What to do when your car breaks down

There’s never a good time or place for your car to stop running, and sometimes breakdowns happen with little to no warning. The good news is that whether you’ve got a flat battery or something more serious, you can keep yourself safe while waiting for our breakdown team to get your vehicle back on the road by following a few simple tips.

Breakdown tips for every occasion

When it comes to breakdowns, there are golden rules you should follow regardless of where in Australia your car stops running.


  • Move to the far-left side of the road or find a breakdown bay
  • Turn on your hazard lights and parking lights
  • Keep your seat belt on if you decide to stay in your vehicle
  • Leave through the passenger door, stay at a safe distance away from the road, and keep an eye on pets and children if you decide to exit your vehicle
  • Call Roadside Assistance or download the RACQ Roadside Assistance app for fast help


  • Keep driving if your car is struggling, pull over as soon as you find a safe place
  • Wave down traffic for help as this can distract other drivers, wait for assistance far away from traffic or stay buckled inside your car
  • Try to fix your car yourself or let someone else fix your car, wait for a patrol to arrive or a tow truck to take you to a safe location
  • Get out of your car when there’s nowhere safe to stand

What to do if you’ve broken down on a motorway

With fast-moving cars, no escape route, and little room to stand, being broken down on a motorway is a situation no one wants to find themselves in. Check out our extra tips for motorway breakdowns.


  • Stop in the emergency breakdown lane or get to the far-left side of the road if you can't find an emergency stopping bay
  • Wait behind the roadside barrier away from your vehicle if it’s safe to exit your car
  • Take your keys with you if you're getting out of your car


  • Stop in any of the driving lanes, always move your car as far off the road as you can
  • Get out of your car if there’s nowhere to stand – motorways have little room so it’s often safer to stay buckled inside your car
  • Walk to find help – the safest thing to do is wait for roadside assistance

What to do if you’ve broken down with pets or children in the car

Having pets or children in the car during a breakdown is considered an emergency situation as it can cause a whole new set of challenges. Keeping all your passengers off the road takes a little more care, but it is possible to make sure everyone's safe.


  • Keep calm and reassure your kids and pets
  • Sit beside your child if they’re struggling or trying to get out of their seat


  • Stay in your car if it’s uncomfortably hot - crack a window, turn on your air conditioning, or exit your vehicle if it’s safe to do so

What to do if you’ve broken down at night

Night-time breakdowns can be scary, especially if you’re travelling alone. Rest assured, we’ll reach you when you need us most. In the meantime, simply follow our advice.


  • Take note of your exact location - it's a little trickier to see vehicles at night, so let your patrol know exactly where you are or download the RACQ Roadside Assistance app as it pinpoints your location automatically from your phone's GPS
  • Be aware if you’re approached for help and keep your doors locked until roadside assistance arrives

What to do if you've broken down in a storm

When living in Queensland, it's inevitable you'll be caught out in a storm at some stage. If your car has broken down in wild weather, you can still keep safe while you wait.


  • Stay inside your car with your seat belt on
  • Keep away from windows in a hailstorm - put a blanket or towel over yourself and other passengers if the windows or windscreen cracks


  • Get out of your car, it’s safer inside when it’s hailing, raining heavily, or there’s lightning and thunder
  • Stop under a tree or any other construction that might fall down

What to do if you've broken down overseas

Just like in Australia, there's a universal breakdown etiquette. With the help of an overseas motoring club, you can get back to enjoying your holiday again in no time.


  • Know the assistance number before you drive
  • Pull over on the shoulder or breakdown bay furthest from traffic - remember, this may be the right-side lane in another country
  • Call the rental car company or roadside assistance number you were given


  • Wave down cars for help – there could be a language or culture barrier, it’s best to seek professional help
  • Pull over to the left side of the road if you’re in a country that’s right-hand drive, just get far away from other traffic by moving off the road

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.