While cars, trucks, vans and all automobiles are made up of thousands of electronic and mechanical components, there are probably only a handful of critical parts that have the potential to make or break your vehicle’s performance or cause a breakdown. I’ve put together a list of the most common causes of automobile breakdowns as well as helpful ways to avoid them. Maintenance is the key for avoiding all of the following automotive headaches.

Flat Battery

A flat battery is the number one reason for vehicle breakdowns. It’s a somewhat simple repair but you can avoid the issue altogether by turning off anything that may drain the battery when you’re not using the car. Brand new and perfectly normal batteries should be able to retain a strong charge that allows the vehicle to start up easily as it requires more power to start up a car than it is to keep it running. If you’re noticing that it’s taking a few turns to start up your engine, it may be time to replace the battery. It could also be one of the battery terminals or a clamp connection that is corroded so be sure to check the battery connections before purchasing a new one.

Flat or damaged tyres and wheels

When you have a flat tire you will not be able to operate your car as continuing to operate a vehicle with a flat tyre will almost certainly ruin the wheels. You should always be sure to keep your primary vehicle tyres as well as the spare inflated and maintained. An important point to remember before leaving for a long trip is to check the condition of all 5 tyres. Always make sure you have a jack in the car as well as locking wheel nut removers. Ensuring you’re prepared for a flat tyre will save you time and money by helping you avoid calling road side assistance.

Worn Out or Busted Alternator

The alternator is a tiny but vital component found under the hood of your vehicle’s engine and its primary function is to produce alternating current for the majority of your car’s electrical systems and to keep the batteries full. You know you likely have a broken alternator when your car suddenly powers down when it is idling or when you are unable to elicit any response out of your car. Have your alternator regularly inspected and serviced by a professional to avoid breakdowns.

Broken Starter Motor

Many times a broken or malfunctioning starter motor is mistaken for a flat battery or even an alternator problem. The biggest difference and easiest way to tell them apart is if your headlights or dashboard indicator lights are running strong without flicker and the radio is still working, then more than likely it’s a starter motor problem. Your best solution is to have the starter regularly inspected in a repair shop for signs it may need replacing.

Fuel problems

Without gas, your oil-powered car or truck won’t be able to run. Avoiding the problem of running out of gas should be simple if you practice using common sense. If your fuel indicator light comes on, you likely only have a single gallon of emergency backup gas left in the tank, some cars may differ but you can find this information in your owner’s manual. Don’t push it too far or you will end up having to walk to the nearest gas station, this will be not only frustrating but it’s also dangerous.

Bad or Failing Clutch Cables

A clutch cable is the steel cable found on manual transmission vehicles and it connects the transmission clutch linkage to the clutch pedal mechanism. A bad clutch cable can sometimes cause a transmission to slip and pop out of gear. When the clutch cable begins to have problems, it can cause issues with shifting the vehicle, which will stop the car from operating smoothly. Another problem that may occur and be a sign of a serious issue is when the clutch pedal sinks to the floor, which could be an indication that the cable has snapped or disconnected from the clutch linkage. If the clutch cable does disconnect from the linkage, your car will not be drivable until it’s repaired.

Spark plugs and HT (high-tension) leads

Spark plugs are similar to motor oil, fuel filters, and air filters in that they require routine service and maintenance to keep your engine running strong. A sensible car will be on the look-out for any problems. Difficulty starting or other problems with the engine may signal difficulty with spark plugs. You can have them changed at a service station or change the spark plugs yourself if you have the right tools.

Symptoms of bad spark plugs include the following:

    • Slow acceleration
    • Poor mileage
    • Engine is misfiring
    • Difficulty starting the vehicle

HT (high-tension) leads are the wires that connect a distributor and ignition coil to each of the spark plugs in some types of internal combustion engine. High tension leads, like many engine components, wear out over time and will need to be replaced and as with the spark plugs, the HT leads can be changed at home if you have the right tools.