Most Common Reasons for Breaking Down

Motorbike Breakdown Cover

Breaking down even when you don’t have breakdown cover can be a major inconvenience. Below are the top reasons people’s cars break down and what you can do to reduce the risk of it happening to you.

Flat Battery

About 30% of callouts are battery related.

A flat battery is by far the biggest reason breakdown services get called out. To reduce the risk of this happening to you, you should get your battery checked out at least once a year and as your battery gets older it would be wise to get it tested before winter sets in. Cold weather puts extra strain on your battery. Modern batteries are now sealed, however, if you have one that is not, you should check the water level regularly and fill it up with distilled water when the level drops.

Three common reasons why your battery could fail.

  • Age of battery – Batteries can last anything from a couple of years to 15-20 years, once it starts to fail you will need to replace it.
  • Lights, radio or other electrical systems left on – This won’t cause any long-term damaged to your battery but can be a major inconvenience. You will either need to recharge the battery or get a jump start from another car with the same voltage battery.
  • Alternator not charging the battery – If your alternator fails your battery will continue to drain every time you use your car until there is not enough charge for it to run. The problem could just be a bad connection, however, it is more likely your alternator has failed, if this is the case you will need to buy a replacement either a new one or a reconditioned one.

Flat Tyre or Tyre Blowout

About 10-15% of callouts are related to type damage. Things to look out for:

  • Tread Wear – Check monthly, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. All tyres now come with tyre wear bars or indicators, these are little raised bits of rubber between the tyre treads. once the wear reaches these bars on any part of your tyre, you have reached the minimum tread depth and you should relace the tyre.
  • Tyre pressure – If a tyre is under inflated extra strain is put on the tyre wall which can lead to failure. Other dangers of incorrectly inflated tyres include longer stopping distances, reduced handling characteristics and increased wear on the tread of the tyre
  • Damage to tyres – This can be caused by hitting something or running over something sharp. You should check all your tyres every week.
  • Foreign objects – Check for nails, screws etc

Keys Locked in Vehicle or Lost

About 4% of all callouts are due to either locking your keys in the car or losing your car keys. Another more recent problem is drivers calling out the breakdown services because their remote alarm that opens the doors is not working. Although you may not be able to drive off if this happens you will still be able to get into the car. A good tip is to keep a spare alarm battery in your car.

Electrical Fault (including EMS Engine Management System)

Electrical faults account for about 10% of breakdowns. As cars become more and more complex, electrical faults are responsible for a greater number of breakdowns. There is little you will be able to do if your car breaks down due to an electrical fault. The best way to help prevent this type of problem is to make sure you get your car checked out when the first symptoms of a problem show up, if you start to get an intermittent fault or starting your car becomes a problem, get it looked at straight away don’t wait for it to fail completely.

Transmission (including Clutch)

Your gearbox and clutch are prone to wear and when they break there is little you can do but get towed to a garage for repair. The most likely cause of your problem is the clutch. Once your clutch is worn out you will not be able to select or change gears. Look for signs such as unusual noises or changes to the feel of the clutch pedal. You should also check for leaks, if you notice oil where you usually park, get it checked out before things go too far.


People have been running out of fuel ever since cars were invented and today is no different. There is another fuel problem that is on the rise though, putting the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle. About 70% of the time the problem is putting petrol in a diesel vehicle. Diesel in a petrol car is less common due to the fact a diesel nozzle is bigger and often won’t fit in a petrol car. If this happens to you, don’t try starting the car, call your breakdown service straight away.

Engine ‘mechanical faults’

Mechanical faults account for about 5% of breakdowns. With a modern engine, it is much more likely that an electrical fault is to blame. Breakdown patrols all carry laptop computers with diagnostic software enabling them to pinpoint problems quickly.

Starter Motor

About 5% of callouts are related to starter motors not working.