The 3 Most Common Reasons Cars Breakdown (And What Teen Drivers Need to Do When it Happens)

Cars breakdown on the side of the road

In an ongoing effort to guide teens through the process of becoming new drivers, Christian Brothers Automotive has created a series of 10 important lessons every first time driver ought to know. We've already covered 8 important steps, including driving safety tips, driving practice, obtaining your license and driving distractions.

Today's lesson is one of roadside survival - what to do when your car breaks down.

For a teen (and their parents), having your car break down on the side of the road can be absolutely terrifying. Luckily, the most common causes of roadside breakdowns are relatively easy to fix. By following the advice of Christian Brothers Automotive, you can get your car back to working condition in no time.

Here are the 3 most common causes of roadside breakdowns, what to do and how to prevent them.

1. A Dead Battery

Fortunately, your battery is unlikely to die while you're in the process of driving. However, it might keep your car from turning on while you're in an unfamiliar parking lot. You'll recognize a dead battery easily because, when the key is turned, you'll hear only a "clicking" sound. To bring your car back to life, you'll need a jumpstart from a friendly neighbor. If possible, watch this incredibly detailed video with step-by-step instructions.

To prepare in the event of a dead battery, always keep a spare set of jumper cables in your trunk. The longer the cables, the better the chance they'll the Good Samaritan's engine.

To avoid being surprised by a dead battery, schedule an annual electrical system inspection and have your battery's charge tested every few months once the battery is over 3 years old.

2. A Flat Tire

Hearing your tire blow while driving can be scary, but don't panic. Keep the wheel steady and slowly make your way to the side of the road. Always pull over to the shoulder, not the median. If your wheel is in fact busted, a tire change will be necessary. If the flat tire is street side and you're parked along a busy road or highway, call for a tow truck. It is always safer to go a few hours out of the way than to be involved in an accident when you're stuck on the side of the road.

If you're in a safe area and your car contains a jack and a spare tire, you can easily change the tire yourself. Simply follow this handy guide to changing a flat tire in 14 easy steps.

To be prepared in the event of a flat tire, always carry a jack and a spare tire in your vehicle. Have the spare tire's pressure checked every few months.

To prevent a flat tire, keep up with regular tire maintenance. Have your tires rotated every 7,000 miles, regularly examine tire tread, check your tire pressure every month and ask for a wheel alignment every 15,000 miles or any time you buy new tires.

3. An Overheating Engine

Always keep an eye on your car's temperature gauge, especially in the summer. This little indicator will let you know the status of your cooling system and whether your car is on the brink of overheating. In the event your car does overheat, there are a few steps that can be taken to get back on the road. The most important step is to immediately pull over.

Turn off the AC and blast the heat. The heater pulls hot air away from the engine so the vehicle has a better chance of cooling off. If there is steam coming from under the hood, turn the car off, pop the hood and wait 30 minutes.

Once the engine has had a chance to cool down, check the radiator for coolant. The coolant tank is typically a clear plastic container near the radiator. If this tank is empty, you may have a leak somewhere in the system.

Check under the car for any leaking fluid. If you see leaking fluid, or if the coolant levels are where they should be, you might have a more serious issue. Call for a tow truck and wait for a mechanic to issue a proper diagnosis.

If the tank is empty but you do not see a leak, adding more coolant will provide a temporary solution. Once the car has completely cooled, open the radiator cap. Put a rag or cloth over the cap, twist and open away from your face. Add coolant and water up to the "full" line. The cooling system needs a 50/50 mix of coolant and water, but water alone will work in a pinch. Once the coolant is replaced, try turning on the car again and see where the temperature gauge is.

Note: Do not pour cold water into a hot radiator.

If your car does begin to overheat, there will be steam coming from under the hood. However, if you notice the temperature gauge stays on "hot", you can still pull over, blast the heat, and wait for the car to cool down before the situation progresses too far.

To prepare in case of an overheating engine, carry an extra bottle of coolant in your car, as well as a jug of water. The water will also come in handy in the event of a breakdown during the blistering summer months.

To prevent your engine overheating, request a coolant check every time you bring your car in for an oil change. In addition, avoid driving with the AC on high for an extended period of time and never continue driving when the temperature gauge stays "hot".

A roadside breakdown can be terrifying

Unfortunately, most drivers will experience at least one over the course of their life. The best advice we can give is to stay calm and be prepared. With these helpful tips from Christian Brothers Automotive, you now know what to do if you ever face one of the 3 most common causes of vehicle breakdowns. Drive safe out there!

Other posts in the series

1. 8 Driving Safety Tips for Teen and First-Time Drivers

2. 5 Important Driving Practice Conditions For Teen and First-Time Drivers

3. Teen and First-Time Drivers’ 6 Steps to Obtaining Your License

4. 12 Steps to Buying a New Car for Teen Drivers

5. 6 Steps to New Vehicle Registration for Teen and First-Time Drivers

6. What Parents Need to Know About Teen Driver Insurance

7. Guidelines to Buying Your Teen the Best Car Possible

8. More Than Texting and Driving: The Top 10 Driving Distractions Teen and First-Time Drivers Need to Eliminate

9. The 3 Most Common Reasons Cars Breakdown (And What Teen Drivers Need to Do When it Happens)

10. The 8 Most Important Car Maintenance Services Teen Drivers and First-Time Drivers Need To Know

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