Top 5 Car Breakdown Causes

While this site is focused on providing the best car breakdown cover deals, we thought it would be helpful to show the most common causes of breakdowns. We are sure you will agree it is always better to prevent a breakdown if possible rather than sit on the side of the road waiting on a patrol to attend to you.

1 Flat Battery

The number one reason for car breakdowns is a flat or faulty battery which should come as no surprise as many of us have experienced the early morning sound of the starter motor turning over but the engine not firing. The usual causes of this are either issues with the terminal connections or a run down of the battery due to constant use during short journeys (so the battery doesn't get an opportunity to recharge). There are a few ways to combat this problem. Firstly, always make sure that your car's terminals are well greased to prevent erosion and that all clamps are secure. Secondly, if you don't make long journeys very often then an overnight charge is recommended every month or so - it's a bit of a pain but it is effective and can save you a lot of stress in the future.

2 Flat or damaged tyre

Punctures and kerb damage to tyres are another common cause of call outs to the breakdown recovery companies. While not amount of preparation can stop a puncture happening due to debris on the road, it can be mitigated to a certain extent. One option is to use run flat tyres, while they will have to be replaced when the puncture they will at least buy you the time to get to your destination before they have to be replaced. The spare wheel, if you carry one, should be checked regularly to ensure it is in good condition and all drivers should know the basics of changing a tyre.

3 Fuel problems

Believe it or not, tens of thousands of motorists every year put the wrong type of fuel into their cars. While we all get distracted at times, particularly if we have a car full of children, you should always take a moment to double check that it is the correct petrol or diesel you are putting into the fuel tank. The second common fuel problem is not having any! We have all done it pushing slightly further than we should when the empty gauge light is on. It's obvious but do always check you have enough fuel to get you to either your destination or the next petrol station. In the day and age of trip readings and sat navs there really is no excuse for running out of petrol.

4 Alternator problems

The alternator is an integral part of your car's electrics, generating an electrical current from the car's mechanical power and distributing it to the headlights, windscreen wipers and battery. If the alternator has a problem your battery won't recharge and will eventually go flat. While there is little preventative maintenance you can do for the alternator, you can however be aware of early indications of a problem with it. Dimmed headlights or slow windscreen wipers while a car is idling are usually a pretty sure indicator that there is a problem with the alternator. A flickering warning light for the battery is also a good indicator that there is a problem with it charging.

5 Starter Motor Failure

If you turn the ignition key and nothing happens it is usually a sign that your starter motor has failed. If that is the case there will be little you can do but to call out your breakdown provider. However, before making that call there are a couple of quick checks you can do to make sure the problem isn't elsewhere. Firstly, check to make sure your battery is fully charged and secondly check that all the cables connecting to the starter are in place. If both of these are fine then the problem will either be the motor itself or the solenoid connection in which case you will need professional breakdown help.


Helps to narrow down your search as some companies do not provide cover for older cars.

Cover for a named vehicle with anyone driving the vehicle covered.


Cover for a single person with every vehicle they are driving or a passenger in covered.


Cover for two people with every vehicle they are driving or a passenger in covered. Both people must live at the same address.


Cover for up to four people with every vehicle they are driving or a passenger in covered. Everyone must live at the same address.

Extends cover to also include breakdowns at your home.
Provides a replacement vehicle, overnight accommodation or alternative transport costs to your final destination if your car has to go into a garage to be repaired.
Provides cover to tow your vehicle to anywhere in the UK if it cannot be fixed at the point of breakdown.
Extends your UK breakdown cover to other European countries.
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