Top five causes for business vehicle breakdowns
The RAC looks after around six million business vehicles in the UK each year, delivering a range of products and services designed to keep you and your fleet on the move and reduce vehicle downtime whenever possible.
However the worst can still happen and here we take a look at the top reasons for breakdowns among fleet and business customers and what can be done to avoid them where possible. We also look at some of the innovations that have been developed by the RAC as a result of dealing with high volumes of certain types of breakdown.
By far the biggest reason for callouts is to deal with flat tyres, blowouts, and any other damage that requires a wheel change. In 2015 we attended around 110,000 business customers that needed a wheel change. Over the last few years we have been dealing with many more customers who don’t have a spare tyre as standard in their vehicle, mainly because manufacturers no longer supply them in the majority of vehicles coming off the production line. In response the RAC developed the universal spare wheel which can be fitted to the vast majority of vehicles so that the driver can carry on with their journey and have the tyre replaced at a time that suits them. See our video to find out how our customers benefit.
The best way to avoid having to change a wheel at the side of the road is to regularly check your tyres’ condition to see if there is adequate tread or uneven tyre wear – this could be a sign that the wheels are misaligned. Also look for splits or bulges and check the pressure, especially if you share vehicles in a car pool system, as you can’t be sure the last driver has checked for you.
Another very common cause for breakdown among business drivers is flat batteries, with almost 50,000 callouts in 2015.
Every RAC patrol carries nine types of battery in order to replace dead units and in 2016 we introduced a battery tester. This new piece of kit runs a diagnostic test on the battery and provides the customer with an email detailing what was found, which both enables the patrol to be sure of his assessment of the vehicle, and provides reassurance for the customer. To find out more about this new innovation, see our film about battery testers.
To prevent battery faults, make sure you turn off everything in the car or van when you leave it. It’s all too easy to leave the lights on, especially if starting your journey on a dark morning and driving into the light.
Running out of fuel and filling up with the wrong type are both preventable, but also very common causes of breakdown. It is particularly common among business customers who switch from business to personal cars. Coming back to work on a Monday after the weekend, or back from a holiday, it can be easy to forget if you’ve been driving a different car for instance. Similarly staff using pool cars with different types of vehicles can fall foul of mis-fuelling.
Research carried out by the RAC also suggests men are more likely than women to put the wrong type of fuel in the car, (although less likely to admit it!) with the vast majority of incidents being petrol into diesel tanks. This is because the unleaded pump is much smaller in diameter than the diesel pump, which makes it easier to get into the tank.
The tip from the professionals is to fill up at the start of your journey and long before the warning light comes on. And if you fill up with the wrong fuel, do not start the car! Call the RAC and we will dispatch one of our specialist Fuel Patrols to attend.
Clutch.In 2015 the RAC dealt with almost 12,000 clutch problems among business customers. Clutch cables can snap and the plate can wear away simply through use over time. Drivers can reduce this to a certain extent by changing driving habits for example by using the handbrake on hills and junctions rather than the clutch.
A modern car or van is a highly advanced piece of engineering bristling with hundreds of parts and components. For any number of reasons some of these may fail at times and cause a breakdown. The alternator is one component that could fail and cause problems because if it stops working the battery won’t charge properly and the engine will cut out. So if you think there is something wrong, or you see a warning light on the dashboard, visit a garage as soon as possible.
At the RAC’s National Technical Centre in our headquarters near Birmingham, a team of technical specialists works tirelessly to find solutions and repairs to the many different mechanical faults that occur in vehicles every day. To find out more about how they are working for our business customers, see our film: An Introduction to RAC Technical.
When and where. As well as the reasons for breakdown we’ve also been looking at the time of year and locations which see the most breakdowns among our business customers.
The busiest time of year for the RAC across all customers is January and the dreaded return to work following the Christmas and New Year break. Vehicles have been standing idle for a number of days, subjected to usually sub-zero temperatures which is the worst combination for parts such as batteries.
In terms of locations, in 2015 we had the greatest number of callouts to vehicles broken down in Croydon, followed by Dartford and then Brent Park, which suggests life is pretty tough for the average business driver in the south east!
For more information about the services provided by RAC Business, go to: www.rac.co.uk/business