The most common car breakdown causes
A flat or faulty battery
The #1 cause of breakdown issues. If your car is sluggish to turn over when you start it or worse still, is silent when you turn the key, you may well have a flat battery. Warning signs include the engine taking longer to start than usual. You may also see the red battery warning light flickering when you’re in motion or that it takes a little while to go out after you’ve started the engine.
You might think that simply using the car often is enough to keep your battery charged, but actually short journeys often don’t provide enough time to charge the battery. Charging it overnight every so often might help extend your batteries life.
Remember though, they don’t last forever – you may need to replace your battery every few years.
We’ll mention the alternator next as it’s linked to the batteries operation. In short, the alternator uses energy from the running engine to keep your battery charged. While your battery is enough to keep the electrics running for a while, if your alternator stops working your battery may go flat.
There’s nothing you can really do to maintain your alternator but if you notice power isn’t what it should be – dimmed headlights, slow wipers, flickering dash etc. or your ignition warning light comes on, stop and get assistance.
Damaged tyres or wheels
Requiring a change of wheel due to a puncture is a very common cause of breakdown. Sometimes of course, it’s hard to avoid. The unseen pothole or debris on a road surface could damage our tyres or wheels and there’s little we can do about it. If you do crunch down a pot hole or hit something such as a brick in the road, it’s a good idea to stop and check for damage.
Sometimes when it comes to our tyres, we don’t help ourselves. Poorly maintained tyres are more likely to have issues. Check your tyres regularly and look for patterns of wear too. An uneven wearing of the tyres could indicate that your wheels aren’t aligned properly.
Finally, make sure your spare is functional and that your jack and any locking wheel nut adapters are in place too. You don’t want to be in need of them only to find they’re not there.
Technology is a wonderful thing but our cars are becoming more like computers in some ways. They contain an intricate and sophisticated set of electrical systems and microchips. If you think your car is starting to behave ‘strangely’ it’s always worth getting it looked over. Sometimes simply restarting the car might ‘reboot’ the system but at other times it might be more complicated. In those situations mechanics will have to run a full analysis of the system to diagnose the fault.
Keys and alarms
These days, our keys are more valuable than ever. They often include a microchip which is designed to stop your car being stolen. That means it’s a good idea to keep a spare somewhere safe in case you lose it.
Though it’s harder to lock our keys in the car than it once was thanks to central locking, it’s not impossible. With alarms and immobilisers more sophisticated than ever, many people have to call for help when they can’t get their own vehicles going.
Pay attention at the petrol pump – particularly if you have a diesel and a petrol car in the family. The mind can wander and mistakes happen. Over 150,000 drivers put the wrong fuel in their car every year. If you do it, the quicker you realise the better. If you don’t start the engine, you’ll probably just need the fuel pumped out and replaced. If you’ve started the engine, or worse, driven it some distance you might not be so lucky. While for some, the fuel being pumped out and the system flushed might do the trick, for others mechanical damage can occur.
If you’re driving a manual geared car, every time you change gear, the clutch cable comes under strain. If you notice any difference in the way the clutch feels under your foot, don’t ignore it. Get your car to a garage and have it checked. If it breaks on you, you’ll need to pull over in a safe place and call assistance.