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What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down

Every car owner has experienced it at one time or another. While driving along the highway, a warning light comes on your dashboard, and suddenly, your car breaks down. Or maybe you hit something in the middle of the roadway and get a flat tire.

In either case, a disabled vehicle is a stressful situation. When this happens, the first thing to do is try to coast to the breakdown lane, or shoulder, as quickly as possible. You should also turn on your hazard lights as soon as safely possible to warn other drivers.

You shouldn’t get out of your vehicle on a busy highway unless smoke or steam is coming from your car’s hood. If you need to get out of the car, get out on the side facing away from the road and stand on the other side of the guardrail.

Once you are safe, call 911 to report your emergency and to initiate roadside assistance. Dispatchers can get state police and tow trucks to assist you. If you have AAA, you can also call them to assist.

When calling for assistance, try to provide the closest mile maker, last exit number, or nearest rest area so that you can be located. The more information or visual identifiers you can include, the faster help can arrive.

If your vehicle becomes disabled on a Massachusetts highway, MassDOT’s Highway Assistance Program, sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance, is also available to help.

Since 2003, MAPFRE has been the exclusive sponsor of the MassDOT Highway Assistance Program, assisting motorists in need along 34 major routes in the state. Among the services the Highway Assistance Patrol provides are:

  • Fixing minor mechanical problems
  • Changing flat tires
  • Providing gas
  • Providing emergency medical help
  • Helping contact AAA

In 2022 alone, the sponsored fleet of 57 vehicles patrolled nearly 1.3 million miles of roadways and cleared 40,693 incidents.

The Highway Assistance Patrol is in service Monday–Friday between 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m. During holidays, there are extended routes in heavy-traffic areas.

Preparing for a vehicle breakdown

No one can predict when their car may break down or when they will get a flat tire. But every car owner should keep the following in their vehicle in the event of an emergency:

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency tool kit (Phillips and flat-head screwdriver, ratcheting screwdriver, socket wrench, pliers, flares)
  • Spare tire also known as a “space-saver”, “donut”, or “compact” spare tire

Does car insurance cover a vehicle breakdown?

Auto insurance would generally not be able to help you during a vehicle breakdown. However, when you insure your car with MAPFRE, there are coverages you can add to your policy that add an extra layer of security for you in the event of a breakdown.

If you’re a Massachusetts driver, you might want to consider MAPFRE’s Elite Package Endorsement, which costs auto policy holders around $35 more annually. Among the coverages under the endorsement are Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts Coverage, Mechanical Parts Replacement Cost Coverage, and, of particular interest if you have a roadside emergency, Additional Towing and Labor Coverage.

Towing and labor coverage also covers the cost of labor done at the scene if doing this work was needed to get your vehicle going again. It doesn’t pay for the cost of repair parts however.

This coverage is available each time your car is disabled.

We hope you found these tips helpful! If you need help reviewing your auto insurance policy, an independent agent in your state can always check to make sure you have the right coverage suited to your individualized needs. If you’re not yet insured with MAPFRE and live in Massachusetts, you can always get a fast, free quote today on your Massachusetts car insurance policy.

Please Note:This content is not intended to describe any specific coverage offered by MAPFRE Insurance. No coverage is provided, bound or guaranteed by this article. Available coverages, credits and discounts vary from state to state and are subject to eligibility criteria and policy terms/conditions, which will control in the event of conflict between this article and your insurance policy. For information about your policy, please review your individual policy contract and speak with your insurance representative.

MAPFRE Insurance® is a brand and service mark of MAPFRE U.S.A. Corp. and its affiliates, American Commerce Insurance CompanySM (Cal. COA 4928-8); Citation Insurance CompanySM; The Commerce Insurance CompanySM; Commerce West Insurance CompanySM (Cal. COA 1372-2); and MAPFRE Insurance CompanySM (Cal. COA 3039-5). Not all products available in all states.


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