Stranded Driver

What to do if your vehicle breaks down.

If your vehicle breaks down, do you know what to do? What information will you need to provide the road service operator or garage?
Car broken down on side of highway

Here are some general guidelines to follow if your vehicle breaks down on a highway.

1. Pull off the road.
Pull onto the highway shoulder as quickly and safely as possible. Remember to signal and try to remain on level ground. Alternatively, if you need to pull onto the left shoulder, ensure that you are as far away from moving traffic as possible.

If you CANNOT pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights. Do not risk injury by attempting to push your car to a safe location. If you are uncertain about your safety and think your vehicle may be struck from behind, do not stay in your vehicle. Leave your vehicle only if there is a safer area to move to, away from the highway.
2. Note your vehicle's location.

Look for a major exit. Note landmarks such as service stations, restaurants, shopping centres and business complexes. Do you remember the last exit name or any numbered signs near your location? This will be useful to know when calling for assistance.

3. Assess your vehicle's operating problem.

Did you hear any unusual noises, experience any out-of-the-ordinary car responses or note any steam or smoke coming from under the hood?

If you must get out of your vehicle to assess the situation:

  • Watch carefully for oncoming traffic, especially at night or in bad weather. Exit the vehicle from the side away from traffic.
  • Never stand behind or directly in front of your vehicle, as you risk being struck by drivers who might not see you.
4. Alert other motorists by making your vehicle visible.
  • Turn on your hazard lights, especially at night or in bad weather.
  • Raise your vehicle’s hood. If you have a bright handkerchief, scarf or light jacket, tie it to the antenna or door handle, or hold it in place by closing it in a window.
5. Call 911 and communicate your situation.

Once you and your passengers are in a safe location, call 911. They will advise you on what to do. After calling emergency services, call a family member or friend and advise them of your situation and location.

6. Call for roadside assistance.

Call for assistance and tell the operator the following:

  • Your membership number if you are a CAA Member.
  • The phone number where you can be reached.
  • Your location.
  • A description of your vehicle.
  • The nature of your problem.
  • Describe any circumstances that may require special towing or transport considerations, such as an unusual or rare vehicle, large number of passengers, infants, animals, medical needs or whether your vehicle requires special fuel.
  • Advise the road service operator that you have called 911.
7. Know your rights and responsibilities.

It’s your responsibility to understand what services your Roadside Assistance or insurance policy will cover.

If you choose to exit your vehicle:

  • Stay away from oncoming traffic and exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from traffic.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Carry a flashlight with you if possible, especially in nighttime situations.
  • If relying on the help of a friendly motorist, ask for identification before accepting assistance. Write this information down and leave it with another person or in the vehicle explaining where you are going and when you expect to return.

If you choose to stay in your vehicle:

  • Keep the windows and doors locked.
  • Do not leave the engine running for extended periods – this could put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you are threatened by a stranger while waiting in your car, call 911. Honk the horn repeatedly and flash the lights to attract the attention of other motorists. 

Important numbers.

Police and Ambulance

911

CAA Insurance Claims

1-877-222-1717

CAA Roadside Assistance

1-800-222-4357

GTA: 416-222-5222

Cell: *222

Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.