Summer breakdowns

What you can do to prevent the most common problems

17 August 2011

Around a million breakdowns every summer could be prevented

If you do the basic checks and get your car serviced regularly you can avoid a summer breakdown. Around a million breakdowns every summer could be prevented.

Since June AA patrols have dealt with 57,000 punctures, 14,000 overheated cars and 8,000 drowned or missing keys.

Up to half of the estimated two million roadside breakdowns so far this summer could have been prevented if drivers had done regular servicing and maintenance checks on their car.

Top ten summer breakdowns

  1. Tyre 57,000
  2. Battery 54,000
  3. Starter motor 14,000
  4. Alternator    13,000
  5. Clutch 13,000
  6. Engine 12,000
  7. Lights 12,000
  8. Fuel pump 8,000
  9. Keys 8,000
  10. Cylinder head gasket 7,000

Despite a changeable summer, AA patrols have attended more than 650,000 call-outs since June. If you're still planning to head off before the schools go back, a few minutes spent doing the basic checks can help prevent some of the common summer breakdowns:

Already this summer, we've been called out to around 8,000 key-related jobs. Keep them safe and dry but also make sure that you know the alternative method for getting into the car if the key fob fails, which is usually described in the handbook

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year

Despite a changeable summer, AA patrols have attended more than 650,000 call-outs since June. If you're still planning to head off before the schools go back, a few minutes spent doing the basic checks can help prevent some of the common summer breakdowns:

Overheating

The sun doesn't have to be beating down for your car to overheat, especially if you're stuck in traffic in a heavily-laden car. AA patrols have attended around 14,000 overheated vehicles so far this summer.

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year, says: "Cars often overheat if the cooling fan has seized, say through lack of use, so when you get caught in traffic, the fan doesn't draw air through the radiator. If you don't spot the warning signs and turn off the engine expensive damage can be caused."

Check the operation of the fan by running the car up to normal temperature, then allowing the engine to idle for around five minutes – the fan should cut in automatically.

Punctures

This summer, the AA has attended more tyre-related call-outs (around 57,000 so far) than normal. Warmer temperatures heat up tyres and aggravate any existing damage to the rubber. Under-inflation compounds this, causing friction and added heat which can prove too much for weak spots, causing punctures and blow-outs.

Keith says: "Ideally check tyre pressures every couple of weeks – and certainly before any long journey or if you have a big load in the car – using a reliable and accurate gauge when the tyres are cold.

Drowned or lost key fobs

It's not unusual for drivers to lose keys in sand or take their remote control keys for a swim and then find that car doors won't open. Sea water can ruin electric circuits and render transponder keys useless.

Keith says: "Already this summer, we've been called out to around 8,000 key-related jobs. Keep them safe and dry but also make sure that you know the alternative method for getting into the car if the key fob fails, which is usually described in the handbook."

Flower power

Get in the habit of doing the regular maintenance checks. They are easy to remember using the acronym FLOWER: Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics and Rubber.

If you're not confident checking the car yourself, many garages offer free summer checks, which are good at picking up any problems.