5 Most common breakdown causes

There’s a lot that can go wrong with cars and they’re expensive to maintain – or fix when things go wrong. A flat or faulty battery is the most common reason for breakdowns in the UK but do you know why batteries go flat? Read more to discover the five most common breakdown causes and how to avoid sitting on the hard shoulder, waiting to be saved.

Battery on the brink

Ever had that sinking feeling when you get back to your car and realise you left your lights on all day? Chances are you’ve drained your battery and now it’s flat. So, you’re not going anywhere fast.

Why do batteries go flat?

  • Lights left on
  • Fault with the battery
  • Fault with the car’s charging system
  • Car being unused for a while
  • Excessive vibration
  • Extreme cold
  • Corrosion
  • Not keeping battery terminals clean

What do you do if your battery goes flat?

No matter how capable you think you are, this is a two-man job and you’ll need some jump leads. It’s a good idea to carry these in your boot.

  1. You’ll need to grab a friend – or a nice passer-by – with a working car to park bumper to bumper to your broken-down vehicle.
  2. Connect one of the positive jump lead cables (red) to the positive battery terminal on the rescue car and the other end to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  3. Next, do the same but with the negative cables (black).
  4. Ask your friend to start their car and leave the engine running for ten minutes, allowing your battery to recharge.
  5. Attempt to start your broken down car. If it doesn’t start, repeat no 4.
  6. Once the broken-down car is running, unclip the leads from the rescue car and the battery, but do not turn off your engine.

Flat tyre

If you get a flat tyre, you’ll know about it. You may not be able to move your car at all if you have returned to find your tyre flat. If you are driving, you may feel that your steering suddenly feels odd and you may hear your tyre pop.

Why do tyres go flat?

  • Under-inflated
  • Over-inflated
  • Driving over potholes
  • Nail or sharp object puncture

What if my tyre goes flat?

It is recommended that you put your hazard lights on and pull over where it is safe to do so. If you are on the hard shoulder of a motorway or in a position where it would be dangerous to change a tyre, then you should call the motorway rescue service who will change it for you.

First, check the tyre for foreign objects such as sharp nails and remove anything which may cause a puncture.

  1. Take your spare tyre out of the boot or from under your vehicle. You’ll also need a jack and wheel wrench.
  2. Loosen the wheel nut slightly using the wheel wrench, then jack up the car slowly.
  3. Once the tyre is off the ground, completely loosen the nuts.
  4. Remove the wheel with the damaged tyre.
  5. Lift the new tyre and replace the one you just removed.
  6. Begin to tighten the wheel nuts and then lower the car fully and remove the jack.
  7. Fully tighten the nuts and put your tools and the damaged tyre in your boot to dispose of later.

It’s a good idea to regularly check your tread depth with a 20p coin. Insert one into the tread groove and if you can see the outer rim of the coin at any point, this could indicate your tread is nearing the minimum legal limit and you could need new tyres soon.

You could also consider Run Flat Tyres, which are designed to keep working for a short period after a puncture. Run Flat Tyres reduce the dangers of a potentially hazardous tyre blow out due to their unique construction.

Fuel problems

Ever filled up your tank with the wrong fuel and ended up paying a costly price to have it drained? If you do this by mistake, don’t start the engine as it can cause major damage.

Check your manual to see if your car takes leaded, unleaded or diesel fuel. If you draw a blank every time you get to the petrol station, put a labelled sticker on your fuel cap.

Overheated engine

Always keep a beady eye on your car’s temperature gauge as it will let you know when your car is on the brink.

If you notice the warning light come on, turn off the air conditioning and blast the heat through. The heater can drag hot air from the engine which allows the vehicle to cool down. If you see steam coming from under the bonnet, pop it open, turn the engine off and wait for half an hour.

Once cool, check the car radiator and check the coolant level is topped up. If it appears empty, you may have a leak but you can add more as a temporary solution, until you can get to a garage.

Always carry extra coolant and water in your vehicle, in the event of a breakdown.

Electrical issues

Cars contain a sophisticated amount of electronics and microchips. If you spot something funny with your car or just feel like it is behaving oddly, it’s worth visiting a mechanic to check it over.

Switching the engine off and back on again may have the ‘reboot’ affect but the root of the problem may be something more serious. A mechanic will run a full analysis of the system to diagnose the fault.

Now you have learned the five most common reasons for vehicle breakdowns and some ways to remedy them. But if you are any way concerned about the functionality of your car or need help with choosing replacement tyres, you should contact an expert today.

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