Breaking down is not for the faint hearted

Blog post posted on 17/09/19 |

Breaking down is not for the faint hearted

It happened as most breakdowns do; as a very unexpected and unwelcome event. I was on my way home from a meeting in Bristol, when my car alerted me to say that it was getting a little warm and requested for me to drive moderately. I initially took affront to this as I was hardly doing anything other than driving carefully.

There wasn’t anything wrong with my driving, however, my car was simply alerting me to a possible problem. I assumed it was because of a lot of stopping and starting. Sadly for me this was not the case, and within a minute or so, my trusted car was asking me to stop as soon as possible.

Getting a message like this from your car can cause concern to even the most experienced drivers. Initially I thought “where am I going to stop safely and where won't I be a bother to other road users”. Luckily, along that particular stretch of the A4 there was a wide pavement, which is also used as a cycle path.  As it was so wide, I thought it was the safest place for me to be: there was enough room for my car and enough space for pedestrians and cyclists to pass.

So, there I was, parked up on the pavement thinking about what I should do next. My hazard lights were on and there was little point in me lifting the bonnet at this stage with a hot engine, as I didn't want to run the risk of getting hurt.

Luckily, I have breakdown cover included with my bank account so at least I knew help was at hand.  Breakdown cover is one of those things you hope you never need but are so glad you have if the worst happens.

I called the AA but having never broken down before I was unsure of what the process was. The call was answered quickly by a lovely woman in the call centre who upon asking if I was in a dangerous situation, immediately tried to give me safety advice. I assured her I was as safe as I could be on a pavement next to two lanes of fast-moving traffic. She took down all the details and once we had established my location, she said I would get a text message with a link where I could find updated information.

Indeed, I did get a message saying that help was coming, and I could get an estimated arrival time by using the link, which I did. All very high-tech these days!

It was only 10 minutes later when I received another message to say someone would be with me within 25 minutes and to look out for them. In the meantime, a different breakdown organisation had stopped to check if I was ok; something I thought was very kind and unexpected in this day and age.

Sure enough, the AA arrived at the exact time they had said he would and got to work looking at my car to find the problem. Unfortunately, it was not going to be a simple fix as the coolant temperature gauge housing unit had sprung a leak. It would be best to recover my vehicle to the garage I use.  Then came another blow, he could not tow the car as it’s a 4x4. So, he would need to arrange for a truck to collect me and the car and take us back to Wales.

While waiting for the recovery truck I was alerted to a cyclist thumping on my window, telling me this was not a good place to stop to use my phone. Before I had been able to say I was broken down he was cursing at me. I was eventually able to tell him my situation and he rode off – but not before hitting my wing mirror in anger.

This obviously worried me, and I rang our head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, to make sure that I had indeed done the right thing by putting the car up on the pavement.  He put my mind at rest but also suggested that now the car was cool, to lift the bonnet as another visual clue to alert others that I had broken down. It’s often the little things like this that could have prevented any altercation happening in the first place (wish I’d thought of it earlier). Feeling a little sorry for myself, I waited for the recovery vehicle.