Roadside breakdowns can be more than a mere inconvenience, emergencies of this nature, if not prepared for and handled correctly, can be dangerous for all involved, including other drivers. Following a few basic steps can ensure that you and your vehicle make it through the breakdown as easily and safely as possible.

First, turn on your hazards to alert other drivers to an issue, even if you’re still driving, and keep them on until help arrives. Next, maneuver your vehicle off the road, ideally aiming for the right shoulder and as far away from traffic as possible. Engage your emergency brake and angle your wheels away from the road to avoid rolling into traffic if brakes fail. If you’re on a busy thoroughfare, stay in your vehicle. If you need to exit the vehicle, attempt to do so out the side opposite traffic. If you have them, set up flares or reflectors behind your car to further warn oncoming traffic. Finally, call for a tow, mechanic, or roadside assistance depending on coverage and accessibility.

once the immediate emergency is dealt with, it’s important to consider how you might be best prepared for future roadside needs. The most important factor in averting car breakdowns is to maintain your vehicle. Change the oil, keep the tires at optimal fill levels, monitor battery life, etc. Have your vehicle inspected annually by a reputable mechanic and complete any recommended repairs and mileage-based replacements.

You might also weigh the benefits of a roadside assistance plan, particularly if you have an older vehicle. The peace of mind inherent in knowing you or a loved one will have immediate help if issues arise can be well worth the monthly investment. Among other optional services, roadside plans can help arrange a tow, change a flat tire, or jump-start a dead battery, and many will cover the costs of additional emergency services.

Finally, consider stocking your vehicle with a few emergency items, including a cell phone charger; a first aid kit and any critical medications; a flashlight and batteries; snacks and water; jumper cables; a spare tire and a tire gauge; reflectors, cones, or flares; coolant; and cold weather gear, if applicable, such as gloves, a thermal/emergency blanket, hand warmers, a hat, and an ice scraper.