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5 Most common breakdown causes

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There are any number of things that can go wrong when you’re a car owner. But if you can identify some of the most common reasons for breaking down, then you may be able to take steps to prevent them from happening to you in a place where you’d least like them to.

By making sure you maintain your car well and take it for annual services, you will be aware of any warning signs as they arise. Check out the five most common causes for breakdowns and how to remedy them.

Flat or dead battery

A flat battery is one of the most common causes for vehicle breakdown and there are several reasons why this can happen.

If you leave your car lights or radio on and return to your vehicle hours later, you may find your car battery is flat. Another way this happens, is if you haven’t driven your car in a while – particularly if it has been left outside in extremely cold conditions.  

Excessive vibration, corrosion and not keeping the battery terminals clean could also cause your battery to flatten or die. There may also be a fault with the battery or the car’s charging system.

If any of the above happen, this means you will be unable to start your car unless you ring for a recovery vehicle or can get a jump start from a fellow motorist.

What if my battery dies or goes flat?

For this you will need jump leads, which you will find useful to carry in your car boot at all times. You’ll also need to grab a motorist who can park their car nose to nose with yours, allowing you to connect the jump leads – positive end to positive battery terminal and negative end to negative battery terminal – to ‘jump’ or restart the dead car.

Once connected, your motor mate should start their engine and allow ten minutes for the dead car battery to recharge. After this, the dead car should start. When it does, leave the engine running and preferably, drive it around to gain some power.

Flat or punctured tyres

There are many reasons why you can get flat tyres. You may have under or over-inflated them, driven over a pothole or rolled over a very sharp object. The tyre may burst straight away or you may have a slow puncture but in any event, you’ll end up with a flat tyre.

What if my tyre goes flat?

If this happens while you’re driving, you will need to put your hazard lights on, pull over when safe to do so and change the tyre.

If you find your tyre blows on the motorway, you will need to call a rescue assistance vehicle as you shouldn’t put yourself in a dangerous position.

If you feel you are confident enough to change the tyre, you will need the spare from under the car or in the boot, along with a wheel wrench and jack.

  • First, use the wheel wrench to slightly loosen the nuts, then slowly, jack up the car
  • Once the tyre is clear of the ground, completely loosen the nuts
  • Replace the damaged tyre with the spare
  • Now do the reverse with the nuts – tighten a little
  • Lower the car completely using the jack
  • Tighten up the nuts completely
  • Put the damaged car in your boot, along with your tool kit

To prevent the chances of a flat tyre, you can regularly check your tread using a 20p coin by placing it at different points around the tyre. If you can see the outer rim of the coin, it’s time to replace the tyres as you could be heading towards the illegal limit for tread.

It is also worth considering getting Run Flat Tyres, as they will keep you on the road for a while after you have punctured your tyre, thereby reducing the risk of a blow-out.

Issues with fuel

If you have ever put diesel in your tank instead of petrol, you’ll remember the hefty bill to drain it. It’s not only damaging to your finances; you can also cause massive problems to your engine.

If you can’t remember which fuel you need when you get to the filling station, write a reminder on a sticky label and place it on your fuel cap or your dashboard.

The best way to avoid running out of fuel is to fill up before you go on a long car journey and way before you see the warning light flash up on your dashboard.

Overheated engine

Your vehicle’s temperature gauge will always let you know when your car is at risk of malfunction.

If you notice the warning light come on the dashboard, you should turn off any cold fans or air conditioning, then run the heat on hot, which should help the car stop overheating. The heater can force hot air out of the engine which cools the vehicle down. If you can see steam coming from under the bonnet, pop it open, turn the engine off and wait 30 minutes.

It’s important to check the car radiator once the car has cooled down, and check the coolant level is topped up. If it’s empty you may have a leak. Add more coolant until you can get your car checked out by a mechanic.

It’s a good idea to carry extra water and coolant in your boot, in the event of a breakdown.

Electrical problems

Cars have so many electronic components that something is bound to break down sooner or later. If you feel like your car handling is strange or something isn’t right, it’s worth going to visit your local garage to check it out.

Merely switching the engine off and back on, may not be enough. A garage will be able to run a diagnostic analysis of the system.

Hopefully, now you know the five most common reasons for vehicle breakdowns, you could try to prevent them by making sure your car is adequately maintained. If you think replacing your tyres would help, visit an expert at a specialist tyre fitting centre.

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