Emergency Assist: Vehicle Breakdown Cover

Tips to prevent breakdowns

Here is a list of simple checks you can perform to help prevent your vehicle from breaking down.

1. Battery
A vehicle’s battery is often a neglected part of its operation but is one of the main causes of vehicular breakdown within the UK each year. There is no set timeframe as to when or how often a vehicle’s battery is checked, but to ensure peace of mind, it is advisable regular checks are conducted to ensure reliable operation.
If you notice that your vehicle does not start as reliably as it once did, this is a strong indicator that the battery may be under performing, and so vital that it’s condition is checked before it’s too late and a breakdown occurs. Various factors can contribute to the performance of a battery one of which is the time of year.
Batteries by nature are more efficient and perform better in warmer conditions (ie summer). Therefore, during the winter months they can struggle to provide as much power as they do during the warmer months of the year. Additionally, if vehicles are left unused for a period of time, batteries can naturally drain without usage, and cause reduced performance and/or a breakdown.
2. Oil Level
Ensuring your engine has the correct and enough of the appropriate oil is vital to its operation. Without adequate oil the engine the engine will fail and potentially have catastrophic consequences for your vehicle. With this in mind it is recommended that oil levels are checked frequently, when the engine is cold, to make sure there is always the recommended amount of oil in the system for the engine to draw upon.
3. Coolant Level
Engines naturally produce heat whilst in use, and whilst this is a good thing in winter for example, the management of this heat is crucial to your engines performance and longevity. Engine coolant, sometimes called antifreeze, is a liquid that moves around various areas your engine to ensure the heat produced is kept under control by dissipating some of it.
Being in such an environment, understandably the effectiveness of the vehicle’s engine coolant degrades over time, potentially causing the engine to overheat, have a reduction in performance or cause the engine fan to be over worked to compensate. If any of these issues come to light it may be as a result of inefficient, or lack of, engine coolant.
4. Fuel
Everyone knows that engines require fuel to operate. All vehicles have gauges that inform us to the remaining levels present so we know when to stop and fill up. Making sure that adequate levels of fuel are present is not only essential for your engine to operate but also its effectiveness.
Over time sediment can build up in the bottom of a fuel tank, and so running consistently at low levels of fuel can cause this sediment to be drawn into the fuel system, causing issues for either your fuel pump and/or engine. Understandably it’s imperative that adequate amounts of fuel are always in the tank for the vehicle to operate correctly.
It is also worth noting that in the event of running out of fuel, should you in doing so cause an obstruction to other motorists, this can be punished with 3 points on your licence and a £100.00 fine.
5. Tyres
Tyres are one of the most important components of a vehicle. They are the point at which the vehicle makes contact with the road surface, so the performance and condition of the tyres is of huge importance to how the vehicle handles and performs. Unfortunately though they are also one of the most overlooked elements of a vehicle. There are 4 main points to note;
  1. Tyre pressures – Tyre pressure has a significant impact on a vehicle’s steering, handling and efficiency. Over inflated tyres are just as bad as under inflated tyres, each causing their own issues, and potentially putting the driver and passengers in danger or resulting in a breakdown. It’s advisable that tyre pressures are check once a month and are inflated inline with the vehicle manufacturers guidelines.

  2. Tyre tread – The amount of tread on a tyre not only impacts the performance of a vehicle but also the safety of a vehicle, especially in hazardous conditions. For this reason there is a legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, so it’s vitally important that no tyre tread goes below this depth. If so the tyre(s) in question need replacing immediately. As well as being illegal to drive a vehicle with tyre tread depths below 1.6mm it is also a MOT failure.

  3. Wheel alignment – If a vehicle’s wheels are out of alignment it can create problems for your tyres, such as uneven wear, which can lead to the weakening of the tyre and therefore more prone to damage. If you have new tyres fitted, or a service undertaken on your vehicle, make sure the alignment is checked and adjustments made if necessary.

  4. Vehicle loading – Each tyre is designed and manufactured to carry a maximum load capacity. If this is exceeded, this could cause the tyre to fail and result in a tyre explosion, and lead to a road traffic accident. Most tyres now include on their sidewall a label indicating the load index which advises the maximum load capacity. Take care not to exceed this.

6. Brakes
A vehicle’s braking system is one of the main safety elements active in a vehicle. Of its various components, the materials that cause friction, brake discs and brake pads, need to be periodically maintained and replaced, as they are subject to wear. To ensure that the braking system is always in perfect working order, both brake pads and brake discs must be maintained in the best possible condition.
Each time the vehicle brakes, the friction generated causes the material used in both the brake pads and the brake discs to become worn. A vehicle’s braking ability is tested during an MOT, but proactive maintenance and monitoring of the braking system is advised to avoid a compromised system.
7. Electronics
A vehicle’s electrics are the hidden nerve centre, without which, a vehicle would be unable to function. They control a myriad of functions and components, from air conditioning and electric windows, to exhaust gas regulation and engine performance. Most modern cars alert the user via lights on the dashboard as to when an electrical failure occurs, so with this in mind, it is advisable that as soon as an issue becomes apparent garage attention is sought to remedy.
8. Windscreen Wipers
Windscreen wipers clear rain, hail and snow quickly from our view when we need them, allowing us to drive safely. These little pieces of rubber and metal are sometimes required to work for long periods of time, but can only do so efficiently if the correct care is taken.
Should streaking of water occur across the windscreen, or your wipers begin to judder, this is indicative of needing new wiper blades. Replacing them is a relatively simple task but of utmost importance to ensure safe driving.