Tips to Help You Stay Safe During a Roadside Breakdown

By Chase Bierenkoven

A roadside breakdown is never a welcomed event. Besides being a massive inconvenience, the experience can be terrifying, stressful, or dangerous. Thankfully, there's a myriad of equipment and tricks to help you make it through the ordeal. Nevertheless, know that preventative maintenance and consistent repairs are the best tools to keep you off the side of the road. Here, we'll outline the equipment you should keep in your car, strategies to stay safe during a roadside breakdown, and how to be prepared for one.

What should you do to stay safe?

Before we get into the physical items that can help you in the event of a roadside breakdown, it's important to discuss how to prepare yourself mentally. The most important preparation is investing in a roadside assistance package and keeping the number in your car and on your phone.

Breakdowns are stressful. Keeping your cool is the first step to safely getting back on the road. As soon as you realize there is trouble, hit your hazards, get to the side of the road, and turn the engine off. If possible, turn your wheels away from the road. This will keep your car from careening into traffic in case you get hit from behind. Before launching yourself out of the car, take a moment to assess the situation. Determine if it’s safe to get out of the car or if you’re better off staying put and calling for help. Take note of any nearby landmarks like road signs or mile markers so that you can direct help to your car.

If you must leave your car to go get help or find a cell phone signal, be sure to signal that you are a driver in distress by flagging your car with a white cloth tied to the driver’s side mirror. Stash valuables out of sight and make sure to lock your vehicle.

What to keep in your car in case of a roadside breakdown

Whether you buy a pre-packaged kit or build one yourself, make sure you keep a breakdown kit with a few essentials in the car or trunk. Flares or magnetic LED signal lights are a necessity for warning drivers to give your car a wide berth. Small orange pop up cones are great to place behind the car. Jumper cables and basic tools are good to have on hand as well. If you have custom wheels, be sure to stash the special tool you need to remove the bolts. Other items like a blanket, towel, flashlight, and a first aid kit can come in handy for other emergencies, but also for when you’re stuck on the side of the road.


In addition to a breakdown kit, make sure you know where to find your spare tire and jack. And no matter how mechanical you are, keep your owner’s manual in the car so you know where to find your vehicle’s specifics.

Most of the time, a breakdown ends with a phone call and a tow truck. Your job from the time the wheels stop moving to the moment the truck arrives is simply to stay safe.

A little preparation goes a long way

Take time to get to know your car and how to properly maintain it. Whether you are a professional mechanic or have never pumped your own gas, you can be ready for a breakdown by following the manufacturer’s recommendations for basic maintenance like oil changes, tire rotation, and keeping fluids topped off. While you cannot plan when or where a breakdown will happen, you can have a plan to keep yourself safe if roadside emergencies occur.