young woman car broken down on beach

Top 4 Common Reasons For Car Breakdowns Over The Summer

It’s common to get busy and put off car maintenance (we’ve all been there)—but preventing minor issues from becoming major car trouble is easier and less expensive than you think. In fact, proper car care can save you up to $1,200 a year in emergency repairs, says automotive expert Lauren Fix. Here are her tips for bypassing the most common warm weather car and engine breakdown issues without breaking a sweat so you won’t be left asking, ‘why did my car breakdown’ after an incident this summer.

Engine Breakdowns: Check Engine Light

check engine light in carThe sight of a “service engine soon” light can mean many different things—some simple enough to fix yourself (like a cracked or loose gas cap, the second most common culprit) and others requiring a trip to the mechanic.

Common Reasons For A Check Engine Light:

Some of the most common reasons that your check engine light might be on are:

  • Faulty oxygen sensor.
  • Spark plug or coil issues.
  • Mass airflow sensor fault.
  • Catalytic converter problems. Image via Wikimedia Commons/The RedBurn.
  • Loose petrol cap.

Prevent It: Read the service schedule and stick to it to keep things running in tip-top shape (find out which maintenance moves you can easily take care of yourself here). Following these guidelines should help minimize engine breakdowns.

What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down:

Because the check engine light can point to a variety of issues that may or may not be serious, it is always important to pull over immediately and get your car checked out by a professional. Don’t take the risk; pull off the road, turn off the car, and have it towed to an auto repair shop for diagnosis. Failure to do so could lead to severe damage to your vehicle or yourself.

Car Breakdowns: Flat Tires

flat tire indicator lightBetween a major uptick in construction and more people on the road, flats are a very common reason for car breakdowns during the summer. It’s a good know how to fix a flat yourself, but it’s even better to give tires regular TLC to reduce the chances of a blowout in the first place.

Prevent It: Set a reminder in your phone to check your tire pressure once a month. Look for a sticker on the inside panel of the driver side door for the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch). To add or release air, use an air compressor or a gas station air machine. While you’re down there, check the treads, too, to make sure they’re not worn out. (Here are 5 signs you need new tires.) Don’t forget to check the air pressure in your spare tire as well.

What To Do If You Have A Flat Tire:

If you experience a flat tire, the first step is to pull over and make sure you are in a safe place. If you know how to replace a tire and have a spare, your next step will be to replace the flat tire. Should you not have a spare or not know how to change your tire, call for assistance to get towed to the nearest auto repair shop.

Car Engine Breakdowns Due To Overheating

overheating radiator light in carKeep your eyes on the temperature gauge and look out for an “engine overheating” message or lit radiator icon on your dashboard. You may also notice steam coming from the hood. If you smell gas, that’s a different problem—most likely a fuel leak.

Prevent It: Check your coolant levels at the beginning of every season. If the liquid doesn’t reach the FULL line on the reservoir, add a 50/50 mix of water and coolant until it does.

What To Do If Your Car Is Overheating:

If you are driving and your engine is overheating, there are some steps you can take until you are in safety or at an auto repair shop:

  1. Crank the heat in your car to move heat away from the engine.
  2. Find a safe place to pull over.
  3. Check your coolant and add it (if you have it available in your car).
  4. Re-start your car if possible. Unless you have to call a tow truck, the next step is to restart your engine carefully.

Car Breakdowns Due To Dead Car Battery

Check battery light in carAlthough most people associate a dead car battery with winter, just like with the cooling system in your car, soaring temps can put extra stress on the battery and cause battery fluid to evaporate.

Prevent It: Head to any major chain auto store to have a professional check your battery, starter and alternator (it’s usually free). And while it’s OK to leave your devices charging for a few hours with your car off, leaving them plugged in overnight will most likely require a jump start the next morning.

What To Do If Your Car Battery Is Dead:

The most common way to deal with a dead battery is by trying to jump-start the battery. All you need to jump-start a car is a set of jumper cables and another car with a functional battery. If you cannot find a fellow driver to help you jump-start your vehicle, you can always call for backup from GEICO’s Emergency Road Service or get towed to a mechanic.

Other Reasons Your Car Might Be Broken Down:

  • Alternator Issues
  • Fluid Leaks
  • Tire Damage
  • Worn Shock Absorbers

If you’re ever stranded on the road, having Emergency Road Service with GEICO can get you the help you need in a hurry—and at your fingertips through the GEICO Mobile app. Add this coverage to your policy for just pennies a day per vehicle for peace of mind wherever the summer takes you.

By Nicole Cherie Jones

Get GEICO Auto insurance.

    Leave a comment

  1. Joanne Thieme-Weinberg says,

    I wish I had known about the gas cap causing the Check Engine light to come on. I was in Nevada, just stopped to get some gas, headed into California when the Check Engine light came on. the car seemed to drive all right, so we drove on to Newport Beach. Then I called the Subaru dealer. I told them what happened, and they set up an appointment for a full inspection. When I told them I had just gotten gas, couldn’t they have asked me to check the gas cap and saved me $120. for a full inspection??????

  2. Blue Blur says,

    Good info, but also repair or replace tires with slow leaks. When we ignore the low pressure or try getting by with filling up the tire, until we can have it properly repaired or replaced, we cause damage to the other 3 tires.
    Low pressure in one tire causes stress on the other 3.
    Know by experience. ….

  3. Anthony hinds says,

    These are very important information ,even though I does all this as a reminder it very helpful, thank you…

    • Chi Chu says,

      Yes all way,especially in SoCal and Sanfrancisco in California.Electricity always cheaper than gasoline.Fixing an electric car that the main issued.Most states fixing an electric car only by dealers.You can’t fixed any electric cars by any garage mechanic.

  4. Tom says,

    When you see the light turning red, take your foot off the gas, coast to the light; the light may turn green as you approach and use less gas to accelerate to required speed.

  5. Patrick says,

    Nice list 🙂

    Regarding dead batteries – even listening to loud music with engine off can lead to drained battery.

    For example, if sound system draws 20 Amps, and one listen to music 2-3 hours, that is 40-60 Ah drained away from the car battery – and most of the cars still have starting/cranking batteries, which are not designed for deep discharging and especially not for cyclic use …

    just my 2c 🙂

  6. Megan Earl says,

    I swear, I’m a magnet for car break downs! I actually didn’t realize that dead batteries were such a common problem before reading this post, though! That’s definitely good to know. I like your tip about getting your batter, starter and alternator checked. I should do that sometime soon. Thank goodness there are people out there to do auto repairs and maintenance checks, am I right? I would be so lost without them!

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