Top 6 Things that Cause Breakdowns

Breakdowns are a nightmare, and any driver who’s ever been in one will understand the horror of trying to figure out why it happened and what they can do to prevent it from happening. Here’s the top 6 things that cause UK breakdowns.

Car battery

The most significant cause of vehicle breakdowns in the UK is battery-related problems with the RAC receiving over 450,000 callouts in 2014. There are a few things that can cause the battery to struggle or die altogether.

Leaving the lights, radio and air conditioning on when the car is off or idling.

Only driving on short journeys, i.e. five minutes down the road to the supermarket.

Not maintaining your battery and making sure that the terminals are kept clean.

Faulty alternators can cause issues and should be kept in good condition

The battery is just old and needs replacing


Flat tyres and other tyre issues such as blowouts, or even no spare tyre, are reoccurring problems. There are a few simple things to do that can keep your tyres at peak performance and help to prevent damage or a blowout!

Make sure you check your tyre pressure frequently and if you’ve been over a lot of bumpy roads or drive in a pothole-ridden area then check them more regularly. Also if you’re going on holiday or driving a long distance, check them before that to help prevent accidents. If you haven’t driven the car for a long time, it’s also a good idea to check the pressures.

Avoid hitting kerbs, as this can result in slow tyre leaks. Parking at uneven angles can also be bad for the car so don’t park kerbside too often as it is damaging to the tyres.

If you notice any uneven tyre wear, then it may mean that your tyres need re-aligning, and you should get a mechanic to check them immediately.

Keep a spare tyre and jack in the car. Make sure that the spare is ready to use and pumped up to the correct level; otherwise it will be of no use to you in an emergency.

Car keys

Losing your keys can be one of the most frustrating reasons to call out a recovery truck. Most modern cars have more advanced car keys that are keyless or have theft prevention devices in so they can be more expensive to replace. See our guide on Lost and Stolen Keys for more.


The alternator is a vital part of a battery that recycles the power your car battery uses while driving, to keep the battery at a reasonable level at all times. A few indicators of a failing alternator are:

  • Weak or dead battery, if the battery after charging is still failing quickly, then it could be the alternator.
  • Dim headlights when the engine is idle
  • A grinding or whirring noise
  • A warning light on your dashboard

Starter motor

If the starter motor fails to crank the engine or turns to slowly then the engine will not start. Usually, the starter motor in a car is very robust, but they can fail from time to time. Garage maintenance should point out any potential faults with a starter motor, so make sure to service your car regularly. You will notice if the turnover period after you’ve turned the key is more extended than usual or it takes a few goes to get the car going. While this is not unusual in colder weather, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out if it happens frequently.

Fuel problems

Misfuelling or contaminated fuel is a massive problem. The car can break down instantly, and it can be expensive to have the engine drained and refilled. Checking you are filling up with the right fuel, especially if you aren’t the regular driver of the car. Read our guide on Misfuelling for more.


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