Vehicle breakdowns, are inconvenient, expensive and always seem to happen at the worst times. There is also a huge safety factor, getting way off to the side of the road, using flares, hazard flashers and having an emergency kit, a plan and equipment in the event of a breakdown is always a good idea.
According to AAA (American Automobile Association) statistics show that 69 million people in the US breakdown in their vehicle each year. That is 1 in every 3 drivers. Most vehicles on the road are more than 10 years old, on the West Coast our average is 12 years old. Most of these breakdowns were preventable, such electrical or charging system problems, key problems and a flat or blown tire(s) being the top three issues. Coming in a close 4th are engine cooling system issues, that are evident by overheating or leaking.
The National Car Care Council runs A Be Car Care Aware inspections throughout our country on a yearly basis. They state that 80% of the thousands of vehicles that are inspected each year, fail the basic safety inspection. Belts, hoses, fluids, filters, brakes, the charging system, and tires are some of the main items that are checked out during an inspection.
When basics of vehicle maintenance are not being performed this increases the chances of a vehicle breakdown or failure. Having at minimum your vehicle inspected on a semi-annual basis and performing the repairs or maintenance recommended will be the most reliable and cost effective way to avoid breakdowns.
Simple things to have inspected prior to driving especially on a road trip are:
Fluid Levels and Condition
Charging System Test
Exterior and Interior Lights
Air, Cabin Air and Fuel Filter
Keep in mind if you have a low level of fluid in any system, engine, cooling, power steering, brake or transmission, there is most likely a leak or reason why. We highly recommend having any leak repaired to prevent a further problem or potential damage to your vehicle.
Our last summer was pretty long and hot, and we have seen a rash of blown head gaskets on vehicles. This is due to cooling systems that are either not being maintained properly and cooling system leaks not being repaired in a timely manner, or not shutting off the vehicle when the vehicle engine temperature starts to get to hot, and having it towed to a repair facility. Extreme overheating and/or multiple overheating of an engine can damage the head gasket, can crack the cylinder head(s), or it can crack the engine block. The other issue we have seen quite a bit of this summer is engine failures, due to engines being run either on low oil or very dirty oil, that it is sludging either internally or in the oil pan causing an oil starvation issue with the engine.
Unfortunately, there are parts on our vehicles that can fail without warning, fuel pumps, alternators, and water pumps are some examples just to name a few. But most breakdowns are preventable so keep that vehicle inspected, perform maintenance as scheduled by mileage and/or age and have the repairs needed performed. It will save you time, money and frustration.