Home These are the most common causes of car breakdowns in the US

These are the most common causes of car breakdowns in the US

car engine repair
(© standret – stock.adobe.com)

Every vehicle, new or old, is susceptible to a breakdown in certain circumstances. A vehicle breakdown is often stressful in that the trip is delayed, the owners are exposed to danger out there and getting help is expensive if the vehicle is not insured. For example, the cost of towing mostly begins at $50 with additional $2.50-$7 per mile on top of that. Additional costs are added in case of an accident or in case of towing and impounding. It all depends on the provider company. Here is an example of a reliable towing company in the San Diego area – although you may be located elsewhere in the US and may have to look further.

All cars have unique problems but there a few common reasons for breakdown in the US. Here are some of them.

1. Dead or low battery

When a battery is low on charge or completely dead, it is impossible to start a car engine and drivers often get stuck wherever they are because of this problem. The problem is that a car battery lasts between three and five years but can die faster in extremely hot or cold weather. Drivers can tell if the battery is getting weak when the headlights and cabin lights are dim and power windows react slower than usual but they usually ignore these warning signs and end up stuck in car parks.

2. Engine problems

A vehicle can develop any type of engine trouble but the one that commonly causes breakdown is overheating. This happens when the cooling system has a problem such as a clogged radiator, a problem with the water pump or fans or when the coolant leaks.

3. Transmission problems

Problems with the transmission often begin as erratic performance or a strange sound which most drivers usually ignore till there is a total breakdown. When the vehicle won’t move, the transmission is probably blown. The best way to look after the transmission is to have the transmission fluid flushed out at recommended intervals or the transmission regularly serviced.

4. Brakes

A vehicle with worn brake pads or rotors is effectively broken down because it is not safe to drive at all.

5. Flat or damaged tire

Most people are familiar with car breakdowns caused by a puncture. This happens easily when debris or unseen potholes on the road damage the wheels or the tires. The driver has no choice but to stop. In other cases, it is a problem of worn out tires or insufficient tire pressure or wheels that are not aligned properly. A driver who has a spare wheel, a locking wheel and a jack and knows how to change the wheel can be back on the road within a short time. Other drivers simply have to call for help.

6. Running out of gas

Sometimes drivers miss the gas station by mistake, fail to check the fuel gauge or overestimate the distance they can cover with the available fuel, and they end up with an avoidable breakdown.

7. Lost keys

Losing keys or locking them inside the car is a common problem. Many people have a spare key at home it is useless unless someone at home can bring it to the scene. For most vehicles, the driver needs to visit an authorized dealer or to call a qualified person to help with the car.

What to do in a breakdown

It is important to stay safe during a breakdown. On a regular road, the first thing to do is to switch on the hazard lights, get the car off the road as far over the right side as possible, to leave the vehicle, and to place a warning triangle a recommended distance behind the car. In the dark, everyone should wear a hi-vis jacket or lightly colored clothing to make sure they can be seen. Then call for help.

The highway is more intimidating because of the speed of the traffic. A driver who senses that something is not right should look for the next exit, and leave the highway. If it is not possible to leave the highway, the driver should immediately switch on the hazard light, slow down to a stop and call emergency services. It is too dangerous to get out of the car to place the warning triangle behind the car, so everyone should stay inside with seat belts on.

Breakdowns are costly

Breakdowns are costly. The driver fails to continue with the journey and may miss an important meeting or he/she has to pay a lot of money to get help in order to proceed or to be towed. And yet, most of the breakdowns can be avoided by regularly checking the tires, the gas gauge, oil and water and getting regular service.



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.