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Essential Vehicle Breakdown Tips for Every Driver

by American Bulldog Towing
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Picture this: you’re cruising down the highway, enjoying your favorite tunes, when suddenly your car begins to sputter and lose power. Panic sets in as you realize you’re experiencing a vehicle breakdown. Are you prepared to handle the situation safely and efficiently? The truth is, many drivers are ill-equipped to deal with unexpected breakdowns, which can result in increased stress and potential dangers. American Bulldog Towing & Recovery, servicing Monon, IN, and surrounding areas, aims to provide the community with useful tips on what to do if their car breaks down, ensuring a safe and smooth experience during these challenging moments.

In this blog post, we will cover essential vehicle breakdown tips, common causes of car breakdowns, the benefits of roadside assistance, and how to build an emergency kit for your vehicle. By the end, you will be well-prepared to handle any breakdown situation with confidence and ease.

Key Takeaways

  • Stay safe and prepared during a vehicle breakdown by activating hazard lights, finding a safe location, and staying within the vehicle.

  • Build an emergency kit containing essential items such as first aid supplies, tools for minor repairs & personal items.

  • Communicate with 911 operators & family members in case of emergencies to ensure prompt assistance is received.

Vehicle Breakdown Tips: Staying Safe and Prepared

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The foremost goal when experiencing a car breakdown on the road is to prioritize safety, which can be achieved by:

  • Distancing yourself from traffic, thereby reducing the risk of a collision

  • Maintaining a composed demeanor, as panic can cloud your judgment

  • Contacting your car insurance company to inform them about the situation

This section will outline necessary steps to maintain safety and preparedness during a vehicle breakdown, including the activation of hazard lights, seeking a safe location, and staying within the vehicle.

Activating hazard lights

Upon detecting any irregularities with your immobilized vehicle, immediate activation of the hazard lights is recommended. Activating hazard lights promptly during a vehicle breakdown will:

  • Alert other motorists

  • Enhance visibility

  • Ensure that other drivers are aware of your situation

  • Allow them to steer clear of your vehicle

This simple action can significantly reduce the risk of an accident and allow you to focus on addressing the issue at hand.

Finding a safe location

With your hazard lights activated, it becomes vital to locate a safe area away from the busy highway for pulling over. It is recommended to pull over on the right shoulder of the road, ensuring that your vehicle is in a flat area and distant from any moving traffic.

After pulling over and becoming a stopped vehicle, follow these steps:

  1. Engage the parking brake, also known as the emergency brake.

  2. Turn the wheels away from the road to prevent your car from rolling back into traffic.

  3. Take note of your relative location, such as exit signs, mile markers, and intersections. This information may be useful when calling for assistance or sharing your location with others.

Remaining in the vehicle

The Insurance Information Institute advises against exiting your vehicle to assess the damage or rectify a mechanical issue if you are on a highway or busy road. In the event that you fear another driver may collide with your car from the rear, it is necessary to exit the vehicle. If the vehicle is in a safe position and sufficiently away from the road, make sure you always exit via the passenger side door or the door that is opposite the road. Take precautionary steps to ensure safety.

Common Causes of Car Breakdowns

Understanding the common causes of car breakdowns can help you prevent potential issues and ensure a smooth driving experience. Knowing when a breakdown occurs is crucial, and some of the most frequent causes of car breakdowns are:

  • Flat or defective batteries

  • Damaged tires or wheels

  • Electrical complications

  • Alternator faults

  • Issues with high-temperature engines

This section delves into three common culprits behind car breakdowns – flat tires, dead batteries, and overheating engines.

Flat tires

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Flat tires are a leading cause of vehicle breakdowns and can result from punctures, slow leaks, or worn-out tires. Prevention of flat tires necessitates maintaining adequate inflation and satisfactory condition of your tires. Regularly inspect your tires for signs of damage or wear, such as depleted tread, excessive vibration, bulging or blistering spots, and low tire pressure.

Addressing these issues promptly can help prevent a flat tire and the subsequent challenges of being stuck on the side of the road.

Dead batteries

Dead batteries are another common cause of car breakdowns and can be attributed to a defective alternator, leaving the lights on, or a short circuit. Consistent inspection and servicing of your car battery can help avoid unexpected breakdowns caused by depleted batteries.

Make it a habit to inspect the battery terminals for corrosion, check the battery fluid level, and test the battery voltage to ensure proper maintenance and prevent unforeseen issues on the road.

