Having a breakdown can be dangerous and incredibly inconvenient, particularly if you’re travelling with children or have somewhere you desperately need to be. With 488 miles of England’s motorway network made up of smart motorways and their hard shoulders becoming another lane to ease traffic flow, it’s more important than ever to ensure you can prevent avoidable breakdowns.
By simply carrying out regular checks on your car, listening out for any unusual sounds, or taking note of any lights that appear on your dashboard, you can significantly reduce your chances of breaking down.
Here are a few tips on what all drivers (and riders) can do to prevent any avoidable breakdowns.
Caring for your Engine to Prevent a Breakdown
Engine oil is vital for keeping your car working properly. It stops heat and friction building up within your engine and allows all the moving parts to work properly. Before your engine oil light comes on, we’d always advise checking and topping it up before it ever runs out. You can check the level by either using the dipstick (remember wipe, dip and check), whilst the engine is cold. It’s also worth noting that some vehicles have onboard computers that recommend a car being run for a period before the computer gives an accurate oil reading, if this is the case then it would be worth moving your oil check to your return journey.
If you see liquid dripping down, this is likely to be oil and you must not carry-on driving. If there is no leakage, go to your closest garage for advice – it might just be a case of buying some engine oil and topping it up immediately. Get in touch here if you need oil for your car.
Regular servicing can make the difference between your car running smoothly and fuel efficiency, and the risk of it breaking down and incurring an expensive and unexpected repair. Missing regular car services could mean costly major repairs and replacements, instead of wear and tear requiring minor maintenance. If you need to get your car serviced get in touch.
Good Driving Habits to Prevent a Breakdown
Our driving habits have a direct impact on the health of our vehicles and the parts which are essential for driving. For example, if you rev your engine from cold it will cause rapid temperature changes within your engine, premature wear, and possible damage to components.
Drivers should try to avoid harsh braking because the brake pads and discs will wear down more quickly. Instead, apply the brakes smoothly and progressively when coming to a halt. It’s also important to avoid riding your clutch as this will wear the release bearing and the friction material both of which are essential for keeping your clutch working properly.
Listen to Your Vehicle to Prevent a Breakdown
When you start your engine a multitude of dashboard lights will come on and, after a few seconds, go off again… except that sometimes they don’t. Each car has different gadgets but there’s a core set of warning lights that are common to all car manufacturers. Some of them are gentle reminders of things you need to attend to, some of them are there for information only and some are serious and will require you to act straight away.
So, which is which, and do you really know what they all mean? If you’re unsure then always check your car manual first.
Being Fit to Drive
The other key component to operate your vehicle is you. Whether that’s a car or a bike, if you’re too tired, or stressed, slightly drunk or using seasonal medication (Hay Fever etc) then are you in a fit state to drive? Have you got a back up driver to share the miles? Don’t forget about stopping for regular breaks and planning your journey properly.
When your vehicle has a problem, or you get into trouble on a motorway, stay calm and try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area. If that’s not possible:
- Put your left indicators on.
- Move into the left lane.
- Enter the next emergency area, or hard shoulder.
- Put your hazard lights on.
- Get behind a safety barrier where there is one – keep well away from moving traffic.
- Call Highways England on 0300 123 5000, then a breakdown provider for help.
If you are unable to exit your vehicle and get to a safe place, have stopped in a live traffic lane or feel your life is in danger:
- Stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard lights on
- Call 999 immediately