BY GERRY MILES
While it may be common to think of placing a piece of black tape over an idiot light on the dash, ignoring that light and seeking advice from a repair shop is the major cause of car breakdowns a new AAA report stated.
A recent AAA survey found that 35 percent of Americans have skipped or delayed service or repairs that were recommended by a mechanic or specified by the factory maintenance schedule.
“According to a survey of AAA’s certified Approved Auto Repair shops, consumers that forget or ignore recommended maintenance ultimately pay higher repair costs,” cautioned John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “These repair facilities estimate drivers can save an average of one hundred dollars per visit simply by properly maintaining their vehicle.”
In 2014, AAA responded to over 29 million calls for roadside assistance, with the majority (17 million) due to battery failure, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle. To prevent these common roadside problems, AAA offers the following recommendations:
- Batteries: Automotive batteries typically last between three and five years, with reduced battery life in hotter climates. To avoid an unexpected battery failure, AAA recommends that drivers have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter. According to a recent survey, two thirds of Americans have never had their car battery tested prior to their vehicle failing to start. AAA’s Mobile Battery Service offers free battery testing to AAA members.
- Tires: Keeping tires properly inflated and routinely checking tread depth is critical to safety, yet AAA found that 60 percent of Americans do not check tire pressures regularly. Tire pressures, including the spare tire, should be checked at least once a month, and when tread depth reaches 4/32” AAA recommends replacing tires. Additionally, while locking lug nuts are helpful in preventing tire theft, missing keys prevented roadside assistance technicians from changing 21,000 tires in 2014. AAA recommends storing the locking lug nut key with the spare tire or in the glove box.
- Keys: Despite the rising popularity of Passive Keyless Entry systems, AAA has not seen a significant reduction in the number of calls related to drivers being locked out of their vehicle in the last decade, proving that it is difficult to prevent this common mistake.
“While problems with batteries, tires and keys are the most common reasons that members call AAA for help, there are more than 12 million calls each year related to engine trouble, fuel issues and other mechanical mishaps,” warned Nielsen. “AAA will always be there to save the day, but this study reveals drivers can save time and money by investing in routine maintenance.”
Other key findings from 2014 roadside assistance data include:
- AAA towed more than two million vehicles for engine-related issues and an additional 600,000 vehicles for transmission failure.
- More than 235,000 vehicles were towed due to brake system failures.
- While most modern vehicles are equipped with low-fuel lights, AAA provided gasoline fuel delivery to more than half a million vehicles in 2014.
- Due to members incorrectly fueling their gasoline-powered vehicle with diesel fuel, or vice-versa, AAA towed more than 13,000 vehicles to repair facilities.
“While today’s vehicle technology incorporates maintenance reminders and dashboard alerts designed to prevent roadside trouble, drivers still must take action,” cautioned Josh VanWynsberghe, AAA’s automotive technical engineer. “Finding a mechanic you trust and allowing that shop to perform all of your vehicle’s maintenance will result in improved reliability, higher resale values and increased safety.”