ORLANDO, Fla. — Heading into the summer travel season, AAA Inc. is urging owners of vehicles 10 years old and older to take precautions against breaking down by focusing on the three most common causes of car trouble — batteries, engine and tires.
Vehicles a decade old and older are twice as likely to end up stranded on the side of the road than newer vehicles, according to new analysis of AAA roadside data, and the odds of needing a tow quadruples.
"It's no surprise that older vehicles are more likely to encounter a serious breakdown, but it is surprising just how many people are at risk," John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of automotive engineering and repair, said.
"All vehicles — even the newest ones — are prone to typical roadside headaches like dead batteries, flat tires and misplaced keys, but vehicles 10 years and older are four times more likely to encounter a problem serious enough to require a tow to a repair facility."
Most roadside trouble is avoidable, AAA said, while offering the handy mnemonic "B-E-T" — for battery, engine and tires — reminder.
Long trips coupled with hot weather places additional strain on vehicles and in some cases may accelerate a dormant issue, AAA said.
The three most common types of vehicle issues that could derail a road trip are:
- Battery-related issues, including faulty starters or alternators. A battery on the brink of dying rarely warns a driver before it fails, but having a simple battery test will.
- Engine cooling system failures, such as the radiator, thermostat or water pump or engine parts such as the timing belt. Much like a battery, the components of the engine cooling system may fail without warning. Drivers should look for fluids such as coolant pooling underneath the vehicle when it is parked as an indication of an impending problem.
- Tire damage severe enough to require repair or replacement. Drivers can minimize this risk by checking tread depth, tire pressure and whether their vehicle is equipped with a spare tire.
A professional and thorough vehicle inspection can help reduce the chance of a serious breakdown, AAA said.
"Drivers may skip taking their car in for an inspection, hoping to avoid an expensive repair bill," Mr. Nielsen said. "But, when you factor in the cost of an interrupted trip, having a vehicle inspected and proactively repaired will cost much less in the long run."
AAA provides more than 58 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 36 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America.