AA Ireland has released a detailed analysis of a sample of 100,000 rescue call outs attended to by its Patrols within the last twelve months. The data shows that flat batteries which accounted for a quarter of the AA’s call outs during the period remains as ever the number one reason that cars on Irish roads are breaking down.
Interestingly however AA Ireland notes that flat batteries as a percentage of its overall workloadsaw a slight decrease based on the previous twelve months from 30% to 26% despite the 2010/2011 freezing spell.
“While this minor dip is surprising it may well be down to the fact that many weaker batteries were weeded out during the arctic-like conditions of the previous Winter,” says Keogh. “Either way flat batteries are still by far the top cause of breakdowns. With predictions of a third consecutive cold winter forecast now is definitely a good time to replace your battery if it’s pushing the five year mark to reduce the risk of getting stranded in freezing conditions.” AA Ireland also reports that on average a third of their flat battery call outs each year are as a result of human error such as the classic and common blunder of leaving the headlamps on.
Another trend the AA’s Breakdown Review highlights is a small but noticeable increase in the number of puncture related call outs compared with the previous two years. Of the 100,000 breakdowns analyzed during the AA Ireland study, just shy of 14,000 involved either a puncture or damaged wheel. This is compared to a figure of 12% and 12.7% during 2009 and 2010 respectively.
“Given our pothole riddled roads it’s no real shock to see an increase in the number of punctures and damaged wheel rims this year.” Says Keogh. “Another contributing factor I’d imagine is that many motorists are now hanging onto their cars longer these days and not paying enough attention to tyre wear.”
While the minimum legal thread depth limit is 1.6mm the AA advises motorists to replace theirs when they reach the 3mm mark. A dedicated section on ‘All you need to know about tyres’ is available at: www.aaireland.ie/AA/Motoring-advice/Driving-advice/Tyres.aspx
Following batteries and tyres the AA Breakdown Review identifies the engine, clutch, alternator, mechanical key and starter motor as the components most likely to be at the route of break down. Good old fashioned human error has also been keeping AA Patrols busy over the last year according to their study. 10.5% of break down call outs they attended to related to fuel in some way shape or form while 5.8% concerned locks or alarms.
Flat or faulty battery
Most common problems are caused by terminals and clamp connections or by a loss of voltage, often caused by constant use on short journeys without regular recharging; At every service, check that the terminals have been cleaned and protected from corrosion with a layer of petroleum jelly or grease.
Clamps and connections must be secure; If you seldom make a long journey, a fortnightly overnight charge prolongs battery life. Modern ‘intelligent’ chargers/battery conditioners can be left connected without risk of overcharging; Modern maintenance-free batteries need no top-up.