If you’ve ever broken down in your car, you’ll know what a miserable experience it can be waiting on the side of the road for help to arrive. the Breakdown has been a motoring problem ever since cars hit the roads at the end of the 19th century. The UK’s first motoring organization, the AA, was founded in 1905. For over a century their mechanics have been rescuing stranded motorists and getting them back on their way again.
One of the key ways of minimizing your risk of a breakdown is to keep on top of general car care and maintenance. Stick to the servicing schedule as set out by the manufacturer, and get the MOT booked and completed every year. Even with regular maintenance, cars still break down. The reasons why cars fail to make for interesting reading and might give drivers a few tips about how to reduce their own risk.
The top reason for a car breakdown is the battery. Without the battery to provide that little spark of electricity, your car won’t start. There is a number of reasons why your battery could develop problems. Batteries are recharged by longer journeys, with the motion of the engine charging the cells. But if all you are doing are short journeys around town, a battery could soon run flat. The other main issue is with the electrical connection. If the wires aren’t connecting properly to the battery, or the connection has become corroded, this could stop your battery working. If you notice it’s taking more attempts than usual to get your car started in the morning then shop around for a new battery before you’re the one making the call to the recovery truck.
This isn’t so much a breakdown issue as a “not being able to get into the car” issue. Most modern cars have a battery which allows you to press a button on the fob and unlock the doors. If the battery runs out, or if you don’t have a spare set, there’s no way of getting into your vehicle. Breakdown services can get you into your car and get it started, but won’t be able to replace keys for you. If you only have one set of keys for the car, get another set cut and keep them in a safe place. Often, replacement keys which remotely unlock the car can only be bought from the nearest main dealer and have to be ordered specially.
Tyres and Wheels
Most breakdown cover companies will come out and change a wheel for you if you suffer a puncture on the M6 in the pouring rain. They won’t, however, carry spare tires with them, so they’ll either change the faulty one for a spare or use the car’s tire inflator and sealant kit to get you to the nearest garage, where you’ll have to buy a new tire and have it fitted.
Some problems with tires are unpredictable; you can’t always avoid driving over a large nail or other debris which rips a hole in your tire. However, all drivers should be looking at their tires regularly to make sure there is adequate tread depth, and no thinner patches which could indicate that the tires are wearing unevenly. Tire tread depth should be at least 1.6mm. Any less, and you are risking a fine if stopped by the police.
Around 135,000 people have to call for help when they put the wrong sort of fuel in their car each year. Putting diesel into a petrol car will cause the engine to misfire and eventually stop working altogether, but is unlikely to wreck the engine entirely. On the other hand, putting petrol into a diesel car is a much more serious issue.
As soon as you turn the ignition on, the fuel starts to circulate and damages the internal workings of the engine. If you suddenly realize that you’ve filled up with the wrong furl don’t even try to drive the car off the forecourt. Leave it where it is and phone your breakdown cover company for advice. Usually, the only option will be to drain all of the fuel out of the engine.
The clutch is the part of the engine which you use to change gear. If the cable breaks, it’s a serious and potentially expensive problem. Clutch cables generally deteriorate over time, and so if your current MOT certificate shows an advisory for the cable, get it changed right away rather than leaving it to get steadily worse. If as you’re driving you notice that you have to push the clutch pedal in further, or that it just starts to feel a bit different, take the car to the garage to have it checked over straight away. A breakdown mechanic is unlikely to be able to do a major job like changing a clutch cable on the roadside, so you’ll be towed to the nearest garage and have to pay them to do the work.
Modern cars have more electrical controls than everything, with the car’s central computer controlling everything from engine temperature to how fast your windscreen wipers move. If something goes wrong with the electrics, either you are faced with a barrage of warning lights on the dashboard, or the car just refuses to start. A breakdown mechanic can usually plug their own diagnostic computer into your engine and get to the bottom of what’s going on. If it’s something simple like a blown fuse, they can usually repair this on the spot. More complex problems might have to be repaired at the garage.
Can You Predict a Breakdown?
In many cases, you can’t predict when something is going to go catastrophically wrong with your car. Breakdown cover is very useful when dealing with these sorts of incidents. However, breakdown policies usually have a clause about proper maintenance and servicing of your vehicle. Take responsibility for doing the basics, don’t ignore warning lights or odd noises, and minimize your risks of being stranded.