The Top 10 Causes of Breakdowns

Motor companies report different reasons for tow truck call-outs every year. Over the last couple of years, a report was generated which shows the top 10 causes of car breakdowns. The list of these 10 causes can be found below.


1) Bad Battery

If you have battery problems, you can avoid them by doing the following:

  • Inspect the battery terminals on a regular basis. Ensure the terminals are secure and that there is no corrosion on them. You can purchase some battery terminal protector spray at virtually any car shop that sells accessories. Otherwise, just use some grease or petroleum jelly.
  • Regularly clean the top of the battery and make sure it is dry.
  • If you do a lot of short distance driving, go for a longer trip occasionally. This allows the battery to be charged by the alternator.
  • All the electrical equipment of the vehicle must be turned off prior to starting the engine. This means turning off the heater, lights, radio, and so on.
  • Occasionally inspect the alternator drive belt.
  • If you notice any electrical problems like dimming headlights, illuminating warning lights, or if you have trouble starting the vehicle, then test the battery power right away.



2) The Wheels or Tyres are Damaged or Flat

Avoid having damaged or flat wheels or tyres by doing the following:

  • Inspect the tyres and tyre pressure at least once per week. Inspect the spare tyre too.
  • If you are hauling a heavier load in your vehicle, add more air pressure to the tyres. This should be the recommended amount of pressure to accommodate a full-load. After this load is taken out, you readjust the air pressure again to a normal level.
  • If a wheel is kerbed while driving or parked, inspect the tyre and wheel immediately and see what their condition is.
  • Store a can of “instant repair foam” for tyres in your vehicle.
  • Make sure your car contains the jack, wheel bolt removal tool, wheel brace, and spare tyre. You should study up on how to use them if you don’t already know how.



3) Alternator Problems

The battery is charged by the alternator. If there is a bad or failing alternator, the battery will not be able to charge. The symptoms of this include:

  • The headlights frequently dim and there are constantly battery problems as the engine turns over.
  • The engine compartment has a squealing sound coming from it. This could be a sign of an alternator drive belt that is slipping.
  • A charge warning light is illuminating, usually in an orange colour. This will definitely happen as the engine turns over.
  • While driving, the warning light comes on. If this happens, pull over and stop driving.



4) Starter Motor Does Not Work

If you have a failing starter motor, below are some symptoms to verify this:

  • You attempt to start the engine and you hear metallic sounds.
  • The turning of the engine is very slow as you try starting it. This might be caused by a bad battery too.
  • The engine compartment has a clicking sound coming from it. When you attempt to start the engine, it does not turn over. Could be a battery problem.


5) Problem with the Rotor Arm or Ignition Distributor Cap

There is no distributor cap in most new cars or diesel engine cars. But if you have an older car with a distributor cap, be sure to have it checked along with the rotor arm. You can have this done during your regular servicing of the vehicle.

If there are problems, the warning signs could be the following:

  • Engine misfire if driving faster or going uphill.
  • It is hard to start the engine, but even harder in damp weather conditions.



6) Low on fuel or using the wrong fuel type

You can avoid these problems easily by taking simple precautions like:

  • Prior to going on a long-distance drive, fill the gas tank completely with fuel.
  • Check the fuel gauge to make sure you’re not getting close to empty. If you’ve got about a quarter of a tank left filled, then it is time to refuel. Do not wait until it gets dangerously low.
  • If there are few gas stations around where you are driving, fill up your fuel tank completely so that you will be able to make it to the next town.
  • If you purchased a new car or you are driving someone else’s car, find out which type of fuel it needs first. When you go to the gas station, choose the appropriate fuel type, whether it is diesel or petrol.


7) Clutch Cables Are Damaged

If your vehicle has a manual gearbox, then it has clutch cables which could break. If this happens, it won’t be possible to change gears because pressing down on the clutch pedal will not do anything.

To prevent this problem from occurring, have the clutch cable inspected the next time you service your car. If this problem does exist, the signs will be the following:

  • A strange feeling on the clutch as you’re pressing down the pedal with your foot. Either that or the pedal may be lower or higher than usual when it’s idle.
  • As you change gears, you hear a crunching sound.


8) Spark Plug Problem

This problem will only happen with vehicles that have petrol engines. To prevent spark plug problems, you should replace your spark plugs with new ones at the recommended intervals set forth by the manufacturer of your car.

If there are spark plug problems, the signs will be:

  • Engine misfire, especially if you are driving faster or going uphill.
  • The engine has trouble starting. It will be even harder if the weather is damp.



9) HT Leads of the ignition have problems

Vehicles with petrol engines will get this problem. The coil and spark plugs are connected with the HT leads, which can deteriorate. To prevent this from happening, you need to clean the HT leads regularly. Also, ensure their connection is secure and tight. Problems with the HT leads will show signs like:

  • Engine misfire, especially if you are driving faster or going uphill.
  • Engine is hard to start. It is even harder when the weather is damp.


10) Cylinder Head Gasket is Leaking

If your cylinder head gasket is leaking, this may require a lot of engine work to fix it. You can’t do much to avoid this from happening either. The most common cause of this leak is from an overheated engine. Check the temperature gauge regularly on your dashboard to ensure that your engine is not overheating. If the needle gets toward the red area, stop the vehicle and check to see what level the coolant is at. The symptoms of this problem:

  • Low power
  • Engine misfire while starting or if it is cold.
  • The outside of the engine has fluid leaking.
  • Oil mixing with the coolant. It will appear like foamy mayonnaise.
  • Coolant mixing with the oil. It will appear like foamy mayonnaise.