Despite vehicle advances, breakdowns at record high, says AAA

The latest bells and whistles in your brand-new car don’t necessarily protect you from breakdown, a national AAA roadside assistance study reports.

In fact, fancy add-ons and new-car gadgets aren’t a guarantee your battery won’t fail; your tires won’t go flat or you won’t lock yourself out of your vehicles, says the report.

The AAA study also concludes that cars fewer than five years old that feature new-car technology generally experience a higher proportion of tire- and key-related issues than older vehicles because of their complex electronic designs.

“Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said John Paul, AAA Northeast’s senior manager of traffic safety and AAA’s Car Doctor. “For example, sleek, low profile tires are highly susceptible to damage; while electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life and despite advanced warning systems, thousands of drivers still run out of gas.”

Manufacturers are replacing the traditional spare tire with tire inflator kits that can only remedy some flat tire situations. Electronic keyless ignitions can also lock a driver out of their vehicle if they leave their vehicle while the engine is running.

In 2015, AAA clubs across the nation rescued a record-breaking 32 million drivers for various vehicle ‘ailments,’ including battery problems, flat tires, and lockouts. In AAA Northeast’s Connecticut territory which includes New Haven, Litchfield and Fairfield Counties, the highest percentage of roadside assistance calls were for battery problems (30%); flat tires (20%) and lockouts (9%); while another 11% were vehicles needing a tow. The remainder was for miscellaneous reasons.

Here are some other key findings in the 2015 nationwide roadside assistance study:

  • Vehicles between 6 and 10 years old have the highest proportion of battery-related issues, as most batteries have a three- to five-year life.

  • Nationally, assistance calls peak in the summer followed by winter, fall and spring.

  • Drivers are most likely to request assistance on Mondays and least likely to request assistance on Sundays.

  • Drivers in the West experienced the most breakdowns, followed by the South, the Northeast and the Midwest.

To prevent roadside breakdowns, AAA offers the following suggestions:

  • Check for a spare tire: Before purchasing a car, check that the vehicle includes a donut. Consider adding one as an option. Tire inflator kits -- which have replaced spare on many vehicles – can’t remedy all types of tire damage.

  • Check your tires: At least once a month, check your tire pressure and tread, which affect tire wear and vehicle handling. Follow the manufacturer schedule for tire rotation.

  • Beware of lockouts: Take special care of your “smart keys” and keyless entry fobs. Always take your keys when exiting the car; avoid exposing keyless-entry remotes or smart keys to water. Replace the key or fob battery according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

  • Test your battery: Have your battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter. AAA’s Mobile Battery Service offers free battery testing to members.

  • Pack an emergency kit: Another AAA survey shows more than 40% of motorists don’t carry an emergency kit. AAA recommends drivers have a well-stocked emergency kit, which includes a mobile phone and car charger; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; extra snacks/food for your travelers and pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 62 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, providing more than 6 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.