During our driving careers, the vast majority of us will have been faced with a situations where the car refuses to start – or something doesn’t sound right – whether it’s with our own vehicle, or perhaps a vehicle we’ve hired for professional or leisure use.
As the winter season takes hold, we look at some of the most common causes for your car to stop working as it should – as well as how to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place.
Predictably, wheel issues are high up on the list of potential causes of breakdowns – with tyre punctures being a particularly common reason for roadside assistance call-outs.
In order to prevent future punctures, it’s a great idea to keep an eye on the condition of your tyres’ walls; looking for any cracks, tears or bulges. Inspecting these areas every so often means that you’re more likely to replace any tyres which are on their way out before anything goes wrong, and replacements become an immediate requirement.
It’s important to do these checks particularly if you’ve recently hit a pothole or a kerb, as these can cause instant damage to your wheels.
If you’re keeping a spare tyre in the car, it is also worth checking this regularly – checking that it’s already inflated, and that it’s got plenty of tread.
According to figures from the AA, around 133,000 people accidentally put the wrong kind of fuel into their cars each year (so that’s fuelling with diesel and not unleaded petrol, for example). A recent change in car ownership can be a common cause of this kind of error, but it’s the kind of mistake which can result in unintentional damage being done to your car.
So just being mindful when you’re next filling up your car might save you from needing your petrol tank drained to rectify the mistake. This kind of ‘remedy’ can cost a driver anywhere between £120 and £250.
A flat battery has probably happened to the best of us. When the cold snap strikes during winter, and at times when we may go day after day without using our car, batteries can run out of charge and soon go flat. This obviously leaves the driver in a very frustrating situation, and at a time when they really need the car to start.
Being mindful about just a couple of things can really save the day when it comes to preventing your battery from flatlining.
First of all, try to avoid leaving the car for relatively long periods of time without running it; particularly if it’s more than a few years old. And, if you do notice that your car is a bit sluggish to start, think about whether it’s actually time for a new battery – perhaps the current one is due to be replaced about now anyway.
If you’ve got persistent battery problems, and you’ve also noticed that your headlights seem suddenly much dimmer, it could be an alternator fault – in which case, it might be worth taking it to a local garage for a quick check-up.
In general, if you’re already taking your car for its annual MOT, and it’s serviced by a reputable garage once a year, this will be yet another opportunity to get any existing faults checked and rectified – before they go on to cause any issues.