How to avoid the most common ways of breaking down

Your battery

Faults with your car’s battery are the most common causes of breakdowns. You should be replacing your car battery every three years in order to keep unexpected breakdowns well at bay.

Without a fully functioning battery, you might not be able to start your car, as the car’s battery powers the starter motor, and then the engine turns the alternator, which then recharges the battery. Your battery can also go flat if you leave your lights on while your engine is off, but usually, battery problems are down to lots of short journeys or a poor electrical connection.

How to avoid battery problems:

  • Make sure your lights and anything else electrical in the car is off after you have turned off the engine.
  • If you make frequent short journeys, buy yourself a battery maintainer to charge it every two weeks or so to keep it in good condition.
  • Replace your car battery every 3 to 5 years.

Damaged tyres and wheels

It’s important to keep a check on your tyres, and there are numerous ways you can do this.

Check your tyre pressures regularly. If you drive on tyres that aren’t inflated to the required pressure, you could not only sustain substantial damage but put your life at risk.

Worn-out tyres – or “bald” tyres as they’re commonly referred to – might not necessarily cause you to break down, but they could cause you to have an accident which could lead to you being stranded on the roadside for a long period of time.

If you hit a kerb or deep pothole and continue driving, be sure to keep an eye on your wheel. You might not notice any immediate damage but you might’ve sustained a slow puncture, which will cause you to grind to a halt at some point in the future. It’s better to be proactive from the get-go by getting it checked than risking breaking down on the side of a road in the future.

Engine oil

Having too much oil is just as damaging to your car’s engine as having too little oil. The sequence below tells you how to avoid engine oil problems.

  • Check your engine oil using the dipstick provided.
  • The level should be between the two lines.
  • The amount of oil between the bottom and top line of the dipstick is usually 1 litre.
  • Your vehicle handbook will give you the correct oil specification.

Alternator faults

If you’ve noticed your headlights dimming when your engine is idling, you might have a fault with your alternator. Booking your car in to get looked at is the best thing to do before matters get worse.

Your warning light coming on or your engine temperature rising quickly are other signs that your alternator has become faulty, indicating that the belt that drives the alternator and water pump could have broken.


Cars overheating can be one of the most common causes of breakdowns and will become known to you by your temperature warning light, which will indicate there’s a problem with the engine or the cooling system.

You can avoid your car overheating by regularly checking and topping up your coolant, while also checking your car’s cooling fan at the same time.

If the coolant level has dropped, check for leaks. A modern car shouldn’t need its coolant topping up between services, so it’s probably best to take it to your garage to have it looked at.