What should you do if your taxi breaks down?

Would your drivers know what to do if their taxi broke down on the motorway? Are they maintaining your cabs as well as they should be? Here’s a quick guide to avoiding breakdowns and what to do if it happens to you.


A taxi breakdown could really put the brakes on your business. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of breakdowns, how to prevent them and how to keep everyone safe if the worst does happen.


Whether out on a job or back at home, you can never know exactly when your taxi could develop a problem. But finding the right taxi insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the financial fallout of such an event.


10 common causes of taxi breakdowns


Many thousands of vehicles break down on the UK’s roads every year, but what are the most common causes of taxi breakdowns? Let’s take a look at some of the most likely reasons for a taxi to be put out of action.


  1. Engine problems


Whether a failed starter motor, lack of engine oil or lack of coolant, there can be a range of engine problems that could bring your journey to a sudden halt.


  1. Battery problems


Dead batteries are a common cause of vehicle breakdowns, particularly during colder weather. An old battery that needs replacing, leaving the taxi unused for a while, faulty components, a problem with the charging system or leaving the lights on when the engine’s off could all cause a battery to fail.


  1. Damaged tyres or wheels


Flat tyres, failing valves and tyre blowouts are just some of the tyre-related problems you could experience during a working week. Checking the condition of your tyres and wheels is easy to do and should be performed regularly. You may even want to implement tyre labelling as an extra safety precaution.


  1. Fuel system problems


Fuel system problems, such as clogged fuel filters, can cause a vehicle to break down. But so can filling up with the wrong type of fuel or simply running out of fuel completely – both very embarrassing problems for a professional driver to suffer from!


  1. Electrical problems


The electrical system in your taxi is responsible for a wide range of important features including headlights and onboard navigation systems. Big problems such as a dead alternator or flat battery can cause a breakdown but so can faulty wiring, blown fuses, and general wear and tear.


  1. Alternator faults


Closely related to the electrical system, if the alternator isn’t working then the battery can’t be charged up by the engine, and you’ll eventually find the car won’t start. Hopefully, not far from help!

Stay alert to a sudden rise in engine temperature and the ignition warning light coming on - this means the alternator belt could have broken and needs fixing urgently.


  1. Brake system problems


There are few more important systems to keep well maintained than the brakes. Worn-out brake pads or brake fluid leaks can affect braking and could put your taxi off the road.


  1. Overheating


Particularly if you’re sitting in heavy traffic during a hot spell, overheating can occur when the engine gets too hot and can cause the engine to fail. Keep an eye on your coolant levels and top up regularly.


  1. Clutch and other transmission problems


Transmission problems, such as a slipping clutch, broken clutch cable or worn gears, can all lead to a call out from your breakdown service.


  1. Lost or faulty keys


Hopefully you’ll keep a spare key at home or at your taxi office. But if you’re far from base and you lose your key or it develops a problem then this could cause problems.


Cover for your keys could be a handy extra to add to any insurance for taxis. Speak to the team at the Taxi Insurer if this is something you’re interested in.


While insurance for taxis will provide you with a high level of cover as standard, there will always be a range of options you can add to your policy to create bespoke cover. For example, breakdown cover could get your drivers out of trouble and get passengers back on their way as soon as possible.


If you park your taxi close to home then it could be wise to go for home start recovery, too.


7 handy tips for maintaining your taxi and avoiding breakdowns


man fixing car


As a professional driver, the last thing you want is for your taxi to be out of action. Any down-time could mean a drop in profits and a dent in your business reputation.


Follow our seven handy hints for maintaining your taxi and avoid getting into a sticky situation. It’s worth doing this in addition to any weekly car safety check that you’re already performing.


  1. Book in for an oil change every 3-5,000 miles or as recommended by the car’s manufacturer. This will keep the engine well lubricated and running smoothly.
  2. Check tyre pressure and condition regularly (around every 1 to 2 weeks). And have them rotated, balanced, and aligned as needed to ensure optimal performance and fuel efficiency.
  3. Have your brakes inspected every 6 months to a year. This will ensure they are functioning correctly and any worn pads are replaced as necessary.
  4. Regularly clean both the interior and exterior of your taxi to maintain its cleanliness and appearance. This will include vacuuming the interior, washing the exterior, and wiping down all surfaces. We’ve rounded up the top car washing products for keeping your taxi fresh and clean elsewhere on our site.
  5. Have a professional mechanic perform regular engine tune-ups. Checking spark plugs, air filters, and other key components will ensure your taxi’s engine is running smoothly and efficiently.
  6. Regularly inspect and replace any worn parts, such as belts and hoses in the engine.
  7. Follow the recommended vehicle maintenance schedule. This may include regular check-ups and services, such as transmission fluid changes and battery replacements – all vital if you want to ensure your taxi is receiving the proper care and attention it needs.


Keeping on top of business matters like cab maintenance and insurance for taxis is a great way to help you hold on to more of your hard-earned cash. Speak to the team at the Taxi Insurer to discuss your requirements today.


