Get a quote

9 common causes of a car breakdown

Words by
March 6, 2023
Share this:

Breaking down is a driver’s worst nightmare, especially if it happens on a long journey.

Before you panic about how much it will cost to repair, take a look at our blog on the most common causes of a car breakdown as the cause of your breakdown could be a lot simpler than you think. Knowing common issues can help you prevent issues in the future.

1. Flat or faulty batteries

Perhaps the most common cause of a breakdown is either a faulty or a flat battery, especially during the winter. This often occurs if you rarely go on long trips as your battery hasn’t had long to charge. You can prevent this by charging the battery overnight once a fortnight or so.

Another reason batteries go flat is due to a poor electrical connection. Cleaning your car’s battery terminals is a good idea to avoid any build-up throughout the year. These will then be tested during your vehicle’s MOT.

2. Tyre and wheel damage


Whether your tyre bursts from debris or a pothole in the road or being under or over-inflated, ensuring your tyres don’t let you down is a relatively easy task.

If your tyres are under-inflated, it can cause them to overheat. Similarly, over-inflated tyres can cause the tyres to expand too much and then burst. So make sure your tyres remain at the correct pressure, which you can find in your vehicle’s drivers manual handbook. If one tyre is continually losing air, it could be the sign of a slow puncture.

Having a spare tyre is always handy when driving, especially when travelling long distances. A puncture repair kit is also a great thing to keep in the car even if it’s just a temporary fix. If you do hit a pothole, or your tyre pressure is going down, ensure you don’t drive on it for too long and get it to the nearest garage – or call us if you need roadside assistance and you’ve taken out breakdown cover with us.

3. Faulty spark plugs

If your car is having trouble starting, your engine keeps misfiring, or your engine sounds rough when idling, the issue could be as simple as a spark plug that’s worn out or broken. If your car is regularly serviced this should not be a problem.

Spark plugs are important as they produce a spark of electricity that creates the ignition for the combustion that is needed to start the engine. The spark plugs put the pistons in motion so your car can produce a smooth burn of compressed air fuel mixture and allows your vehicle to stay powered up.

4. Issues with the high-tension leads

High-tension leads could be the reason why your car fails to start. These carry the voltage to the spark plugs – and cause an inconvenience if they go wrong when you’re heading to work in the morning.

One of the most common issues with high-tension leads is a build-up of dirt and oil. You can use WD-40 to clean them, but if you’re not confident doing this yourself it[s best to get your local mechanic to take a look at the ignition system.


5. A fault with the alternator

Ever had a brand new battery, but the car won’t start? It doesn’t necessarily mean the battery is dodgy, it could be the alternator. The alternator keeps the battery charged by taking energy from the engine.

If the temperature of your engine heats up exponentially and the ignition light on your dashboard lights up, don’t attempt to re-start your vehicle. This is a major problem and you’ll likely need roadside assistance to fix the issue as the water pump and/or the alternator belt has broken.

6. Burnt out clutch cables

The clutch is often overused by many drivers who don’t put the car in neutral once they have pulled up at traffic lights. So it’s no surprise that this is one of the most common ways your car can break down.

If you notice any change to the feel of your clutch pedal, simply go to your local garage and get it checked. It’s always best to air on the side of caution as a broken clutch pedal is very serious. If it is broken, pull over to a safe place and call your roadside provider who can fix a temporary belt for you to either get to a garage or return home.

7. Putting the wrong fuel in your car

It might seem simple, but putting the wrong fuel in your vehicle will cause it to stop working and can damage other parts of the vehicle, such as the fuel system and catalytic converter. If you’re one of the thousands of people in the UK who misfuel their car each year, simply remove the keys from the ignition and put the car in neutral, before calling for roadside assistance.

You should not try to start the car as this can cause further issues. If necessary, push the vehicle to a safe place before asking for help.

8. Running out of oil

If your engine runs out of oil, your engine will cease working as it needs the engine oil to lubricate parts of the engine to prevent them from grinding together and damaging the engine completely. If damaged, you may need to buy a replacement. A routine check using the dipstick to check the oil level is a great way to test if you have lost any oil.

In some cases, depending on how old the car is, by the time the low oil engine light appears on the dashboard, it may be too late to take it to your local garage. The safest method is to pull over where you can, before calling for roadside assistance.

9. Overheating

Overheating is a common issue for those who break down, especially during the summer months. During hot weather in particular, you should keep an eye on your coolant level and fan to ensure the cooling system is working properly.

Should the temperature warning light appear on your dashboard, you should get your vehicle checked as soon as possible. Most modern cooling systems shouldn’t warrant topping up in between MOT’s, so if your does, this could be an indication that you have a leak or the coolant level has dropped. If this happens, you should let your local garage know and book a check-up.

Ensure your car is insured for all eventualities

These tips should ensure your vehicle stays on the road for longer, but in the likelihood of being left stranded on the side of the road, Adrian Flux offers breakdown cover to ease your troubles.

The costs involved with not having breakdown cover are often very hight compared to buying breakdown cover as you’ll have to pay towing costs and call-out charges. Breakdown cover can give you extra peace of mind that whatever car trouble you have, you’ll be on the road again in no time.

Call us on 0800 369 8590 or book a callback at a time that suits you to take out breakdown cover.

Related Articles

Get a free insurance quote for your vehicle

Get a Free Quote