Top car breakdown faults in autumn – and how to avoid them

Top car breakdown faults in autumn – and how to avoid them

After a long summer, autumn has arrived with a vengeance. The leaves are falling as fast as the nights are drawing in and early morning motoring is quickly becoming a chore rather than a pleasure.

Autumn brings with it a new set of challenges for your car too. Ignore them and, alas, you can instigate breakdowns that wouldn’t have happened in any other season; yes, for some unfortunate drivers, the season brings with it car headaches too.

So how can you avoid an unwelcome surprise on a cold, crisp autumnal morning? Well, simply by remembering what the season brings – cold weather, extra rainfall and slipperier road surfaces. Oh yes, and falling leaves too…

Here we look at some of challenges to your car brought on by autumn – and how you can avoid them before they catch you out…

Overloaded batteries

Car batteries have an easy time of it in the summer. But in autumn, plunging temperatures and the sudden extra demand on a car’s electrical systems means any weaknesses are soon found out. A battery that was on its last legs in the summer will quickly die once autumnal weather kicks in.

If your car’s starter motor whirrs lethargically, or if the lights seem dim (and get dimmer when you switch on yet more electrical systems), the battery has probably seen better days. Try giving it a top-up recharge but if that doesn’t work, you know it’s time to replace it.

As a rule of thumb, if it’s three years old or more, it’s worth getting it changed anyway. They cost less than £100 and will save you a lot of potential hassle…

Engine fluids

Checking your oil goes without saying, but when was the last time you checked your water level? And have you ever tested to see how much anti-freeze you have? If you’ve bought a new car since last winter, you don’t want the first frozen morning to crack your engine block and tell you there’s no anti-freeze in it, do you…

Consider topping up the water level with some anti-freeze or, better still, get a tester device from a motoring store to test it first. If you’re unsure, staff will be happy to help.

While you’re under the bonnet, top up the windscreen washer fluid bottle and add a winter-strength dose of washer fluid. You’ll need it to cut through the grime on the roads…

Leaves on the line

Falling leaves in autumn don’t just affect the rail network. They drop onto cars and block up vital air inlets too – sometimes, this can even lead to engine overheating, so it’s definitely an idea to clear them off the front of the car regularly.

Has the windscreen inexplicably started steaming up? This could be due to leaves blocking the inlets just below the windscreen – the chamber where the bottom of the wiper arms are. Open the bonnet in autumn and, chances, are, a wet mulch of leaves will be present there.

A quick clear-out will solve this and also stop the risk of water accumulating there and flooding the engine bay – thus stopping the risk of unexplained electrical problems.

Electrical issues

Autumn is wet, and condensation can be an added issue when temperatures start to rise above the morning chill. Car electrical systems, which have had it easy over the summer, will be surprised by this and any niggling issues you may remember from last winter can quickly return.

As explained, electrical issues can sometimes be mitigated simply by replacing the battery, or by servicing the car and replacing the spark plugs and leads, but more steadfast ones will need a trip to the dealer for diagnosis.

Luckily, modern cars’ electrical networks are fully diagnostics-based, so the dealer or garage can often simply plug their computer into the car and say exactly what the fault is. Now autumn is here, it’s certainly worth getting this done sooner rather than later if there’s any doubt.

And there’s more…

Don’t forget lights and windscreen wipers either. They will have been rarely used in summer so you may not even be aware of any issues: heavy seasonal use now autumn is here will soon see to that. Worn wipers in particular can be dangerous, and the police will readily stop you if they spot you have a bulb out.

Worn or aged tyres are soon found out in the autumn. The roads are slippery anyway due to rainfall and leaves – the last thing you want to do is drive them on old or worn tyres.

This is not a breakdown in itself of course, but it’s a vital safety point that you ought to consider addressing. The rail network can be brought to a standstill because of leaves on the line: your car is affected in just the same way if the tyres aren’t up to scratch.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your car tip-top in the autumn? Now the nights are drawing in, what sort of things do you do to keep motoring and maintain reliability?

We want to hear them, on Twitter https://twitter.com/RAC_Breakdown and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RAC