What to do if your taxi breaks down on a main road


Most taxi drivers will have to deal with a vehicle breakdown at least once in their career. Stay safe and secure by following these simple steps.


  • Turn on your hazard lights: This will indicate to other drivers that there’s a problem with your vehicle and they should take care when approaching. If visibility is poor, turn on your sidelights, too.
  • Move the vehicle to a safe location: If possible, try to move the taxi to the side of the road or to a location that is off the main road. This will ensure the safety of you and your passengers and will help to prevent further traffic disruptions.
  • Exit from the left-hand side of the car. If you’ve got some hi-vis vests handy, make sure you and your passengers put them on - particularly at night or when visibility is low.
  • If it’s safe to do so, position your warning triangle about 45 metres (147 feet) behind your vehicle. That’s about 60 paces.
  • Call your breakdown service and taxi company, and let them know your location, the make and model of your vehicle, and the nature of the problem.
  • Ensure you and your passengers stand away from the taxi while waiting for assistance to arrive.
  • Always take care of your passengers. Make sure they are safe and comfortable, and provide them with any necessary information about the situation and the estimated time of arrival for assistance.


A breakdown while passengers are in your cab can be potentially damaging to your taxi business reputation, even if the breakdown is not your fault. See below for further suggestions on dealing with passengers during a breakdown.


What to do if your taxi breaks down on a motorway


Dealing with unexpected situations is a big part of a taxi driver’s working life, especially when you're on the road. But one of the most dangerous places to experience a breakdown is on a motorway.


In this situation, it's vital to remain calm and take appropriate action to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers. National Highways advises taxi drivers to do the following if they break down on a motorway.


  • Leave the motorway at the nearest exit or by pulling into a service station and find a safe place to park.
  • If this isn’t possible, put your left indicators on and move into the left lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Pull over onto the hard shoulder or nearest emergency area. Get as far over to the left as you can.
  • Turn on your hazard lights. If it’s night time or visibility is low, use your sidelights too.
  • Exit from the left-hand side of the taxi and ensure all your passengers do the same. Wear hi-vis vests if available.
  • Get everyone behind the safety barrier and stay as far back from the road as possible.
  • Never attempt to cross the motorway or walk along it.
  • Locate a marker with your motorway position and call National Highways on 0300 123 5000. Then call your breakdown service – either a garage or your breakdown insurance provider.
  • Stay warm and hydrated while waiting for assistance. Storing a blanket, extra clothing and water in an emergency breakdown kit is a good idea.
  • Make sure your taxi is secure and the keys are not left in the ignition. Insurance for taxis often includes a common exclusion that you won’t be covered if your taxi was stolen when the keys were left inside.


National Highways also says that if you or your passengers are unable to exit the vehicle and get to a safe place, have stopped in a live traffic lane or feel you’re in danger, then stay in your vehicle with your seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.


A motorway can be one of the worst places to break down as a taxi driver. So, adding public liability cover is a good idea as it will protect you against any claims brought by members of the public who have suffered injury or property damage as a result of dealings with your business.


This is particularly important for incidents that happen outside your vehicle that are not covered by standard insurance for taxis.


How to help your passengers during a breakdown


As a professional taxi driver, you’re expected to provide a safe and reliable service to all your passengers. That’s why reading our article on how to ensure your passengers have a safe journey is so important.


If your cab does unexpectedly stop, help your passengers by doing the following:


  • Tell them what’s happening: The first step for a taxi driver in the event of a breakdown is to notify the passenger as soon as possible. Obviously, if they’re already in the taxi, this is easy to do, but if you haven’t yet picked them up then you’ll need to message them or get your taxi company to do so.
  • Sort some alternative transport: Try to arrange alternative transportation for the passenger to reach their destination. This may involve calling another taxi or arranging for a replacement vehicle.
  • Keep passengers safe: While the passenger is waiting for alternative transportation, you’ll need to ensure their safety. This may include waiting with them, or finding them a safe place to wait.
  • Consider refunding the fare: If alternative transportation can’t be arranged in a timely manner, you might need to consider refunding the fare if they’ve already paid.
  • Keep the passenger informed: Communication is key in the taxi business, and never more so than when something goes wrong. Keep the passenger informed of any developments or changes in the situation, and provide them with updates on the progress of arrangements for alternative transportation.


If you’re wondering what to do if you break down in a minibus then read this helpful article from the team at the Taxi Insurer. It tells you everything you need to know from pre-departure checks to a six-point guide on what to do if you do break down.


Another element worth adding to insurance for taxis is legal protection. If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver that’s not your fault then this could really get you out of a jam.


It can even cover legal fees incurred if you’re ever prosecuted for something arising from your work as a taxi driver. You never know when you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law and this additional cover could really help you financially.


Emergency supplies to carry in your taxi


We always recommend that taxi drivers carry a basic set of emergency supplies in case of breakdowns or other emergencies.


Which of these is missing from your cab?


