There’s never a good time for a breakdown. Whether it’s to or from a destination, during your commute or on a day off, they’re at best a nuisance and at worst a potential danger. And because there are so many parts and components in a car, there are all sorts of issues and maladies that can affect your vehicle.
With that said, an understanding of what can cause these breakdowns serves to help you prepare for journeys ahead of time, ensuring you stay on the road as a result. Here, we’ve compiled a list of checks, hacks and remedies you can use ahead of time to avoid the most frequent breakdown issues before you set off.
Engine oil is the elixir that keeps your car in full working order, stopping heat and friction from building up within the engine, and ensures all the moving parts work in tandem. Without it, the increased heat and friction destroys the ability of the parts to function properly.
So, while a car will run out of engine oil over time, if your engine oil light comes on, it’s imperative that you pull over as soon as possible and check underneath your car. If you see liquid dripping down, head to a garage immediately. If there’s no leaking, then buy some engine oil and top things up.
They may be an inconvenience, but by skipping a service, you put your car at a real risk of breakdown. And although forking out for a new brake pad is never any fun, you really should heed their advice. They’re experts for a reason, and can stop a small problem from becoming a major issue and therefore, a pricier fix in the long run.
While it may sound obvious, the way you drive has a huge impact on your car parts’ health and performance. If you’ve some bad habits behind the wheel, then it might be worth changing your approach to certain things.
If you’re prone to revving the engine in cold weather, for example, this tends to create rapid temperature changes within the engine, which damages its components. Hard stops and starts wear down the brake pads and rotors, so try to brake smoothly when coming to a halt, while applying your brakes when driving downhill is a big no-no; it causes a lot of strain and heat build-up on your braking system.
At Brindley, we like to keep the inside of our cars looking as good as the outside. That means not using it as a space for spare parts, CDs, food packaging, and other unnecessary items that weigh down your car.
These added extras all mean that every time your car turns, brakes and accelerates, your car has to work even harder to do these simple things, placing undue pressure on your suspension and brakes, and significantly reducing the fuel economy of your car, too.
Before you set off on a long journey, be sure to empty your car of any excessive items which might weigh down the vehicle as a result. You don’t want to end up snapping a brake line or breaking your power steering because of a few extra pounds.
If you hear any strange noises, see warning lights appear or notice a change in the way your car feels, then the worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope it’ll go away.
What might seem like a small problem at first can soon turn into a big deal. If you smell burning rubber, that may mean a problem with the steering, suspension, alignment or tyres, for example. Small issues like this must be addressed ASAP; take your car to a garage and explain to them what the issue is; you’ll avoid both a breakdown and a higher repair cost as a result.
Another important check that people often skip is the tread depth of a car’s tyres. Next time you’re near your car, take a 20p coin and place it in the tread – if the outer edge of the 20p is still showing, then your tyres may not be road-legal. The legal requirement for your tyres is 1.6mm; make sure you’re adhering to this in case you’re pulled over by police, as you can be fined up to £2,500 otherwise.
And while you’re checking the tread, you should check your tyre pressure, too. Your car’s manual should tell you how to do this, or there may be instructions printed inside the driver’s door.
Battery failure can occur if you have done a lot of short journeys recently, or because of things like poor electrical connections, and can be a very common breakdown fault. If you’ve any upcoming journeys, then it’s a good idea to check your battery to ensure it’s secure, clean and free from any corrosion. If you’re in doubt, take the car to your nearest approved garage.
Too much fuel and not enough air in the engine can cause spark plugs to become fouled, and not fire as a result. Although this only applies to older cars or modern cars with a lot of miles on them, if the engine is misfiring, rough running at idle before smoothing out as the car warms up, or you’re having difficulty starting the engine in damp weather, then it may be a sign you need new spark plugs. The car manufacturer should detail recommended intervals in which you should fit new spark plugs, or alternatively, every 50,000 miles you should have them changed.
A broken clutch cable means you won’t be able to disengage the clutch. If this happens when you’re on the road, then you can still shift to neutral without damage before rolling to a stop. When you have your oil changed, have the clutch cable checked and lubricated.
Tell-tale signs of a broken clutch cable include the clutch pedal taking more effort to press down, the pedal being in a slightly higher or lower resting position than normal, and a grinding of gears when changing. Heed these before things get worse; take it your nearest garage as soon as you can.
High tension (HT) leads carry a high voltage to the spark plugs and can deteriorate with age, making it difficult to start your car. While things like WD-40 can help, it’s best to have a garage check over the ignition system if you’re encountering any starting problems. Regular servicing can help avoid these problems in the first place.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Looking for more from Brindley Garages? Head here to check out more news from the motoring world, or if you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help on our homepage.