young woman car broken down on beach

Top 4 Common Causes Of Car Breakdowns Over Summer

It’s common to get busy and put off car maintenance (we’ve all been there)—but preventing minor issues from becoming major car trouble is easier and less expensive than you think. In fact, proper car care can save you up to $1,200 a year in emergency repairs, says automotive expert Lauren Fix. Here are her tips for bypassing the most common warm weather car issues without breaking a sweat.

Engine Breakdowns: Check Engine Light

check engine light in carThe sight of a “service engine soon” light can mean many different things—some simple enough to fix yourself (like a cracked or loose gas cap, the second most common culprit) and others requiring a trip to the mechanic.

Common Reasons For A Check Engine Light:

Some of the most common reasons that your check engine light might be on are:

  • Faulty oxygen sensor.
  • Spark plug or coil issues.
  • Mass airflow sensor fault.
  • Catalytic converter problems. Image via Wikimedia Commons/The RedBurn.
  • Loose petrol cap.

Prevent It: Read the service schedule and stick to it to keep things running in tip-top shape (find out which maintenance moves you can easily take care of yourself here).

What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down:

Because the check engine light can point to a variety of issues that may or may not be serious, it is always important to pull over immediately and get your car checked out by a professional. Don’t take the risk; pull off the road, turn off the car, and have it towed to an auto repair shop for diagnosis. Failure to do so could lead to severe damage to your vehicle or yourself.

Car Breakdowns: Flat Tires

flat tire indicator lightBetween a major uptick in construction and more people on the road, flats are more common during the summer. It’s a good know how to fix a flat yourself, but it’s even better to give tires regular TLC to reduce the chances of a blowout in the first place.

Prevent It: Set a reminder in your phone to check your tire pressure once a month. Look for a sticker on the inside panel of the driver side door for the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch). To add or release air, use an air compressor or a gas station air machine. While you’re down there, check the treads, too, to make sure they’re not worn out. (Here are 5 signs you need new tires.) Don’t forget to check the air pressure in your spare tire as well.

What To Do If You Have A Flat Tire:

If you experience a flat tire, the first step is to pull over and make sure you are in a safe place. If you know how to replace a tire and have a spare, your next step will be to replace the flat tire. Should you not have a spare or not know how to change your tire, call for assistance to get towed to the nearest auto repair shop.

Car Breakdowns Due To Overheating

overheating radiator light in carKeep your eyes on the temperature gauge and look out for an “engine overheating” message or lit radiator icon on your dashboard. You may also notice steam coming from the hood. If you smell gas, that’s a different problem—most likely a fuel leak.

Prevent It: Check your coolant levels at the beginning of every season. If the liquid doesn’t reach the FULL line on the reservoir, add a 50/50 mix of water and coolant until it does.

What To Do If Your Car Is Overheating:

If you are driving and your engine is overheating, there are some steps you can take until you are in safety or at an auto repair shop:

  1. Crank the heat in your car to move heat away from the engine.
  2. Find a safe place to pull over.
  3. Check your coolant and add it (if you have it available in your car).
  4. Re-start your car if possible. Unless you have to call a tow truck, the next step is to restart your engine carefully.

Car Breakdowns Due To Dead Car Battery

Check battery light in carAlthough most people associate a dead car battery with winter, just like with the cooling system in your car, soaring temps can put extra stress on the battery and cause battery fluid to evaporate.

Prevent It: Head to any major chain auto store to have a professional check your battery, starter and alternator (it’s usually free). And while it’s OK to leave your devices charging for a few hours with your car off, leaving them plugged in overnight will most likely require a jump start the next morning.

What To Do If Your Car Battery Is Dead:

The most common way to deal with a dead battery is by trying to jump-start the battery. All you need to jump-start a car is a set of jumper cables and another car with a functional battery. If you cannot find a fellow driver to help you jump-start your vehicle, you can always call for backup from GEICO’s Emergency Road Service or get towed to a mechanic.

If you’re ever stranded on the road, having Emergency Road Service with GEICO can get you the help you need in a hurry—and at your fingertips through the GEICO Mobile app. Add this coverage to your policy for just pennies a day per vehicle for peace of mind wherever the summer takes you.

By Nicole Cherie Jones

Get GEICO Auto insurance.

    Leave a comment

  1. Bir rai says,

    Yes these are common and very important as well. It appears sometimes on system and it’s simple and minor but creat big problem if not aware I such symbol Thank you

  2. Cathy Slisz says,

    I purchased a “Certified” car 1 year ago. Fortunately I had foresight to check out all these problems before they occurred. Except For the life of me I can’t figure out how a car could pass inspection with a crack in the middle of the windshield. “Well if it’s not in your line of vision it’s O.K. (B.S.). They did replace it after I made a stink. But I did have a problem with the A.C. (But made them fix it). The car was in my possession for 1 day. I hadn’t had the car 3 mos. and had the battery checked while filling my tires after the tire light went on. The battery was still the original in the car 4 years later. I have always mad it a practice of mine to have my battery checked every fall, no matter how long it was supposed to last. Strike 1 up for me. So Even If it says “CERTIFIED” BUYER BE WARE!!!!!! A friend of mine was treated much differently from a different branch of the same dealership which I have purchased my last 3 cars. It is a reputable dealer but I don’t know if I can buy another car there again.

  3. Cathy Margoshes says,

    What causes the squealing when first driving with the air conditioning on? The air belt and two others were changed but it still squueals. It seems if I drive for a while without the air on the sound occurrs less.

    • Rick Kendall says,

      If you can reach the belts, rub a used bar of soap on the inside the center of the belts, and if not, try a rubber lubricate spray on the inside of the belts.

    • joe says,

      Most like an idler pulley. By putting the A/C on it causes more stress on the idler pulley and it does get louder. Take the belt off , take a long piece of steel or if you have a long screw driver (24″ long) set it on the housing of the idler pulley, put your ear on the end of the steel or screw driver and spin the pulley by hand. You will hear a grinding sound —-bad pulley

    • Mark Norris says,

      You should always turn the fan on without the a/c engaged for a little while. This will allow the evaporator a chance to cool off before pumping refrigerant through the system. You may be experiencing the compressor locking up from working too hard.

    • Jon says,

      Sounds like a bad bearing in the idler pulley or the tensioning pulley (with a serpentine belt). Fairly cheap as fixes go.

    • Zachary says,

      Sounds like you have a belt slipping, try checking the belt tension, there are tons of videos on YouTube on how to do this. Usually it’s a belt tensioner, or something as simple as an adjustment being needed, these are things that can usually be done quite easily. However there are certain things like a pulley bearing thays bad that may cause squeeking sounds and that may require a trip to a mechanic. I reccomend Eric the Car Guy on YouTube, I promise I am not endorsed in any way. He is awesome to learn how to do certain things to vehicles.

    • arthur french says,

      Best Insurance around, let my policy lapse, and Geico, was the only Ins co. that would even talk to me, for that they will always have my business, unless something crazy happends !!!!

  4. Rose Venier says,

    Thank you for this information as I did have all these things appearing on my dash board I found out that the gas cap was loose I tighten it and all was well. I ll keep this message on my computer. Thanks again

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