What could be worse than your car breaking down? Breaking down in a foreign country.

With no knowledge of local recovery agents, arranging help can be a difficult task. As none of us want to think about the possibility of a breakdown, especially in an an unfamiliar place, we’ve put together ten tips that you should take on board to make sure you stay safe and handle the situation effectively before help arrives.

Be prepared in advance

Make sure you’re carrying a reflective jacket and triangle in your vehicle so that you can mark your location if your car breaks down. Your reflective triangle should be placed 45 metres away from your car — this way you can be spotted.

Be sure to always have a safety kit in your car for emergencies. Your kit should include:

  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone
  • Reflectors or flares
  • Flashlight
  • Emergency service phone numbers
  • Jump cables
  • Charger
  • Tyre inflator
  • Spare tyre
  • A jack

Move to safety

If you think your car is about to break down, whether that’s because of unusual noises, vibrations or smoke coming from the engine, you should slow down and find a safe place to stop. Get out of the car in the safest way possible. If that means climbing to get out of the passenger side door, do so – you should always get out on the side that’s away from traffic.

Signal to other drivers that you’re not moving

You should always put your hazard lights on in order to inform other drivers that your vehicle is disabled. This will make it a lot easier for other drivers to see your car, especially at night time.

Call for help

When you’re out of the car safely and out of harm’s way, assess your situation and call for help. You can reduce the stress of this situation by having a set of emergency numbers already to hand, so you don’t have to spend time looking them up.

Another idea would be to take out European Breakdown Cover before hitting the road so you have the security of recovery support anywhere in Europe.

Stay with your car

Never leave your car with anyone or on its own. Stay close by so help will know where to find you and so that it’s obvious to passing traffic that the car has not been abandoned.

Be wary of who stops to help

Be wary of accepting help from anyone who offers. Unfortunately, your car could become a target for criminals. If you’ve called for help and are parked in a safe place, stay in your car with your doors locked and windows up. If, however, you’re beside the car, simply thank the individual for stopping and let them know that help is on the way.

Don’t attempt any repairs yourself

Don’t attempt to repair your car yourself. By trying to fix the problem you’ll probably be endangering your own safety by moving around the vehicle near the traffic.

Make sure you pack some snacks and water

Store a few bottles of water in your car and some snacks just in case you’re stuck for a long period of time before help arrives. Good snack ideas are granola bars, nuts, crisps or anything else that’s easy to store and eat.

Seasonal clothing

Be sure to have extra clothing packed in your car just in case you experience bad weather. A blanket, jacket and sensible footwear are a good idea to have. During the summer you may want to swap the warm clothes for a rain jacket or umbrella, just in case.

Have a road atlas in the car

Although we’re very much in the digital age now, it’s also a good idea to keep a road atlas in your car just in case one of our electronics lets us down. It will keep you aware of your surroundings, it will never lose service or signal and printed material can’t run out of battery.

Breaking down can be a scary and stressful situation. Just try to remember to stay calm and follow our safety tips for the best way to handle a breakdown. For more helpful advice, RAC have created a guide with useful tips and tricks to consider when planning a European road trip.