If a flat tire, mechanical breakdown, or empty fuel tank forces you to stop driving, the most important thing is to take actions that ensure your safety. Here are some tips from the auto experts at Consumer Reports.
Get off the road
Pull your vehicle as far off of the road as safely possible. If your vehicle is in or near traffic and you can safely walk to another location, do it. If the vehicle is parked on the shoulder of a busy highway, exit on the passenger side. Lock the door and leave a note on the windshield with your mobile phone number in case roadside assistance or the police stop by the vehicle.
Make your vehicle as visible as possible
At the minimum, turn on the hazard lights as soon as you realize that your vehicle has problems. Once stopped, use any warning signals that you have—flares, hazard triangle, or a warning light—to alert other motorists of your vehicle's presence. Place the warning device as far behind your car as practical to give other motorists as much notice as possible.
Display a distress signal
If you need police help, raise the hood or tie a white cloth to the radio antenna or door handle, or hang the cloth out of the top of the door and close it on the cloth.
Keep the doors locked
If the vehicle is in a safe location, you should wait inside. Keep the doors locked and the safety belts fastened.
Use good judgment in accepting help from strangers. If someone of whom you're suspicious stops, lower the window only enough to talk. If you're waiting for help, thank them for stopping but tell them you're OK. If you need help, ask them to make a call for you.
See our list of recommended items to carry in a roadside emergency kit.