Common car breakdown scenarios and how to avoid them

17 December 2021

Broken down before? Chances are it happened at a less-than-convenient time. Though regular servicing can reduce your risk of breaking down, you never know when the unexpected could happen.

6 common car breakdown causes

1. Flat battery

Flat batteries are a common cause of breakdowns. Your battery can go flat for a few reasons, including:

  • accidentally leaving your car lights on overnight
  • regularly driving only short distances, or
  • a bad electrical connection.

If you tend to take frequent but short journeys, you could try charging your car battery. This may help extend its life, but be careful not to over-charge it.

2. No fuel

Whether you couldn’t get to the service station or you just plain forgot, running out of fuel on the road can literally stop you in your tracks. If your tank is nearly empty, you could try:

  • Pulling over to the side of the road when it’s safe to do so and use your GPS or smartphone to figure out where the nearest service station is.
  • Driving smoothly and slowly. Rushing to the pump might use up your fuel more quickly.
  • Reducing the demand on your remaining fuel by turning off your air-con and radio.

3. Keys locked inside car

This one’s a little embarrassing isn’t it? If it’s happened to you, don’t feel too bad — it’s affected many others as well. You may be able to reduce your risk by keeping a spare in your wallet.

4. Car overheating

Overheating can occur when levels of coolant and water are low, or when there’s a leak in the cooling system. This can be aggravated by hot weather — which Australians are all too familiar with. It might be useful to keep a bottle each of coolant and water in your car in case you ever need it.

If your car is overheating, don’t ignore it or you could damage your engine. Instead, stop in a safe area as soon as you can and wait for the engine to cool before lifting the bonnet. Then get in touch with your breakdown assistance provider. If you’re a GIO Roadside Assist customer, whether it’s a flat battery or a breakdown, we’re here to get you back on track. For full details, check out the terms and conditions.

5. Tyre punctures

The effects of a tyre puncture can depend on severity. If a puncture is minor, for example, you may not even realise at first. So, it’s important to be aware of signs like difficulty steering or sudden swerving to the left or right.

To make sure you’re prepared, keep a spare tyre and the tools you need to change it in your vehicle. If your car is new, it may have run-flat tyres. Run-flat tyres are designed to support the weight of your car when when driving under a certain speed limit, even if they’re punctured. But — regardless of whether you’re using a space saver or your tyres have run flat-technology — you’ll need to get to a mechanic or tyre outlet for repair or replacement ASAP.

6. Spark plugs

With wear, spark plugs can break and stop working. This can cause a few different issues, from poor acceleration and fuel efficiency to difficulty starting your car. Having your vehicle serviced regularly should help to negate this but in the event of a fault get in touch with your mechanic.

The importance of roadside assistance

If your car breaks down and you have roadside assistance, help might be just a phone call away. GIO’s Roadside Assist offers cover from some of the most common causes of vehicle breakdown. Any time of day and regardless of who’s driving, it includes:

  • jump starts for a flat battery, or arrangement of a replacement if necessary
  • emergency fuel to get you to the nearest service station, up to a maximum value of $10
  • help for lost or locked-in keys with up to $250, by reimbursement, to either arrange for the delivery of the spare key or to gain access to your car
  • help to change your tyre or the transporting of your car to an approved tyre outlet, and
  • towing to an accredited repairer, up to 20km from the breakdown location. If there is no accredited repairer within 20km, we’ll tow the vehicle to the nearest accredited repairer up to 100km from the breakdown site.

Discover GIO Roadside Assist


Please note: there is no cover for GIO Roadside Assist during the first 24 hours of adding the cover.

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. Go to gio.com.au for a copy. Target Market Determination also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. 

GIO Roadside Assist is an optional extra only available in conjunction with GIO Platinum or Comprehensive car insurance. Terms and conditions for coverage apply.