What Are the Most Common Causes of Breakdowns and How to Avoid Them

What Are the Most Common Causes of Breakdowns and How to Avoid Them

According to driver assistance company Agero, there are 69 million breakdowns in the United States every year. That’s equivalent to one in every three drivers. The cost of these breakdowns is more than forty billion dollars or 315 dollars per household per year. 

The total cost of all breakdown repairs is the same as the total GDP of the South American country of Bolivia. Or, to bring it closer to home, that’s more than the combined salaries of every household in Maimi, Orlando, New Orleans, and St. Louis, just in breakdown costs.

Breakdowns don’t just have a dollar price either. More than 700 drivers are killed per year while trying to resolve a breakdown and around 41 tow truck drivers are killed on the job every year.

Agero’s research also revealed that most of the 69 million breakdowns each year were caused by preventable problems. So, in this article, we’ll be going over the most common causes of a vehicle breakdown so you can learn to avoid them.

A Flat or Faulty Battery

Flat or flat batteries account for around 30% of all breakdowns and while a faulty battery is beyond your control, a flat one is usually caused by driver error. 

Many drivers don’t understand that regular driving is important for keeping your battery charged, but short journeys often don’t provide enough power. So if you’ve sat with your heating on for ten minutes to get the car warm enough for a five minute run to the local store, you’re slowly draining your battery.

Batteries also don’t last forever, they usually need to be replaced every few years. However, charging the battery overnight, using a battery charging kit, every so often might help extend its life.

A Faulty Alternator

The alternator funnels some of the power generated by your engine back into your battery, recharging it as you drive. If your alternator stops working your battery will eventually go flat.

If you notice smaller faults like dimmed headlights, slow wipers, flickering dash lights, or an ignition warning light, you should have your alternator checked as soon as possible.

Damaged Tires or Wheels

A flat tire caused by a puncture is one of the most common causes of a breakdown. There remedy for this is to check your tires regularly, making sure they have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm and they’re inflated to the right pressure. The correct pressure for your tires is often printed on the side of the tire itself.

Remember that you’ll have to take the same precautions with your spare tire or spare wheel to prevent it from being flat when you need to use it.

Electrical Problems

Modern cars are complex machines that are driven as much by computers as they are pistons. Your car’s electrical system includes a range of circuits controlling everything from the headlights to the stereo. Problems can crop up thanks to burned-out bulbs, faulty wiring, blown fuses, or wear and tear.

Make sure you regularly maintain your car’s electrics, replacing burnt-out bulbs and having other more serious or complicated faults fixed as soon as possible by a professional.


Around 133,000 drivers every month put the wrong fuel in their car. If this does happen to you, taking decisive action as fast as possible is vital. Driving your car with the wrong fuel in it can result in mechanical damage, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t start your car. 

You’ll need to have the fuel pumped out and replaced, and potentially have your ignition system flushed before you can run your car again. 

Learn to Drive in Nevada Today!

The Northwest Driving School and Traffic School provides the Las Vegas community with live driving and traffic classes taught by seasoned instructors. All of our driving instructors have passed background checks. Each automobile is DMV safety-approved, and every member of the Northwest family is committed to providing excellent drivers ed and behind the wheel instruction.

At Northwest, you can expect to find outstanding classes, both on campus and behind the wheel, that are engaging, fact-filled, entertaining, and geared toward success. 

We make no bones about it, we believe that Northwest provides the best driving lessons in Las Vegas, no matter your age or background. We are proud of the fact that 98% of our students pass their test on the first try. Call us at (702) 403-1592 to start your driving adventure with one of our expert instructors.

Written by:
Rich Heinrich
Master Instructor, Emeritus

Instructor and Office Administrator

Frankie works and karaoke's in Las Vegas but his out-of-doors-heart is still out East. Born in Boston, Frankie loves the snow and mountains. As an avid snowboarder, Frankie has never seen a snow day he didn't LOVE! A graduate from…Read More