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Coronavirus: What Should I Do If My Car Breaks Down?

Teal chevrolet car with bonnet up parked next to lamp post

Though the majority of the public are under lockdown, there are some who need to get behind the wheel every day. If you’re a key worker or volunteer who is entirely dependent on a car for travel, you might be wondering what will happen if your car breaks down during the coronavirus pandemic. If you end up with a flat tyre, or you encounter a problem with your engine, will breakdown services be available to help?

We’re going to take a look at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected breakdown services, and what measures providers are taking to help keep the public safe. We’ll also throw in a run through of what you need to do if you break down during the lockdown and what steps you can take to minimise the chances of it happening. Get the full lowdown below!


Whilst we’re sure you’re fully aware of the rules by now, we’d like to reiterate that you should only be getting behind the wheel for essential travel. This includes:

  • Shopping for basic essentials
  • Medical needs
  • Travel to and from work (if you’re not able to work from home)

Are breakdown services still available?

Fortunately for those who are dependent on their cars for essential travel, most major breakdown services are still available, e.g., the AA and RAC. So, if your car does break down, they’ll be on hand to provide emergency services. Of course, due to the pandemic, all breakdown providers have had to establish a new set of rules in order to keep drivers and breakdown technicians safe. If you already have a breakdown policy in place, we’d recommend that you head on over to your provider’s website to check what their new protocol might be.

Be aware, however, that whilst you’ll likely receive help if your car breaks down during lockdown, you will experience some kind of a delay when getting in touch with your provider. Whether you’re ringing in, filling out a form online or using an app, most providers are warning drivers to expect long waiting times. In any case, providers are still reassuring drivers that they will be there to help as soon as they can.

What should I do if my car breaks down during the coronavirus pandemic?

Back of white car driving down empty road
Image source: Erik Mclean (via Unsplash)

If you haven’t yet experienced a car breakdown before (lucky you), you might not know what steps you need to take in order to stay safe and get your vehicle fixed ASAP. Fortunately, we’re way ahead of you. We’ve got a full in-depth guide that covers exactly what you need to do if your car breaks down. Follow the steps and you’ll be just fine.

For those of you who are moderately familiar with the process, here’s a quick summary to get you back up to speed:

  • Check your car before you leave: take a look at your tyres, warning lights and fluid levels. Also, make sure that you’ve got details sorted for a breakdown provider, just in case.
  • Find a safe place: if your car’s acting up, you need to get as far to the left as possible—or the hard shoulder, if you’re on a dual carriageway or motorway.
  • Stay visible: turn on your hazard lights and get out of the car carefully. Use a warning triangle if you have one. Then, stand back from the road or wait behind the barrier.
  • Get in touch with your breakdown provider: depending on the provider, you’ll have to get in touch online, over the phone or via an app. Make sure you give them any information that they require.

What if I’m showing symptoms of coronavirus?

Once you get through to a breakdown provider, it is absolutely vital that you let them know whether you or one of your passengers are self-isolating, or showing symptoms of coronavirus. Their top priority will be minimising the risk associated with coming into contact with you. As such, it’s imperative that you answer their questions truthfully—you don’t want to endanger the people who are coming to help you.

You’ll find that some providers, like the AA, will still be able to help you in most circumstances. Others, like the RAC, however, warn the public that if they do have symptoms or are self-isolating, that they’ll only attend in exceptional situations. It’s safe to assume, however, that if you’re stuck on a motorway, most providers will try their best to help you out.

Are there any rules that need to be followed as a result of the coronavirus?

Keep apart sign on pavement
Image source: John Cameron (via Unsplash)

As eager as you might be to get the show on the road once emergency services show up, it’s important that you take a step back and make sure you’re sticking to the rules. Social distancing is an absolute must here. When breakdown services arrive, you will need to maintain a distance of at least two metres. So, watch the technician carefully and move as they do—follow any instructions they give you to the letter.

In line with other public services, breakdown providers will also be following strict safety procedures in order to keep everyone involved safe. For starters, all technicians have been asked to stay at least two metres away from customers. They will also be using latex protective gloves, hand sanitising gel and wipes to disinfect the vehicles they’re working on. All technicians will maintain a contact-free service—they won’t even ask you for a signature once they’re done.

What happens once they’ve taken a look at my car?

If a provider is able to fix your problem, they will finish things off by disinfecting all surfaces of the vehicle that they have come into contact with. You will then be able to get into your car and go on your merry way. If they aren’t able to fix the problem, however, you will not be able to sit with the technician in their van due to social distancing. Instead, you’ll most likely be asked to stay in your vehicle whilst it’s being towed.

Where you end up will vary depending on the provider and the situation at hand. If a provider can’t take you with them, they will likely tow you home, or to a location of your choosing. They will then arrange to take your vehicle to a garage when it’s possible to do so. Other providers, like Green Flag, offer to take customers to a safe location where they will be able to access public transport or be picked up—depending on your cover level, they will cover the cost of public transport and take your vehicle to a different location if required.

In any case, your safety is the top priority of breakdown providers. No matter what situation you’re in, they will try to make alternative arrangements in order to get you home safely.

What if I’m a key worker?

A knitted NHS flag hanging on a tree
Image source: Tugce Gungormezler (via Unsplash)

If you’re a key worker and you already have a breakdown policy in place, it would be a good idea to check their website to see if they’re offering anything for key workers. If you’ve not got a breakdown policy, you should research providers online. Having a policy in place will give you peace of mind.

Here are a few examples of what breakdown providers and car manufacturers are offering key workers during the ongoing pandemic:

  • The AA is offering free breakdown service to and from work during the coronavirus pandemic to NHS workers—whether you’re an AA member or not.
  • RAC is offering to rescue any NHS worker who needs their help, without charge.
  • Nissan is providing free of charge roadside assistance to all key workers who own a Nissan vehicle, regardless of its age.
  • Vauxhall is offering free roadside assistance to all NHS staff who drive one of its cars during the pandemic.

Every breakdown provider out there will have a page on their website dedicated to their new rules and procedures as a result of the coronavirus. So, take some time to trawl through what’s on offer. You’re bound to find something that will help you if you do end up needing assistance on the road.

How do I minimise my chances of breaking down during the pandemic?

If you’re dependent on your car during the ongoing pandemic, then you’ll want to minimise your chances of breaking down—and also prepare for the possibility so that you’re not completely caught out if it happens. With that in mind, here are a few handy tips:

  • Maintain your car: if you don’t take care of your car properly, don’t be surprised when it breaks down. Put in the effort with your car and it will pay off. Read up on our advice for maintaining your car during lockdown and our guide on how to avoid car wear and tear!
  • Get the essentials: if you’re going to be stuck at the side of the road waiting for assistance for hours, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed the right things—having food, water or extra clothing could go a long way, after all. So, take some time to stock up on your essential car items!
  • Find a breakdown provider: if you’ve not got a breakdown policy in place, you should sort one out ASAP. It will give you some much-needed reassurance. If the worst does happen and your car does break down, at least you know that you’ll have full support every step of the way.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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