Car breakdown is one the things motorists dread the most, and statistically, it will happen to you at least once in your driving life.
Contrary to popular opinion, breakdowns don’t just happen to older vehicles, also being common with new vehicles. There’s a good reason for this. Owners of older cars can be more motivated to take care of their car, anticipating potential trouble and getting any problem areas sorted out. However, if you’ve just bought a new car, it might take a while to get a proper feel for it. As such, it might be more difficult to notice or anticipate problems.
The fact of the matter is that breakdowns arent always due to age or lack of care of a vehicle, and could be due to environmental factors, or easy mistakes in day to day vehicle maintenance.
As prevention is better than the cure, take a look at the top 5 causes of car breakdown below.
One of the most common breakdown causes, fuel problems, is also one of the easiest to prevent
Thousands of people a year either forget to refuel completely, or only notice the little red light flashing until its too late. If this happens to you, you should try and pull safely into the roadside as soon as you can.
Another surprisingly common breakdown problem is also to do with refuelling; filling up with the wrong fuel. Around 150,000 people a year fill their petrol engines with diesel and vice-versa. Although an easy mistake to make, its one that can leave you kicking yourself, causing real damage to your car if not dealt with properly.
If you find yourself putting the wrong fuel in, avoid starting your vehicle, as this could seriously damage your engine. The fuel will need to be removed from your car, so get in touch with your roadside assistance provider and they should be able to do this for you. If you’re worried about making the same mistake again, special caps can be purchased to put over your filler neck to make it difficult insert a wrong fuel nozzle.
Flat tyres and wheel damage are another top cause of breakdown. Whilst some flats might be caused by driving over sharp or harsh road surfaces, many cases are preventable. Lack of care, infrequent changing, and the wrong pressure are frequent sources of flat tyres and tyre damage, and all are easy to rectify and prevent.
The best way to make sure your tyres are in good nick is to head in for regular servicing. Whilst learning how to change a tyre isn’t too much hard work, checking for some expert opinion is advisable. Even if you’re sure your tyres are in good condition, getting a second opinion won’t hurt, and can help you figure out what the problem is if anything goes wrong in future.
The dreaded flat battery is another big reason for roadside call-outs and no-starts.
If you mainly use your car for short frequent trips you’ll be at a higher risk of this, as you might not be giving the battery enough time to recharge between journeys. For infrequent drivers, it’s a good idea to invest in an intelligent charger that can be connected to the battery for long periods, to ensure you’re fully charged.
Leaving headlights running is one of the most common causes of battery drain. If you’ve ever kicked yourself for forgetting to switch your headlights off overnight, don’t panic. The chances are that the battery won’t be completely drained, and if you have a mains car battery charger to hand, you might be able to recharge it.
Another good idea is to keep some jump cables in your vehicle. That way, if you find your battery giving up while you’re out and about, you’ll just need to find a Good Samaritan to help you recharge.
Overheating is common in summer, when high temperatures, the glare of the sun, and an increased reliance on air conditioning all combine to increase the likelihood of engines giving out.
Almost all vehicles have a temperature gauge, so if you’re driving and see this slipping into the red, it’s a good idea to pull over before you overheat completely. Then turn off the air conditioning and any other features that might be using energy, and turn on your car’s heaters. In the peak heat of the summer you might find this tip a little odd, but it does work; just remember to get out of the car first unless you’re wanting a sauna experience. The heating system works by taking heat away from the engine, which means that turning it on actually works to cool your vehicle down, and recover from overheating.
Another good idea is to take a look at your coolant levels, found in a small plastic container near your engine’s radiator. If this is low or empty, you might have a leak on your hands. Check underneath your car, and see if there’s any liquid present. If there is, you shouldn’t drive any further; call roadside assistance, and take your car into a dealership garage to be looked over. If you don’t spot any liquid, fill the coolant tank with more water and coolant for a temporary solution. However, if you find your car overheating frequently, you should still take it to a mechanic to be assessed for any serious faults.
Spark plug problems
Spark plugs can be one of the most neglected parts of a vehicle, and also one of the most problematic if they’re not well taken care of. Signs of a faulty or dirty spark plug can often be difficult to spot, but if your engine sounds like it’s vibrating roughly when you’re at a stop, you frequently struggle to start your car, and your engine misfires, they could be the cause.
Whilst a common cause of car trouble, luckily, spark plug problems are easy to rectify. If you’re unsure how to change one yourself, just take your car into a garage and a technician should be able to change them in no time.
So, if you’re neglecting your car, persisting on even though you know something’s not quite right, or just want to brush up on what might be the cause if the worst does happen, we hope our advice has helped. If you think youre likely to suffer from any of the problems above, and want some tips on how to prevent car breakdown, the Bristol Street Motors team will be happy to help out. Who knows it might even be time to invest in a new car.