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How to avoid the dreaded car breakdown

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A car breakdown can be pretty annoying, to say the least. You’re in the middle of town after an exhausting shopping trip, you’re ready to get home for a cuppa and… your car won’t start.

As annoying as they are, many a car breakdown could be avoided if you take a few simple measures. In a nutshell, treat your owner’s handbook like the bible and keep the car professionally maintained.  In addition, here are our top tips of some basic thing you can do to avoid a car breakdown and keep your machine running like a dream.

Service intervals

Make sure you are aware of the recommended manufacturer service intervals for your car, and get your car serviced with the appropriate service (major or minor) when your manufacturer recommends you should. A car breakdown can easily result if you car is not maintained according to schedule.

Fully functioning dashboard warning lights

With most cars, the key warning lights should all come on when you turn the car’s ignition on. Check your owner’s handbook to see otherwise.

Water and oil levels

You need to check these are at the correct level. Make sure you have the anti-freeze content of the cooling system checked regularly, especially in winter.

Battery levels

If you have an old-style unsealed car battery, check the water levels carefully and top up with distilled water if required. Check battery connections ensuring they are free from corrosion. Also be careful of battery acid as this can corrode the skin. Most modern car batteries are sealed units, so this is less of an issue these days.

Inspect your toolkit

You should be confident using the spare wheel, jack and wheel brace, and they should always be present in your car.


You should check the tread depth (minimum legal requirement is 1.6mm tread depth) and pressure. Check your owner’s handbook for recommended tyre pressures. They should also be clearly printed on a plaque, usually inside the driver’s door.

Remote key fob

You will normally need to change the batteries twice a year to maintain optimum performance from your remote car key. Depending on your car, you may still be able to get into and start your car even if the battery has died.

Young girl having a car breakdown

Of course, even after all that, you could still end up with a car breakdown. Your car may be a very stubborn thing, but these tips could help you out in some worst-case scenarios when you’re stranded by the side of the road:

Warning light iIlluminated

Don’t ignore warning lights! Park in a safe place as soon as possible and find out what the light means. Your owner’s handbook will give details. If, for example, your car is overheating and you ignore the warning light, this could result in a very costly job to fix the engine.

Flat battery

The leading cause of car breakdown is a flat battery. If you do come to your car and the battery is flat you may still be able to get it started. If the engine tries to turn over but wont start, leave it. Leaving the battery for 20 minutes may just give it enough time to regain enough power to start. It is important to turn off all devices, however, (eg – car radio) and try not to turn it on for those 20 minutes.

Flooded engine

If your engine turns over quickly but won’t start, there could be an excess of fuel in the engine. Try pressing your foot on the accelerator as far as it will go and crank the engine for 15-20 seconds. This should give enough time for the engine to clear.

Diesel engine cold start

Once you turn the ignition on in your vehicle be sure that the glow light has turned off before you start to crank the engine until it starts. This is less of an issue with new diesel cars and mainly confined to older models.

Water leaks

Don’t be immediately alarmed if you find a small pool of water under your car. If your car is fitted with air conditioning, it is probably water from system condensation and is perfectly normal. If your car is not fitted with air conditioning or the water has a blue or green colour, it is probably from the radiator or coolant system and it could be a coolant leak. Do not attempt to drive the vehicle and seek professional advice.

Lost keys

Many people lose keys or accidentally lock their keys in the car. If you don’t have a spare set, get one cut and keep it in a safe place (but not in the car). Many modern cars require at least one set of keys to be able to create a spare set, so if you lose both sets of keys you could be in real trouble.

These simple tips will help you deal with the most common causes of car breakdown.  Prevention is always better than cure, so if you keep your car in top condition then the chances of you suffering a car breakdown will be greatly reduced.

Car breakdown in the mountains

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