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Despite Technical Advances, Vehicle Breakdowns at Record High

A new study published by AAA found that despite advances in vehicle technology, there was a record-breaking 32 million roadside assistance stops in 2015.

Despite Technical Advances, Vehicle Breakdowns at Record High

A new study published by AAA found that despite advances in vehicle technology that are aimed at alerting drivers with better dashboard alerts there was a record-breaking 32 million roadside assistance stops in 2015. Vehicles fewer than five years old in particular had a higher proportion of tire and key-related issues than older vehicles. In the past few years manufacturers have eliminated a lot of spare tires in a move to help lighten the vehicle weight and moved to electronic keyless ignitions which may be correlated to unintended consequences.

According to AAA drivers in the west experienced the most breakdowns, followed by the South, the Northeast and the Midwest. Megan McKernan of AAA’s Research Center said “Low profile tires are susceptible to damage, electronic keyless ignitions can cut battery life and despite advanced warning systems, more than a half-million drivers ran out of gas last year across the country.”

Another feature intended to improve vehicle access is sometimes working against drivers - as AAA found out that the keyless ignition systems can drain battery life when keys are stored too close to the vehicle and can also lock a driver out of the vehicle while the engine is still running. Also, drivers are pushing the limits of their fuel consumption, despite having better in-dash technology and warnings for fuel estimation. The technological advances in vehicles are almost making people feel too comfortable when it comes to how much their vehicle can do.

Other key findings by the study:
  • Top roadside requests include: battery failures, flat tires and keys locked inside vehicles
  • Vehicles fewer than five years old have a higher proportion of tire, key, and fuel-related issues than older vehicles. One in five service calls for newer vehicles required a tow to a repair facility
  • Vehicles between 6-10 years have the highest proportion of battery-related issues (most batteries have a three-to-five-year life)
  • Roadside assistance calls peak in the summer (8.3 million) followed by winter (8.1 million), fall (7.8 million) and spring (7.7 million).
  • Drivers are most likely to request roadside assistance on Mondays and least likely to request assistance on Sundays
    Four million drivers were locked out of their vehicles last year

Tips to help prevent roadside breakdowns:
  • Check for a spare tire - does your vehicle have one? If not, consider adding one as an option
  • Check tires: at least once a month check that the tire is properly inflated
  • Lockouts: Always take keys when exiting the car, avoid exposing keyless-entry remotes to water and replace the fob battery based on the manufacturer recommendation
  • Battery: AAA recommends that drivers have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter - AAA offers free battery testing for AAA members
  • Pack an emergency kit - a recent survey shows that more than 40% of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle

Before hitting the road be prepared with a full tank of gas, check your tire pressure, pack an emergency kit and download a roadside assistance app like AAA or Honk if you need an expert.

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