The Commonest Causes of Car Breakdowns

In the 12 months up until April last year, there were almost a quarter of a million breakdowns in England according to an investigation by Auto Express. This figure is the highest for five years and only covers recorded breakdowns on main roads and motorways, so it could be much higher.

Here Clover Insurance, who offer car breakdown policies as part of their personal insurance services in North London and across the UK, identify six of the most common reasons for your vehicle breaking down – and why it’s worth taking out a specialist policy with us.
Car Breakdown Insurance from Clover Insurance
Problems with the Fuel
Putting petrol in a car which runs on diesel, or vice-versa, is a costly mistake which more than 130,000 drivers across the UK make every year.

If you drive any vehicle with the wrong type of fuel in it, you will damage the fuel pump and parts of the engine, so the entire fuel system will need to be replaced. Even if you realise your mistake before putting the key in the ignition, the fuel will need to be drained out of the tank by a qualified expert before you can restart your car.

Problems with the Battery
Flat batteries are often caused by drivers not switching off the headlights or sidelights after they have parked. However, they can also go flat if the vehicle is not used for a while or only used for very short trips which may be an issue during the current coronavirus lockdown. Even if you drive a lot, the battery may have a faulty component, which needs to be repaired, or it may just be a question of age – most batteries get less efficient as they get older.

Problems with Other Electrical Components
The alternator allows the battery to store up power while the engine is running. If you start noticing problems, such as your windscreen wipers operating slowly, your dashboard flickering or your headlights not providing much illumination, then this may indicate a problem with the alternator. In this situation, you will probably need specialist help to fix the issue.

Starter motors also fail occasionally. Sometimes this is due to a faulty connection or loose wiring, but if the solenoid – an electromagnet which engages the motor – is broken or has overheated, then you will need to have it replaced.

Problems with the Tyres
Most punctures are caused by the tyres striking a sharp object, and you can’t do much to avoid that. However, you can reduce the risk of a blowout by checking the tyres don’t have any flat or worn spots, that all four tyres (plus the spare) have the legally-required minimum depth of tread (1.6mm) and that the air valves works correctly, so that air can be pumped in or let out.


Ensure you know your tyre pressures should be for your vehicle and remember to check them regularly – especially before any long journeys. Most cars list the car tyres pressures in the driver’s side doors frame and in the manual. Also be aware that tyre pressures will need to be adjusted according to any loads you might also be carrying.

If you do have a puncture, remember that not all cars now come with a spare wheel as standard. Many dealers are just providing a puncture repair kit or a ‘space saver’ wheel which can only be used for a limited time. If you want a matching tyre, remember to ask for one at the time of purchase.

Problems with the Oil
If you don’t have enough oil in the engine, then its moving parts will grind against each other. This means the engine could seize up and cause long-term damage. Too much oil can be a problem as well, as this can damage crankshafts and spark plugs.

Don’t just rely on the oil hazard warning light on your dashboard; get into the habit of checking the oil level with the dipstick. The correct level should be between the two marked lines.

Problems with the Keys
It’s not strictly a breakdown but losing your keys or locking them inside your car is still a major reason why drivers are stranded far from home.

Car Breakdown Insurance from Clover Insurance
At Clover Insurance, we offer competitively priced breakdown insurance policies, which includes Home Start and Roadside Assistance. This costs just £65 per annum, including Insurance Premium Tax. With our cover, you get access to a 24-hour control centre with state-of-the-art technology plus friendly, experienced rescue staff who will get you back on the road as quickly as possible. If you would like to know more, click on this link.

We also offer a range of other personal insurance services to customers in north London and Hertfordshire, including comprehensive car insurance, business fleet insurance and van insurance. You can also contact us by calling 020 8805 1121.