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Car breakdown on holiday - a cautionary tale

(3 Posts)
GnomeDePlume Mon 06-Jun-11 16:31:41

Just back from a self-drive holiday in France and thought I would share my experience of breaking down and also offer some info/tips which we picked up as a result.

First off, it all ended well so I am not posting this from a lay-by in the Dordogne!

We took our car to France for a week in the Dordogne. No problems on the way down but while away one of the warning lights came on. We are members of Green Flag so contacted them for advice. They could send someone out but as the problem was technical they would need to take it to a main dealer.

While waiting for the Green Flag guy to arrive DH kept trying the car to see if the engine light went out and as luck would have it, it did. DH then phoned our home dealership (who service the car) to see if this indicated that the problem was solved. They said 'yes'.

We drove back up through France but the problem resumed while coming off the eurotunnel train. It got worse (losing power) so we found a garage and called for help. Eventually we got towed home only 4 hours late.

Top tips and bits of information which we found out on the way:

- make sure your car is serviced and you know the number of your service garage (they may be able to answer minor questions)
- do have breakdown insurance and find out what it gives you before you need it.
- if your car cant be fixed at the roadside it will be towed to a main dealership which may be a long way away from where you are. The breakdown cover wont pay for repairs but will deal with the garages etc and sort out your return if the car cant be fixed in time.
- if the car cant be fixed then you may well be looking at flying home so make sure that you have some luggage which will be suitable for an airline.
- it may take several days for your car to make it home so remove any food before handing it over to the tow company!
- if you take your dog or cat with you have you checked with your insurance company to find out how your pet would come home in the event of a breakdown?
- according to our tow truck driver the ferry companies charge several hundred pounds for towing a broken down car off the ferry (dont know if this is true or not)

cremeeggsbenedict Mon 06-Jun-11 18:03:19

I'll add a little bit to this - if you have something like a trailer or bike rack and it fails then your breakdown service won't cover you - even if it's the dealer purchased and fitted accessory.

Trying to get everything that was on the rack into the car with all of us when they wouldn't help us was a very unrelaxing end to a holiday!

ConstantlyCooking Tue 07-Jun-11 11:20:54

My tale:
One of the warning lights lit up on our dashboard on the way to Folkestone to travel via Eurotunnel. We arrived at the terminus and called the AA. (meanwhile we went into the centre and told the Eurotunnel help desk what was happening and they were v helpful and said they would switch us to a later service at no charge and to just tell them once the AA had been).
The AA arrived promptly and looked at the car. The mechanic could not find the fault but said it could be one of two things. He recommended carrying on with our journey and buying AA European Break down cover in the main building. We went and checked that this was OK even though we had just called them out and it was fine.
We took the later Eurotunnel service and drove off into France. About an hour into the journey the problem recurred. We pulled off the motorway and called the AA who arranged for a local garage to pick up the car and mend it (we paid for the parts). Luckily I always pack some snacks and lots of water in case of delays.
Our advice:
Get the European breakdown cover.
If at Eurotunnel speak to people on the help desk to see if they can move your booking.
Pack lots of snacks and water.
It wasn't nice breaking down, but everyone was friendly and helpful, plus the mechanics didn't speak English so I impressed the DCs! DS even discovered the French for alternator [hoping that will appear in GCSE emoticon]

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