  • First aid kit: A basic first aid kit should include items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relief medication. There are plenty of compact kits available that are perfect for a taxi or PHV.
  • Hazard warning triangle: Alert other drivers to the presence of a broken-down vehicle on the side of the road.
  • Torch or flashlight: A torch or flashlight can be useful in the event of a breakdown or other emergency that occurs at night. A wind-up torch means you never have to worry about replacing batteries.
  • Blanket, hat and gloves: A warm blanket, hat and gloves can provide warmth and comfort to passengers.
  • Hi-vis vests: Essential for keeping you and your passengers safe while waiting for help at the side of the road - day or night.
  • Drinking water: Carrying a small supply of drinking water can help to keep passengers hydrated.
  • Snacks: Think energy bars and snacks that are easy to store in the glove box.
  • Mobile phone charger: A mobile phone charger can be useful as it allows the driver to communicate with passengers and other emergency services.
  • Jump leads: Jump leads can be used to start the taxi if the battery is dead.
  • Spare tyre and tools: Carrying a spare tyre and tools can be useful in the event of a flat tyre, and can help the driver to quickly and safely change the tyre if needed. Be sure to buy good quality tools - buy cheap, buy twice!
  • Spare bulbs and fuses: You can buy the correct kit for your taxi online or in a car accessory shop.
  • WD-40: Can help with rusty or seized fixings and can work wonders with damp electrical components.
  • Disposable gloves: If they’re not already included in your emergency first aid kit.
  • Fire extinguisher: A compact fire extinguisher designed specifically for vehicles can be used to quickly put out a fire. Be sure that all your drivers are properly trained on how to use these.
  • De-icer and scraper: Essential items in cold weather conditions, as they can be used to clear ice and snow from the windows of your taxi.
  • Cable ties and duct tape: These have a multitude of uses and are invaluable for making short-term repairs.
  • Maps and GPS device: Having maps and a GPS device can be useful as they can help you quickly find your way to a safe location or to the nearest service station.


This is by no means an exhaustive list. Depending on the area in which you work or the passengers you tend to carry, you might need to add a few more things.


It’s important to note that while having these items on hand can be helpful in emergency situations, they do not replace the need to seek help and assistance from emergency services if needed.


Taxi drivers should always take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of themselves and their passengers in the event of a breakdown or other emergency.


Find insurance for taxis through the specialists


people hailing a cab


Staying safe on the road is a full-time job for any taxi driver, but no matter how careful you are, accidents and mishaps can still happen. Arranging the right taxi insurance is a vital element of risk management for your business.


So, what cover benefits can you expect when you come to a specialist like the Taxi Insurer? With access to a panel of leading UK insurers, benefits of policies arranged through us can include:


  • Protected No Claims Bonus available
  • Cover for Minibus, Multi-Purpose Vehicles and Car
  • Cover for private and public hire taxis
  • 24-hour claims management service
  • Mirror NCB from other insurance policies
  • UK-based call centre

Get taxi insurance arranged the easy way. Call our friendly team for a quote today.


Frequently asked questions


What do I do if my taxi breaks down with a customer inside?


First and foremost, ensure the safety of your passenger by pulling over to a safe spot, preferably away from traffic. Communicate with your customer about the situation and reassure them that help is on the way. Call for roadside assistance or your taxi company's dispatch to report the breakdown and request immediate assistance. Offer your customer any necessary assistance, such as contacting another taxi or arranging alternative transportation.


How do I check my car tyres?


Checking your car tyres is an essential part of regular vehicle maintenance. To ensure your safety on the road, it's important to regularly inspect your tyres for any signs of wear and tear. Start by visually examining each tyre, looking for any visible damage or bulges. Next, use a tyre pressure gauge to check the air pressure in each tyre.


Refer to your car's manual for the recommended pressure, as this may vary depending on the type of vehicle you have. Additionally, don't forget to check the tread depth using a tread depth gauge or the penny test.


How do I check my car brakes?


Checking your car brakes is an essential part of vehicle maintenance that should never be overlooked. There are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure that your brakes are in good working condition. Firstly, start by visually inspecting the brake pads and discs for any signs of damage or excessive wear.


If you notice any deep grooves or uneven surfaces, it may be time to replace them. Secondly, listen for any unusual noises when you apply the brakes, such as squealing or grinding sounds. This could indicate that the brake pads are worn down and need to be replaced. Lastly, pay attention to how your car feels when you brake. If you notice a pulsating sensation or if the car pulls to one side, it could be a sign of a brake problem that needs to be addressed.


How can I keep my taxi clean?


Make sure to remove any trash or clutter from the vehicle at the end of each shift. This includes empty bottles, food wrappers, and any other debris that may have accumulated. Secondly, regularly vacuum the seats and floors to remove any dirt or dust. It's also a good idea to invest in car air fresheners to keep your taxi smelling fresh. Lastly, consider scheduling regular professional car washes to keep the exterior of your taxi looking clean and presentable.