How to Handle a Car Breakdown

Modern cars are pretty reliable. And that’s good, because we use them every day to get to work, make our appointments and drop the kids off at school.

But car breakdowns are still a reality, and there’s no way to ensure your car never leaves you stranded. There’s never a good time for your vehicle to have a problem, so handling a car breakdown is often stressful.

Having a plan can help you keep your cool when your car breaks down, ensuring you’re ready to handle the issue and get home safely.

In this article, we’ll provide a complete guide on how to handle a car breakdown or accident, so you know what to do next.

Harveys Towing home tow fleet on road

How to Handle a Car Breakdown

Look After Your Own Safety First

Breaking down is never convenient, and it’s worse when it happens on a busy road or highway. Make sure to turn your hazard lights on before you do anything else. Hazard lights can be used even when the car is off and the key is out of the ignition.

If you break down while driving then you should:

  • Pull as far to the left hand side of the road as possible (do not pull over to the right hand side of the road)
  • Pull into a side street, breakdown lane or road shoulder if possible
  • Turn your wheels away from traffic
  • Switch on your hazard lights and parking lights
  • Make sure it’s safe to exit your vehicle before doing so
  • Take your keys with you when leaving the car
  • Wait a safe distance away from the car, such as behind a barrier

Don’t continue driving your car if it’s struggling. Pull over as soon as you find a safe place. Once parked, avoid flagging down other drivers for help. This can be dangerous to everyone on the road.

If it’s not safe to exit your vehicle, or if there is nowhere safe to wait outside the car, stay in the driver’s seat and keep your seatbelt on. Your car is designed to withstand a crash, and this could save your life if another car hits you.

Waiting Outside Your Vehicle

Breaking down on the side of the road can be incredibly dangerous. Breakdowns tend to distract other drivers, and that can lead to accidents.

You should always remain in your vehicle if it’s not safe to exit, or if there is nowhere safe to wait.

If you do decide to leave your vehicle, you should find a spot that is:

  • Highly visible to other road users
  • A good distance away from the road, such as behind a road barrier
  • Behind the vehicle (in case another car hits your vehicle and pushes it forward)

Always exit broken down vehicles through the passenger side if you are stuck in a lane. If it’s not safe to exit the car, the best thing to do is remain in the vehicle with your seatbelt on and call for help.

Man waiting on side of road for tow truck

Who to Call When Broken Down on Public Roads

If you’ve broken down on public roads, you’ll need to arrange a tow truck. There are a few ways to do this. You can:

  • Call a tow company yourself – operators like Harvey’s Towing are available 24/7. Simply give us a call, tell us where you are and we’ll send a tow truck to help as soon as possible.
  • Contact your roadside assistance – roadside assistance can get you out of a sticky situation. Your provider may also be able to help out with things like punctured tyres and flat batteries, avoiding the need for a tow truck altogether.
  • Speak to your insurer – choosing a towing company isn’t always easy. If you don’t know who to call, speak to your insurance company. They will be happy to connect you with a towing operator they trust. Just keep in mind that the tow will be at your expense if your insurance doesn’t cover towing costs.

Provide all the details about your situation when speaking to the towing company. Tell the operator if you’re stuck on a busy highway or if you have kids in the car. You may be given higher priority for those kinds of situations.

Who to Call When Broken Down on the Motorway

Australia’s major cities stay connected with motorways. Breaking down on a motorway is common, but it’s also an incredibly dangerous position to be in.

Once you’re sure you are safe, you can call Linkt on 13 33 31, or keep your phone handy and wait for them to call you. Alternatively, you can contact QLD Traffic on 13 19 40 for assistance.

Toll road operators employ their own recovery teams. Recovery teams constantly monitor the roadway via cameras. They will attempt to call your phone and will send a tow truck to meet you as soon as possible.

Toll road operators won’t tow your car all the way to the mechanic. They’ll provide a free tow to get you off the motorway, but you’ll need to contact a towing company to get home.

Who to Call When Broken Down in a Parking Lot

Most vehicle breakdowns are caused by small problems like flat batteries. That means you may be able to get to your destination, but you could be unable to get home.

