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It's a nightmare for all drivers - your engine groans, or your gearbox grinds, or your clutch just decides to clear off halfway down the motorway.
You've broken down, and all you can do is stand with the weeds, rubbish and embarrassment on the side of the road and wait for someone to fetch you.
The AA claims on its website that it rescues someone every nine seconds, fixing eight out of ten vehicles at the roadside.
Sadly, market trader Steve Bowley was not one of those people - it took a full 22 hours before he was towed back home.
The 64-year-old asthma sufferer, who sells bedding at markets across the country, was left stranded after his white transit van had a meltdown on the M25.
He first contact the AA at 9pm, and was collected two hours later by a patrolman. He was towed to Toddington services on the M1, but told he'd have to wait for a flatbed truck to take his van away.
So far, not too dramatic.
Then you factor in Bank Holiday traffic and everything falls apart. Steve was forced to wait in his van overnight for a rescue - then someone showed up and towed him just a couple of miles up the road, leaving him to wait at Northampton services.
A bit of a change of scenery, but unlucky Steve is still miles from home.
Next up, Steve continued his long slog home by waiting another three hours to be towed on to Leicester Forest East services. Getting there.
Just three more hours to wait here before someone finally, FINALLY, dragged him to his home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. By this point, it had been 22 hours since the van originally packed in and he'd spent a full day creeping home in stages.
"I could have probably walked home in the time it took the AA to finally pull their finger out," he said.
The recovery service Steve pays for costs him £165 a year, and he reckons he lost around £600 in business down the drain as a result of the delays in getting back on the road.
A spokesman at the AA said: "I'm very sorry to hear of Mr Bowley's breakdown experience, which fell well short of his, and indeed, our expectations.
"We should have offered Mr Bowley accommodation overnight or alternative transportation, such as a taxi home and his van to be recovered separately, and I'm sorry that this didn't happen on this occasion.
"Please rest assured that we are carrying out a full investigation."
Steve said: "I knew something was wrong with my gearbox so pulled into an area of chevrons.
"I checked under the bonnet but couldn't see anything so got back in to try and get onto the hard shoulder but it wouldn't budge.
"I called the AA at 8.55pm and they said someone was on their way. A patrolman picked me up and towed my van to Toddington services at 1.20am.
"They said a car would arrive in ten minutes to take me home but it didn't turn up. I called at 1.30am but they said it would be 3.30am.
"Then they said it would be 5am and then I was told it would be 8.30am."
Eventually, a patrolman turned up at 10am who towed him further up the motorway Northampton services.
"It was ridiculous," said Steve. "I was being dragged back home in stages and forced to wait for hours at each service station. I've also got asthma so it could have been a lot worse."
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