If Your Car Breaks Down

General Safety Tips for a Broken Down Car

Calling a friend after 1A Auto mechanic Andy has a broken down car

General Road Side Safety Tips for a Broken Down Car

  1. Put the Hazards on and Warn Drivers in Other Ways Like With Road Flares

    Put the hazards on, and warn other drivers in other ways with items like traffic cones, road flares, or LED road flares.

  2. If Inside the Car, Wear a Seatbelt and Watch for Traffic

    When sitting on the side of the road after your car has a breakdown, wear a seatbelt to protect yourself in the case of another accident.

    Look outside before opening the door.

  3. If Outside the Car and Not Looking Under the Hood, Stay Away from the Front of the Car

    When on the side of the road, try not to stay in front of the vehicle as much as possible unless you’re looking under the hood.

    Generally, you want to stand behind the car or a guard rail.

  4. Do Not Jack Up from Unsturdy Locations like Dirt

    If you get a flat tire and have to pull over, you might have to park on an unstable surface like dirt. If the flat tire is on the side of the car parked on this surface, don’t jack up from it. It’s not going to be safe to jack up the vehicle on surfaces like sand to remove the tire.

  5. If It Is Not An Emergency, Find a Safe Place from a Major Road Like a Parking Lot

    If the repair is not an emergency, pull over to a safe location. For example, if you are on the highway, take the exit and find a parking lot.

Common Reasons of a Broken Down Car and What to Do

Running Out of Gas

If the car starts stumbling where it feels like it’s slipping and not shifting properly and you have no power, check the gas gauge. You may be running out of gas.

Smoking from the Hood/Overheated Engine

If your car is smoking from under the hood, pull over and exit as quickly as possible.

If you notice the engine overheating, the battery light come on, and a loss of power steering, you’ve most likely got an issue with the serpentine belt or the belt tensioner. There isn’t much you can do from the side of the road except follow the safety tips above and have the vehicle towed.

Watch the Heat

If you see smoke or steam from under the hood, be very careful when opening it. If the engine is overheated, smoke might be pouring out of it. You’ll want to check the coolant level, but do not remove any caps from the radiator or coolant reservoir.

Tip: Do not remove the radiator cap with the engine warm. Hot coolant can spray up and burn you.

Check the Coolant Level

Look at coolant level but don’t remove the radiator cap or open the coolant reservoir.

Add Water If in a Pinch

Let the engine cool. If you need to add more coolant, you could fill the reservoir with water, but this is a temporary fix and you’ll need to flush the system after or it will have problems.

Rough Running Engine

The engine may be running too rough to drive with.

Disconnected Vacuum Lines

Look at the air intake snorkel/hose and see if it’s unattached or loose. Check the vacuum lines and see if any are disconnected.

Disconnected Electrical Connectors

Check the electrical connectors for looseness. See if any disconnected or if the wires are broken.

Low Fluid Levels

Check the oil level and its condition. A low oil level on cars with variable valve timing (VVT) can create problems.

Check the power steering fluid level. If it’s low and you’re in a pinch, in most cases you can use transmission fluid as a substitute for power steering fluid.

Loss of Control of Brakes or Steering

If losing control of parts of the vehicle like the brakes or steering, pull over as safely as possible.

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Broken Down Car? Here's What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down - 1A Auto
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Broken Down Car? Here's What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down - 1A Auto
Learn what to do if you have a broken down car with these general and specific steps from our professional mechanics and get your car running again
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