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A vehicle breakdown is the mechanical failure of a motor vehicle in such a way that the underlying problem prevents the vehicle from being operated at all, or impedes the vehicle's operation so much, that it is very difficult, nearly impossible, or else dangerous to operate. Vehicle breakdowns can occur for a large number of reasons. Depending on the nature of the problem, the vehicle may or may not need to be towed to an automobile repair shop.
Levels of breakdown
There are various levels of a vehicle's disability.
A total breakdown is when the vehicle becomes totally immobile and cannot be driven even a short distance to reach a repair shop, thereby necessitating a tow. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including complete engine failure, or a dead starter or battery, though a dead battery may be able to be temporarily resolved with a jump start.
When a total breakdown occurs, the motorist may be able to have the service paid for by a roadside assistance plan. This may be available through an organization like AAA, the vehicle's manufacturer, the vehicle insurance policy, or in some cases, another service the driver subscribes to, such as a mobile phone carrier.
In a partial breakdown, the vehicle may still be operable, but its operation may become more limited or more dangerous, or else its continued operation may contribute to further damage to the vehicle. Often, when this occurs, it may be possible to drive the vehicle to a garage, thereby avoiding a tow.
Top 10 causes of car breakdowns in 2014
In 2014 The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) attended almost 2 million breakdowns in the United Kingdom. Battery problems were the most common cause of a car breakdown, accounting for more than 450,000 call-outs.
The top 10 causes of car breakdown were:
- Wheel change
- Mechanical problems
- Puncture (no spare)
- Electrical problems
- Charging electrical vehicles
- Cooling, heating, ventilation and air conditioning
With other problems, the driver may be able to operate the vehicle seemingly normally for some time, but the vehicle will need an eventual repair. These include grinding brakes, rough idle (often caused by the need for a tune-up), or poor shock absorption. Many vehicle owners with personal economic difficulty or a busy schedule may wait longer than they should get necessary repairs made to their vehicles, thereby increasing damage or else causing more danger.
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