How to Avoid a Breakdown
A car breakdown is a driver’s worst nightmare – you’ve got places to be and things to do, so the last thing you want to happen is to be stood at the side of the road waiting for assistance.
Given that there are around 800,000 motorists experiencing a vehicle breakdown every year, it’s quite possible that it could happen to you.
Let’s take a look at some common vehicle faults and how to avoid, or at least reduce, your chances of breaking down:
You should know what fluids your vehicle needs and how to replace them should they be running low. A vehicle consumes a large amount of fluids, and they can easily run out.
The key fluids you need are:
- Engine oil – you can check this by opening the bonnet, finding the dipstick and looking at the reading at the bottom. As a car ages it consumes engine oil faster.
- Coolant – coolant stops a car from overheating so it should be checked regularly. You can check it by looking at the reservoir ,which is usually (always?) transparent.
- Windscreen wash – essential for visibility, this can be easily topped up by locating the washer reservoir under the bonnet and filling it regularly.
Watch our videos on how to do your car checks yourself.
Make sure you have a regular schedule for checking your vehicle fluids. It’s a good idea to keep everything you might need in one place, so they are easily located when you find that the vehicle fluid levels are running low. You should never go too long without checking your fluids and always check them before a long journey.
A flat battery is a common occurrence, and it can happen for a number of reasons. For instance, if your car has gone unused for a time, or if you only use it for short journeys.
There may be a faulty component, a problem with the car’s charging system, or a fault with your actual battery. It might even be down to age of the battery or car.
To avoid these faults, make sure you switch everything off when you leave the car. Lights on some newer cars tend to turn off automatically but not on all cars, so make sure you switch them off yourself. If you’re not driving your car very frequently, it can be a good idea to set up a schedule to ensure you’re still turning the engine over from time to time, and take the car for a short drive every now and again. You could also invest in a battery charger to give the battery a boost when it’s not been used for a while.
The majority of car batteries last around 3-5 years, so be mindful of this and pay attention to when you may need a replacement. If you are finding it difficult to start the car after a couple of days of not using it, even after a long journey, then it is likely the battery needs replacing. You can usually get a new battery fitted for you when you buy a new one.
Your clutch cables are always under stress as you drive, and it’s a huge problem if they break. Get them checked the moment they feel different when you press the pedal. This could save you money in the long run as you don’t want your clutch cable snapping, especially when you’re on the motorway.
A flat tyre is often caused by a puncture, but that isn’t the only reason. It may be caused by failure of, or damage to, the tyre’s valve, kerbing the tyre, a pothole, separation of the tyre and rim after a collision, or old age. A tyre can still go flat from old age even if it appears to be legal to use.
Make sure you replace your tyres when the tread gets low. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm but we recommend considering replacement tyres when the tread is 3mm or less. Don’t forget to check that your spare tyre is correctly inflated, if you have one that is.
Your car handbook should tell you the required PSI/bar levels for your tyres. Check that your tyres are sufficiently inflated regularly and especially before a long journey. Take care not to over inflate your tyres, as this can cause problems too.
You’ll want to make sure you drive carefully, avoiding kerbs, potholes, and speed bumps, taking your time if you must drive over them. If you are carrying a lot of extra weight in your car for some reason, it may also be necessary to inflate your tyres further.
Every year, thousands of drivers make the mistake of putting the wrong fuel into their vehicle. It can easily happen. Pay close attention when fuelling your car, and always take your time at the pump.
Running out of fuel is also a common reason for a vehicle breakdown. Ensure you fill up before a long journey, and never let your fuel tank run too low. If you always drive with your fuel running low, you could be feeding dirty fuel back into your engine, and this can cause even more problems.
Your car should be checked and maintained with a regular service from a professional mechanic. Staying up to date with services are imperative and can help to avoid a breakdown as well as keeping you safe on the road.
You should also take the time to learn how to check your car regularly yourself. Our Motoring Advice section includes tons of information on how to maintain your car should you need any guidance, including short videos. Make sure you know how to check your tyres, check your fluid levels, and keep a close eye on your battery. Be vigilant – if you notice any changes in the way your car sounds or feels, make sure you have it looked at ASAP. Don’t go on a long journey if you notice that something isn’t right with your car.
Checking your car over yourself is especially important before a long journey. You might want to get started on your trip quickly, but you should always leave extra time before you travel to make the important checks for peace of mind.
Don’t put off repairs, either, as they can soon manifest into much bigger problems. If you know that your car needs a small repair, make it a top priority to get it seen to.
Doing these checks may not stop you from breaking down in the first instance, so it’s a good idea to have breakdown cover in place, giving you additional peace of mind that someone is coming to help if you do breakdown.