The Main Causes of Car Breakdowns and How to Prevent them

In the UK there are over 2.5million breakdown callouts a year – that is a lot of pulling onto the hard shoulder to turn on the hazard lights and frustrating work mornings where the car has failed to start.

Here are the most common causes for breakdowns callouts in the UK and what you can do to prevent each cause of a breakdown.

Drained Battery:

The number one cause of breakdown callouts is a flat car battery. This is where the battery has drained to a point where it does not have enough voltage to initially start the vehicle, of which then the alternator could recharge the battery.

A car battery can go flat for several reasons:

  • The car has not been used frequently enough to recharge the battery
  • Electrical components left on can drain the battery, e.g. lights, radio, and AC
  • Cold weather is notoriously harsh on batteries, especially older car batteries
  • Loose or corroded battery connections inefficiently transmitting power

To avoid your car battery going flat, make sure you take your car out for a long drive at least once a week and get up to around 60mph, short round-the-town journeys will not be as effective at recharging your battery.

If you are regularly taking your car for longer drives and the battery is still faltering, take your car to your local garage for a car battery health check, as it may be time to replace it.

Damaged Tyres or Wheels:

Damage to tyres or wheels are another common cause of breakdown callouts. This can include a puncture in the tyre, or even sustained damage to the alloys that can negatively affect driving quality, such as a bent or misshapen rim.

Flat tyres and bent alloys are caused by driving over smaller or larger debris in the road. This can either puncture through the tyre or collide with the wheel hard enough to cause damage and bend the shape of the rim completely.

Most modern cars come equipped with a spare wheel that can be fitted in the case of a damaged wheel. To fit your spare wheel it is helpful to carry either a torque wrench or a impact wrench to make replacing your car wheel easy.

To avoid damaged tyres or wheels while driving, you should check your tyres regularly, looking for signs of wear and make sure the tread depth is at the correct level of 1.6mm. Worn out tyres will provide less prevention to damage and be punctured more easily.

While driving, you should look out for obstacles in the road that could be of damage to the wheels and if possible, avoid driving over them directly with the tyre, for example, potholes in the road. If an obstacle in the road is unavoidable then adjust your speed to go over more carefully and reduce the chances of damaging your wheels.

Faulty Alternator:

The alternator is used in conjunction with your car battery to recharge the voltage while you drive, without a functioning alternator the car will not charge that battery effectively and will result in your battery going flat, which leads many to believe that the battery is the issue.

Unlike your battery, there is no way to drive your car to better maintain the alternator, however, if you notice that your battery is going flat more quickly that usual, your lights are dimming or automatic windows of your car are not going up/down as quickly as they should, this could be a sign of an faulty alternator that is not charging the battery properly and it is best to seek a professional mechanic to diagnose and fix the issue.

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