Why do cars break down?

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AA ANALYSIS OF 140,000 BREAKDOWNS LEAVES MOTORISTS FEELING FLAT

Almost a third of all motoring breakdowns are caused by battery problems, according to an analysis of over 140,000 of the breakdown call outs that the AA attended to during the last 12 months.
The data shows that the dreaded flat battery is the number one cause of a car breaking down or failing to start. This accounted for over 40,000 call outs or 31.3% of the total. Most of these were faulty or old batteries that needed to be replaced, but in a third of all cases the damage was self inflicted through something simple like leaving a light on. Tyre problems was the next biggest category accounting for over 12% of all call outs.

“Modern cars are extremely complex machines and they do go wrong.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. “But when they do, it is most often the simple things. Flats batteries and flat tyres can see you stranded on the roadside just as surely as a more serious problem like a clutch or a timing belt. A simple wheel change is not simple at all when you have a car full of young kids and the wheel nuts are machine tight. People need to call the AA, and that is why we are here.”

Batteries only last for 3 to 5 years and will need to be replaced as the car gets older. If the vehicle is sluggish getting started in the morning then it could be a sign that the battery is on the way out. If so, it will surely be found out in the coming months of Winter.

“Demands on the cars electrical system are much higher in Winter.” Says Faughnan. “Lights and demisters are in more regular use, and the battery has to work harder to turn the engine over in colder temperatures. The AA can get you started – and nowadays can supply a replacement battery as well – but prevention is better than cure. Get your car serviced regularly and replace the battery in time if you can.”

The AA also warns that tyres should be checked regularly and especially now as we head into the darker days of winter.

Locking the keys inside the car is a frustrating and often an embarrassing experience, but a surprisingly common one. “Whenever someone rings up to tell us they invariably say that they feel foolish, but it happens all the time.” Says Faughnan. “We had over 3,000 cases last year. We have even had cases where the keys were locked inside along with a baby or small child. Thankfully it is something the AA Patrol force is well used to and we can solve the problem.”

The top ten Components that cause car breakdowns (based on sample of 140,000 breakdown calls to AA Ireland between October 2008 & September 2009)

Component
Total
% of sample

Battery
40283
31.3%

Tyre
16192
12.6%

Engine
3703
2.9%

Clutch
3549
2.8%

Key – Mechanical
3007
2.3%

Alternator
2624
2.0%

Starter Motor
1970
1.5%

Fuel – Petrol
1812
1.4%

Spark Plugs
1700
1.3%

Fuel Pump – Electrical
1654
1.3%