Vehicle breakdown Lessons Note

What causes breakdowns?

Breakdowns are almost exclusively caused by drivers not servicing their vehicle often enough, or not taking proper care to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy before taking off.

To reduce the risk of a breakdown:

  • Make sure that you have enough fuel to last the journey before you depart, and water in your vehicle to last until help arrives in case of a breakdown
  • Maintain and regularly service your vehicle
  • Regularly check your oil level and tyre pressure

Breakdown lanes are for breakdown situations only. Use rest areas for phone calls, toilet stops etc.

Activate your hazard lights in case of a breakdown

Only stop if you have to, and try to find a safe spot to pull over. Pull over and park as far to the left as possible and activate your hazard lights - leave them on even if you have left the road.

When broken down:

  • Assess the road situation for potential hazards
  • If safe to leave the car, try to exit from the passenger’s side and stand clear of the road
  • If you feel that it's dangerous to leave the car, stay inside with your seatbelt on
  • Call roadside assistance
  • You may lift your boot lid or bonnet to show other drivers you are experiencing trouble
  • In poor light conditions, activate parking lights to increase visibility further

When passing a breakdown

Slow down to approximately 30 km/h lower than the signed speed limit when passing a breakdown.

Footbrake failure

If you are having trouble stop

  • pump hard and fast on the brake pedal
  • carefully apply the handbrake, increasing pressure gradually
  • change to a lower gear
  • use your horn/flash headlights to warn others
  • try to steer away from danger and other road users

Tyre blowouts

Tyre pressure and tread depth need to be kept at safe levels. Make sure your vehicle’s tyres are in good condition and have a tread at least 1.5mm deep

In case of a tyre blowout, grip your steering wheel firmly and compensate for any pull to the side(s).

  • If a front tyre blows, your vehicle will usually pull to the damaged side
  • If a rear tyre blows, your vehicle will usually wobble to the sides

Don’t panic or brake immediately and try not to oversteer in response to a pull to one side. Slow down gradually once the vehicle is under control, and look for somewhere to pull over. Keep in mind that your vehicle can behave in an unknown way based on the road conditions.

Stalling (e.g. at a railway level crossing)

Stalling at the wrong places can be very dangerous. You should always use your hazard lights to warn other road users if your car stalls. If you’re unable to restart the engine and there is no immediate danger, push the vehicle out of danger. Make sure to put it in a neutral gear before pushing.

Stuck accelerator

If your vehicle continues at the same speed or accelerates when you release the accelerator, it could be stuck. Try to depress the clutch in a manual vehicle (or placing the gear in ‘NEUTRAL’ if automatic), and then apply firm pressure on the brakes without causing the wheels to lock.

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