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Auto Club Study: What Are the Top Car Breakdowns?

(LOS ANGELES, March 27, 2012) – The Automobile Club of Southern California has analyzed thousands of roadside assistance calls to determine the most common repairs under the hood of members’ vehicles being towed to AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. The most common equipment failure was the fuel pump, and fuel pump care will appear in the May issue of Westways magazine.
The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center analyzed data for nearly 6,500 completed repairs from May 15, 2008 through Nov. 15, 2010 and found the average repair bill came to $629, including minor maintenance like oil changes that might have been performed at the same time.  The average odometer reading on the vehicles was 123,409 miles.
The most common repairs needed on towed vehicles were on the fuel pump, alternator, battery, starter, radiator, transmission and hoses. 
According to the ARC’s manager, Steve Mazor, motorists can avoid many of these breakdowns by taking some preventative vehicle maintenance steps:
  • Fuel pump life can be extended by avoiding driving with less than a 1/4 tank because that risks a greater chance of the fuel pump taking in sludge at the bottom of the gas tank, and by changing the fuel filter according to manufacturer’s recommendations (often every 30,000 miles).
  • Batteries should be tested (once or twice annually) by a qualified technician after they reach 3 years of age. When the battery becomes weak, it should be replaced before it fails. The AAA battery service can check your battery and charging system, and if needed replace your battery with a competitively-priced high quality unit at your home or office. Also, battery life can be extended by keeping the terminals clean and by being sure the water is always filled on non-sealed batteries.
  • Radiators and transmissions will last longer if you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for coolant/lubricant changes. Be sure to use the correct fluids as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Hoses and belts can be inspected visually. Replace cracked or frayed belts and hoses that are bulging, seeping, or are exceedingly brittle or mushy. These should be changed according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule regarding mileage or length of service.
  • Tire inflation pressure should be checked at least once per month when tires are cold. Use the manufacturer’s recommended inflation settings (not the number on the tire sidewall). The pressure can be found on a label located in the driver side door jamb, glove box, or fuel filler flap. Rotate your tires according to the schedule and pattern in the owner’s manual. These steps will enhance the durability of your tires, while improving your fuel economy, handling and safety. Tread depth should be periodically checked, and when the tread gets low, the tires should be replaced.
Breaking down on the side of the road, or even in your driveway, is nearly always a stressful situation, according to Mazor.  Some instances are unavoidable, but drivers can reduce chances of break downs by following the vehicle maintenance recommendations in the owner’s manual. The ARC also recommends periodic vehicle inspection by a qualified technician. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities often offer specials on vehicle inspections and discounts for AAA members. You can locate these high-quality facilities at


Media Contacts

Marie Montgomery
(714) 420-0477 (cell)
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.