Cars break down. It is annoying but ultimately unavoidable. Thankfully, most modern vehicles have pretty good self-diagnostic systems and indicators. In other words, your car will warn you (in most cases) before breaking down in the middle of nowhere.
The dashboard will light up with several indicators when you turn on the ignition and start the engine. If your car is healthy, these lights will go off as you start moving. If they don’t, you might have a problem.
But due to our busy lifestyles and because at least one of these indicators is often always on, we tend to ignore them. Then comes a day that the car fails on us. So the simplest way to nip this problem in the bud is to become more aware of the reasons and learn to read the signs.
Therefore, in the next few hundred words, we will talk about reasons why your car could break down (or has) broken down on you. We will discuss only the five most common ones so you won’t have to worry too much. We will also do a bit of prevention and cure because what is the point of knowing the problems without knowing how to prevent or solve them. So,
Low or dead battery
Although this list is not in a particular order, battery problems are the most common reasons cars break down. If your car refuses to start, only responding with cranks or a flickering dashboard, the battery should be your primary suspect.
The battery is the only power source. So if it dies or if there is a problem with the connection, your vehicle will not start. Funny enough, the car starting up and working also benefits the battery. There is a component called the alternator (more on it in reason 4), which distributes electricity throughout the vehicle. It re-routs some of this electricity back to the battery to recharge it.
This brings us to the reasons why you may have battery issues. It is because your battery is either not getting enough time to charge or not holding charge. Maybe you didn’t turn off the lights and radio after leaving the car. Or maybe your battery is just old and faulty.
Most times, a jump-start will get your car moving again. Still, you can prevent this problem by avoiding the mentioned mistakes and ensuring your battery, alternator and electrical connections are healthy. A professional servicing will help with that.
Flat tire/blow out
Here are two things that most people don’t know about faulty tires: they can damage your rims and are also caused by overloading. Generally, a flat tire is probably the most unpredictable vehicular problem. You can be on sailing smoothly through traffic, in a healthy car and within the blink of an eye, lose your tire to a pothole or sharp object.
That is why you should always have a healthy spare in the trunk. However, that is not to say that tires can’t go out because of more predictable issues like wear and tear, low pressure, faulty valves, and old age. That is why you have to check up on them occasionally, both the working ones and the spare(s).
In the cases of punctured tires, you can repair them using post puncture sealant instead of changing. However, this is only a temporary fix.
We have already talked about what an alternator does. When it’s faulty, the various components of a vehicle (like lights, motor, audio, etc.) won’t get power. So they can’t work properly or at all. Plus, the battery also won’t charge.
To put it in the simplest term, when there is a problem with the alternator, your car won’t start. If it does, it will malfunction and the engines will overheat quickly. However, the overheating problem is also because the same belt drives both the alternator and the cooling system. So when the former has a problem, the latter is also likely to be affected.
If you don’t shut down the car and get professional help right away, that could become the end of the engine.
I like to divide fuel problems into three categories: low fuel, wrong fuel, and flooding. The first two can be embarrassing, but the fact is they happen to more people than you can imagine. It is easy to forget to fill your tank or fill it with the wrong kind of fuel.
However, we can reduce both issues by becoming more attentive. For example, paying more attention to the fuel-level indicator light (on your dashboard) helps. And when buying gas, remember that the nozzle’s handle is green for petrol and black for diesel.
The issue of flooding is a little more complex. Like all machines, a car’s engine cools after being allowed to sit for a long time. During cold weather, it gets too cool and needs some time to return to normal working temperature. So, the carburetor gets flooded if you start driving before the engine warms up.
If your car breaks down because of low fuel, all you need is a refill. However, only professional care can fix the remaining two fuel-related issues.
Engine oil issues
Most people never read car manuals. What is there to read? All cars are alike. However, if there is a reason to read the manual, it is engine oil. You need to get the right one (for your car) and keep the levels at a certain point. Too much or too low, and you have a problem. So you have to keep checking the levels constantly.
The good news is that engine oil issues are not the most common on this list. They are also easy to detect if you know what to look out for. However, they can cause irreparable damage to your car’s engine.
There you have them- the big five. As stated earlier, you will get the warning signs in most situations. What out for the lights on your dashboard.
The key is to know what to look out for, get help as soon as you have discovered a problem and ensure your car is in good health by taking it in for regular service. Do this all year round but be more observant during the winter. The cold doesn’t do cars any favor.