Overheating engines

Engine overheating is another prevalent cause of car breakdowns and can be attributed to inadequate coolant levels, a malfunctioning thermostat, or a congested radiator. Always keep an eye on your vehicle’s temperature gauge and address any overheating issues promptly to prevent severe damage to the engine. If you notice a sudden increase in temperature, turn off the air conditioning and turn on the heater to aid in cooling the engine.

Additionally, it is advised to pull over and turn off the engine immediately. If the engine continues to overheat, call a tow truck or roadside assistance service to get the vehicle to a mechanic.

Roadside Assistance Benefits and When to Call

Roadside assistance is an invaluable service that can provide assistance in the event of a breakdown or other unforeseen car issue. With benefits such as towing services, fuel delivery, and lockout assistance, roadside assistance can help you get back on the road quickly and safely.

This section sheds light on the advantages of roadside assistance and occasions when it’s appropriate to call for aid.

Towing services

towing services

One of the primary benefits of roadside assistance is the provision of towing services. Roadside assistance can dispatch a technician to restore your car to working condition or arrange for your vehicle to be towed to a nearby repair shop.

Towing services can include towing to a nearby repair shop, towing to a safe location, or towing to a storage facility. These services can be invaluable in getting your car off the road and to a safe place where it can be properly assessed and repaired.

Fuel delivery

Running out of fuel can be both embarrassing and frustrating. Thankfully, roadside assistance offers fuel delivery services, facilitating the delivery of fuel to your location in the event of running out of gas. This service can help you avoid the hassle of walking to a petrol station or waiting for a tow truck.

Just ensure that you have your vehicle’s make, model, and year, as well as your location and contact information, on hand when requesting fuel delivery.

Lockout assistance

Locking yourself out of your car can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Fortunately, roadside assistance can provide lockout assistance, helping you regain access to your vehicle in case of a lockout. This service offers:

  • Heightened security

  • Safeguards against potential risks

  • Ease of access

  • Rapid response times

  • Assurance

  • Patronage of local businesses

With lockout assistance, you can have peace of mind knowing that help is just a phone call away.

Building an Emergency Kit for Your Vehicle

vehicle emergency kit

An emergency kit for your vehicle should include the following items:

  • Jumper cables

  • Tire pressure gauge

  • Basic tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, adjustable wrench)

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Reflective warning triangles

  • Blanket

  • Bottled water and non-perishable snacks

  • Cell phone charger

  • Roadside assistance contact information

By having these essential items in your vehicle, you can be prepared for any unexpected situations on the road.

This section addresses the significance of constructing an emergency kit for your vehicle and elaborates on the items to include for comprehensive preparedness.

Essential items

The essential items for an emergency kit for a vehicle include:

  • Flares or reflective triangles

  • A first aid kit

  • A portable jump starter

  • Flashlights and visibility items

  • A cell phone and car charger

  • A blanket

  • Jumper cables

  • Food and water

  • Seasonal supplies

  • A multitool for emergency situations

It is imperative to include a first aid kit in your vehicle’s emergency kit, as it can aid in providing basic medical care for minor injuries until professional help arrives. Having a flashlight in your vehicle’s emergency kit is essential in case of a breakdown at night or in a dark area, as it can help you visualize the situation and make repairs or signal for assistance.

Jumper cables are vital in the event of a dead battery, as they can be used to jump-start your vehicle and restore it to running condition. By having these essential items in your emergency kit, you can be prepared to handle a variety of situations and minimize the stress and inconvenience associated with a vehicle breakdown.

Tools for minor repairs

In addition to essential items, it is important to equip your emergency kit with tools for minor repairs, such as:

  • A tire pressure gauge, to assess the air pressure in your tires and ensure they are inflated to the appropriate level

  • A tire iron, to loosen and tighten nuts and bolts on your tires

  • A jack, to lift your vehicle off the ground for tire changes or other repairs, including dealing with a spare tire

  • A lug wrench, to remove and tighten lug nuts on your tires

  • A screwdriver, for various minor repairs

  • A wrench set, for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts on your vehicle

These tools will enable you to make minor repairs to your vehicle in emergency situations.

Meanwhile, a screwdriver can be employed to loosen and tighten screws, thus facilitating minor repairs to your vehicle. By having these tools readily available, you can address minor issues and potentially avoid the need for costly towing services or repairs.