If you break down in a parking lot (or on private property), you can call a tow truck yourself.

Make sure you tell the operator that you have broken down in a car park, especially if it’s a multi-storey structure. Standard flatbed tow trucks often don’t fit into multi-storey car parks. The tow company will need to send an appropriate vehicle for the confined space.

You should also inform the owner of the building, e.g. centre management or the building manager. They may be able to help recover your car by opening special access gates or moving your car to a more convenient spot.

Preventing Car Breakdowns

Prevention is the best medicine. When it comes to cars breaking down, faulty batteries, flat tyres and unserviced engines are the three most common causes. You can avoid most breakdowns simply by:

  • Having your car serviced on time by a mechanic
  • Periodically checking tyre pressures when you’re filling up at the petrol station
  • Checking your oil levels between services
  • Asking a battery shop to load test your battery every few years

If you can keep up with these bits of preventative maintenance, your risk of breaking down on a busy road is much lower.

How to Handle a Car Accident

Assess the Situation
As frightening as a car accident can be, the first thing you need to do is stop and remain calm. Before you make any move to leave the car, you’ll need to assess yourself and the situation:

  • Are you hurt? Modern cars are incredibly safe to drive, and most accidents only cause bumps and bruises. To be safe, take a moment to collect your thoughts and figure out whether you’ve been hurt.
  • Can you get out of the car? If you’re on a busy road, check for traffic thoroughly before stepping out, then stand well clear of the accident. Stay in the car and keep your seatbelt fastened if you’re unable to leave the vehicle safely.
  • Is anyone else hurt? Once you’re out of the car, the first thing you need to do is check on anyone else that was involved. Ask the drivers and occupants of other cars if they’re hurt or need medical help.

If you or anyone else has injuries that need attention, dial 000 and ask for an ambulance. In the case where a driver can’t exit their vehicle, you’ll also need to ask for the fire service.
Police are required to attend all accidents that cause injuries or major damage (to vehicles, sign posts and other property).

Report the Incident

If you’re involved in an accident, Queensland law requires you to stop at the scene and contact the police via 000 if:

  • A driver, occupant or pedestrian has been killed
  • A driver, occupant or pedestrian has been injured and needs medical help
  • The crash creates a safety hazard, e.g. traffic congestion, spilled fuel or debris on the road

Luckily, most accidents don’t result in serious injury. Even if you’ve gotten off lightly, you’ll still need to report the incident to your insurance provider, and you might need to call an accident towing service.

After minor car accidents, it’s a good idea to visit your GP for an assessment. Some injuries worsen over time or don’t show up until later, so keep an eye on possible symptoms.

Gather Information About the Accident

Once you’ve made sure everyone is okay, you’ll need some information. Speak to the other drivers to share your own details and gather theirs. Drivers involved in accidents (including you) must provide:

  • Name and address
  • Name and address of the vehicle’s owner (if the car is owned by someone else)
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Other vehicle identification, like the make and model

Contact Policelink if another driver refuses to give you their information or if you suspect them of being intoxicated.

For insurance, it’s also a good idea to take photos of the scene. Make sure the pictures show the damage to your vehicle, other vehicles and anything else you might have hit, like road barriers or street signs.

The more details you can collect at the scene, the smoother the claim process will be.


Two cars front crash accident

Get Home Safely with 24/7 Breakdown Towing from Harvey’s Towing!

Accidents and breakdowns can happen anywhere, any time. Knowing who you should call can take the stress out of the situation, ensuring you get home safely. If you’re on the road in the Brisbane region, it’s worth putting the Harvey’s Towing number in your contacts list!

Harvey’s Towing offers 24/7 accident and breakdown towing in Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich and the Gold Coast. We operate depots across South East Queensland, and our operators are always on call, so we can help you out of any situation. Simply tell us where you are and we’ll connect you with a tow truck as soon as possible.

You can contact us online if you’d like to make a booking, or call us on 07 3297 0911 if you need our emergency towing services.