Nobody expects (or wants) their vehicle to break down. It’s stressful, it takes up time, it can cost you money if your vehicle needs repairs. Not a great list…
Unfortunately, it happens quite often. Here at Green Flag, we helped with over 500,000 jobs in 2021 alone.
Even though no driver wants to be in that situation, there’s a good chance you’ll have to call on a breakdown cover provider at some point in your life. So, if you don’t have cover already, now may be the time.
That’s why we’ve put all the important info you need about breakdown cover in one place.
You might think you have a relatively new, reliable car and don’t need breakdown cover. You probably won’t be surprised when I reveal we attend thousands of calls every year from drivers who have broken down in relatively new, apparently reliable cars.
Here’s a classic example. It’s been a cold night, you go to start your car in the morning and when you turn the key you just get a click and nothing else. Flat battery.
The debate about smart motorways is currently raging, so I wanted to clarify Green Flag’s policy on them, and provide the latest information on what happens if you do break down on one.
explanation of smart motorways
Smart motorways are split into three categories:
Dynamic hard shouldermotorways have a hard
shoulder on the left-hand side; however, it can be opened for traffic to ease
Controlled motorways will have variable speed limits
shown on screens above the lanes themselves.
All lane running motorways don’t have a hard
shoulder, as every lane is used for traffic. You’ll find yellow-painted
‘emergency refuge areas’ every 600m to 1.5 miles. Any driver can use these
areas if there is an emergency or they break down.
If you ever see a red X on the screens above the
lane, that means the lane is closed. There may be a breakdown or people working
on the roadside. Do not drive on this lane until told otherwise (you’ll usually
see the red X replaced with a speed limit).
do if you break down, but can still drive your vehicle
If you know there’s a problem, but you’re still able to
drive safely, try and leave the motorway and then contact us.
If this isn’t possible, then either use an emergency refuge
area or move to the left-hand side of the motorway.
Use an emergency refuge area:
If you’re unable to leave the motorway, aim for one of the emergency areas. As these areas can be up to 1.5 miles apart from each other, it’s worth noting when you last passed one so you can work out how close your next area is.
When you’re in an emergency area, make sure your hazard lights are on (as well as your sidelights if visibility is poor). Also, leave room behind and in front of your vehicle to allow emergency vehicle access.
Every emergency area has a phone that you can use to contact the local highways agency or the police – you’ll be automatically directed to them.
You can also call them from your mobile:
If you’re driving in England, call National Highways on 0300 123 5000.
If you’re driving in Scotland, call Traffic Scotland on 0800 028 1414.
If you’re driving in Wales, call Traffic Wales on 0300 123 1213.
If you’re driving in Northern Ireland, it’s recommended you call the police on 999.
If you’re safely in an emergency area, call the local highways agency before you get in touch with a breakdown cover provider. If you can’t safely leave your vehicle, or if you can’t get to an emergency area, call 999 immediately.
Move to the left-hand side of the motorway:
If an emergency area is not available, but you can still drive, the next best thing is to move to the left-hand side of the motorway. Use a hard shoulder if it’s available, or get your vehicle as close to the left-hand verge, boundary or a slip-road as possible.
If it’s safe to, have everyone leave using the left-hand doors, and if there’s a safety barrier, get behind it. Move away from the vehicle and stay at a safe distance from the motorway.
As your vehicle is not in an emergency area, call 999 as soon as you can. Make sure you call 999 before contacting your breakdown cover provider.
do if you break down on an active lane
What happens here depends on what lane you are in.
If you’re on the left-hand lane (lane one):
If you break down on the left-hand lane (also known as ‘lane one’), we will be able to come to your rescue. However, there are some steps you need to take to stay safe.
Where possible leave the vehicle by the left doors and follow the instructions above.
If this is not possible, and you can’t safely exit the vehicle, then do the following.
First, make sure your seatbelt is left on and that you’ve put on your hazard lights. Second, call the police on 999 immediately. They’ll work with the local highways agency to close the lane (using the red X mentioned before) to help keep you safe.
We will come to your rescue, with the help of a fend-off
vehicle. This vehicle will sit further back on the lane to help shield you from
other vehicles. This fend-off vehicle will come at no extra charge to you.
We will never attempt fix a problem on the lane. We will tow
your vehicle off the motorway to somewhere safe. This minimises the amount of
disruption to other traffic and enables our technician to inspect your vehicle
If you’re on lanes two, three or four:
Breakdowns on these lanes need to be dealt with by the police or the local highways agency, as all lanes will most likely have to be closed.
If you’re unable to move to any of the areas previously mentioned, remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard lights on, then call the police immediately on 999. If you’re unable to call, stay calm. Smart motorways have control centres that use cameras to monitor the motorways. They will see the problem and will work to get you help as soon as possible. However, always call the police immediately if you are able to.
future of smart motorways
The smart motorway debate is an ongoing one.
At Green Flag, our priority is – and always will be –
customer safety. That’s why we’re an active member of SURVIVE (Safer Use of
Verges In Vehicular Emergencies). This is an industry body made up mainly of
government agencies and breakdown companies.
I personally sit on this, and we regularly discuss all areas
of the breakdown process from the industry’s perspective.
We’re currently debating how well Highways England, which
manages the motorway network on behalf of the Government, can support us in trying
to increase driver awareness about smart motorways.
In the meantime, I’d like to reassure all drivers that we’re
doing all we can to help ensure smart motorways are as safe as possible for everyone.
Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago? What car you were driving, how much you spent on fuel and how congested the roads were?
Even if you don’t, you may recall signing up for cover from a
new breakdown company. It was called Green Flag and caused a splash by sponsoring
the England football team.
Twenty-five years later and Green Flag is still offering the same great service. Motoring, however, has changed significantly. It might not be quite beyond all recognition but things are certainly very different.
The MOT test changes this weekend but you can be forgiven if you didn’t know. New research conducted by Green Flag reveals that six out of 10 drivers (58 per cent) haven’t realised the MOT changes are happening.
More worryingly perhaps, nine out of 10 drivers (89 per cent) are unaware that driving a car with an invalid MOT might result in a £2500 fine. And a quarter (25 per cent) don’t realise that driving a faulty vehicle results in a penalty. Read on to find out more about the changes and how drivers might be able to save themselves money.
This March we saw a significant increase in the number of customers ringing us with their engine warning light on. These faults were up by more than a third (39.3 per cent) compared with February.
Warning lights can be worrying and frustrating in equal measure. They’re a worry because they indicate trouble. And when things go wrong with cars, it usually costs money. They’re frustrating because while the lights reveal a fault, they don’t tell you exactly what the problem is. Here’s what you need to know.
Sometimes technicians need to go to extreme lengths to find a fault in a car (Picture iStock/Boschettophotopgraphy
The older cars get the more likely they are to develop faults. And the worst of those is the intermittent fault; a noise or problem that’s there one minute, gone the next. The temptation for many of us is simply to tell the mechanic there’s an occasional rattling noise at the front and let them get on with it.
That’s fine but you wouldn’t go to the doctor, say you’ve got a pain in your leg and expect them to instantly diagnose the correct malady. And unlike most doctors, mechanics charge by the hour, so leaving them to find out what’s wrong will cost you.
But even the least mechanical people can make the technician’s life easier. And by doing so, they may even save themselves some money. Here’s how you should go about reporting an intermittent fault with your car to a garage.