Personal items

Lastly, it is crucial to include personal items in your emergency kit for comfort and safety during a breakdown. Consider packing items such as:

  • Bottled water: to ensure adequate hydration

  • Non-perishable snacks: to supply energy

  • A blanket: to provide warmth in case you need to wait for assistance

Additional items to consider for your emergency kit include:

  • A change of clothes

  • A hat

  • Gloves

  • A raincoat

  • A sleeping bag

These items can provide comfort and protection during an emergency, allowing you to focus on addressing the issue at hand and seeking assistance from professionals.

Communicating with Emergency Services and Family Members

During a vehicle breakdown, establishing effective communication with emergency services and family members plays a pivotal role in ensuring a swift and secure resolution. Knowing when to call 911, inform family members, and share your location is essential during a vehicle breakdown.

This section presents effective methods of connecting with emergency services during a vehicle breakdown and suggests optimal ways to communicate with family members and share your location.

Calling 911 in emergencies

In the event of a serious emergency or if you feel unsafe during a vehicle breakdown, it is appropriate to call 911. When calling 911, follow these steps:

  1. Inform the dispatcher that your car is obstructing traffic.

  2. Provide your location information to the operator.

  3. Remain calm and composed during the call to ensure clear communication.

Text messaging (SMS) can also be a reliable method of communication with emergency services, especially if phone lines are congested or if you are in an area with poor cell reception. By being prepared to communicate effectively with emergency services, you can ensure a prompt response and the necessary assistance to address your situation.

Informing family members

Keeping your family informed about your situation during a vehicle breakdown is essential for their peace of mind and for coordinating any necessary assistance. The most efficient way to communicate with family members about your vehicle breakdown is to call them or send them a text message with your current location. You may also consider utilizing location-sharing applications on your smartphone to share your location with them.

In addition to keeping family members informed, it’s crucial to communicate with emergency services first and provide a friend or family member with information regarding the breakdown. Providing necessary details will ensure that your family is aware of the situation and can offer assistance if needed.

Sharing location via cell phone

Using your cell phone to share your location with emergency services or family members can be a valuable tool in receiving assistance during a vehicle breakdown. The most reliable way to share your location with emergency services is to call 911 and provide your location information to the operator. If you are unable to make a phone call, you can also utilize the GPS capabilities of your cellular device to share your location with either emergency services or family members.

Disclosing your location can assist emergency services or relatives in locating you expeditiously in the event of an emergency. By being prepared to share your location, you can ensure a prompt response and the necessary assistance to address your situation.


In conclusion, knowing what to do during a vehicle breakdown is essential for ensuring safety and minimizing stress. By following the tips in this blog post, such as staying safe and prepared, understanding the common causes of breakdowns, utilizing roadside assistance, building an emergency kit, and communicating effectively with emergency services and family members, you can confidently navigate any breakdown situation that may arise. Remember, prevention is key, so make sure to perform regular maintenance and keep your emergency kit stocked to avoid unexpected issues on the road.

With the valuable tips provided by American Bulldog Towing & Recovery, you are now better equipped to handle any vehicle breakdown and ensure a safe and smooth journey. Drive confidently, knowing that you are prepared for any challenge that the road may present.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not do if your car breaks down?

When your car breaks down, do not stay in the car, exit the vehicle near traffic, stand behind or next to the vehicle, accept help from unofficial sources, flag down other vehicles, leave your car in the road, assume people can see you, change a tire near traffic or check for damage on a busy highway. It is safer to remain buckled in your car unless there is smoke or flames.

How do you let others know your car is breaking down?

Make sure to turn your hazard lights on and place flares or triangle reflectors behind your car for increased visibility. Place the first one 10 feet behind, the next 100 feet, and the last 200-300 feet behind your car.

When your car breaks down you should tie a white cloth?

If your car breaks down, raising your hood and tying a white cloth to your antenna or door handle can indicate you need help. Always ensure your vehicle is completely off the pavement when doing this.

What usually breaks down in a car?

Battery trouble is a common cause of car breakdowns, especially during winter. Your battery can go flat for a few reasons, such as leaving your car lights on overnight or rarely going on long trips. It’s important to charge the battery overnight once in a while to avoid this issue.

What are some essential items to include in my vehicle’s emergency kit?

Essential items for a vehicle emergency kit include a first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, flares or reflective triangles, portable jump starter, and cell phone with car charger.

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