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How to avoid breakdowns

Keeping your car on the road

We’ve been helping to keep drivers moving for more than 100 years. Here we'll share with you what we’ve learned about the most common causes of breakdowns – and how to avoid them.

Flat or faulty battery

If you’ve got a problem with your battery, there’s a good chance it’ll be down to lots of short journeys or a poor electrical connection. Battery faults are the most common cause of breakdown – especially in the winter.

When your car is serviced, the garage should check that connections are secure and that the battery terminals are clean and protected from corrosion. Read more about how our patrols test batteries and get you going again.

If you don’t make long journeys very often, your battery won’t have had much chance to charge. You can sort this out by charging it overnight, every 2 weeks or so. That way, you’ll be able to keep it running longer.

Lost keys

These days, your key most likely includes a microchip, designed to stop your car being stolen, so it’s a good idea to keep a spare at home.

If you do lose your key, you’ll need to visit an authorised dealer, or call AA Key Assist for a replacement, on 0800 048 2800. Our specialist technicians will come to you wherever you are – we're a fully mobile service and operate nationwide.

Key Assist works closely with vehicle manufacturers to ensure all security processes are followed and, where possible, manufacturer equipment is used. This allows Key Assist to programme vehicles that only the dealerships would normally be able to programme.

Damaged tyres and wheels

  • Check your tyres’ tread depth regularly. If you can see uneven tyre wear, your wheels might be misaligned. Get a tyre specialist to check, or take your car to a tyre centre.
  • If you've got a spare wheel make sure that it's got plenty of tread and that it's inflated ready for use – you never know when you might need it.
  • Many cars now only have a tyre inflator and sealant kit. If you have a jack, make sure that it is in good condition and easily accessible, along with any wheel removal tools and locking wheel nut adaptor.
  • If you’re driving with heavy loads make sure you adjust your tyre pressure to cope with the change. You can usually find this information in your handbook.
If you’ve struck a kerb or pothole, check for any damage to your wheels or rims and speak to a specialist tyre dealer as soon as possible if there is any damage.

 Top 10 breakdown causes

Alternator faults

If you’re experiencing persistent battery problems and dim headlights when your engine is idling, you could have a fault with your alternator. Call us out on 0800 88 77 66, or give your garage a ring as soon as you can.

If your ignition warning light comes on and the engine temperature rises quickly, the belt that drives the alternator and water pump could have broken. This is a serious problem. Stop right away and give us a call on 0800 88 77 66. Do not restart your engine.

Starter motor

Although starter motors are usually tough and robust, they do fail eventually. But as long as you get your car serviced regularly, any potential faults should get picked up before they cause you any problems.

Fuel problems

Put the wrong fuel in your engine? It does happen to around 133,000 drivers every year, but don’t start your engine. Give us a call on 0800 072 7420 and our dedicated Fuel Assist technicians can drain and flush the fuel out of your system. They’ll have you back up and running in no time at all.

Clutch cables

The clutch cable is under a lot of stress. And if it breaks, it can be a serious problem. It’s best to get it checked if you notice any change to the way the clutch feels when you press the pedal. If your clutch cable does break, pull over in the nearest safe spot and call us on 0800 88 77 66. Our patrols can usually make temporary repairs at the roadside, to get you home or get you to the nearest garage.

Spark plugs

Spark plugs can break or wear out but shouldn't be a problem as long as your car is serviced regularly.

HT (high-tension) leads

HT leads, which carry high voltage to the spark plugs, deteriorate with age which can make it difficult to start your car. Damp-repellant sprays like WD-40 can help, but it's best to ask a garage to check over the ignition system if you're having starting problems. Regular servicing should help avoid problems in the first place.

Broken down now in the UK? Call us on 0800 88 77 66. Broken down in Europe and already have European cover? Call 00 800 8877 6655. We're here for you 24/7.
updated 10 July 2017

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