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Top ten causes of car breakdown in Ireland

The most common problems dealt with by AA patrols

These are the most common problems dealt with by AA patrols. Many can be fixed at the roadside, but most can be avoided by regular car maintenance and following of the recommended car servicing schedule.

Flat or faulty battery

(Flat batteries account for approximately 30% of all AA breakdown call outs per annum)

  • Most common car battery problems viewed by our Patrols are caused by terminals and clamp connections or by a loss of voltage, often caused by constant use on short journeys without regular recharging.
  • At every car service, check that terminals have been cleaned and protected from corrosion with a layer of petroleum jelly or grease. Clamps and connections must be secure.
  • If you seldom make a long journey, a fortnightly overnight charge prolongs car battery life.
  • Modern maintenance-free batteries need no top-up.
  • Most battery related breakdown call outs attended to by AA Patrols are as a result of faulty or old car batteries that are overdue for replacement.


Punctures are the second most common breakdown cause, responded to by our Patrols. And whilst seemingly a simple breakdown job, machine tightened wheel nuts mean that motorists often struggle to get them off with the wheel change tools available to them.

The most common causes of a flat tyre are:

  • Puncturing of the tyre by a sharp object
  • Failure of or damage to the valve stem through which the tyre is inflated
  • Vandalism, such as deliberating letting air out of the tyre valve
  • Collision with another car
  • Collision with a deep pothole
  • Excessive wear of the tyre tread to the point where even blunt stones or imperfections in the road may tear a hole

Lost car keys

  • Many modern cars have a 'transponder' key to prevent theft.
  • If you lose the key, recovery to an authorized dealer is usually the only answer.
  • Even a car dealer may take several days to obtain a replacement, so always carry a spare set of car keys.

Alternator faults

  • Persistent car battery problems and dim headlights when the vehicle’s engine is idling can indicate alternator/generator faults.
  • Belts driving the vehicle’s alternator may also operate the car’s radiator fan and water pump. A red ignition warning light on the vehicle’s dash plus a rapid rise in the vehicle’s engine temperature could indicate a broken belt. Stop the car immediately.

Starter motor

  • Though usually robust, starter motors can fail.
  • Good, regular car servicing by qualified mechanics such as AA Car Servicing Technicians and garage maintenance should highlight potential faults.

Distributor cap

  • Moisture and dirt are the chief enemies of this vital ignition-system component.
  • A crack in the cap's insulation in your car may be almost invisible but can be sufficient to allow high ignition voltage to leak away, especially in damp weather, so there may be no ignition spark in your car.
  • Replace the cap at the car manufacturer's recommended intervals.
  • If the weather protection covering the cap splits, replace it.

Fuel problems

  • Empty fuel tanks cost AA patrols a lot of time and AA members unnecessary inconvenience.
  • Fill up your vehicle’s at the start of your journey. AA Patrols attend about 4 motorists per week on Irish motorways who have broken down as they have run out of fuel.
  • Every year more than 100,000 motorists put the wrong fuel in their car – petrol in diesel engines or vice versa. AA Members and non AA Members based in Dublin have the option of calling AA Fuel Assist who are available 24, 7. AA Fuel Assist technicians have the specialist equipment needed to drain, flush and replenish your vehicle's fuel system. 

Clutch cables

  • The clutch cable in your car is under high stress. Abrasion can weaken the wire strands until they break.
  • Temporary repairs can often be made at the roadside by AA Patrols, but replacement at the first signs of wear is the best answer.

Spark plugs

  • The spark plug is a much-neglected part of a vehicle’s ignition system.
  • Make sure that you replace plugs at the car manufacturer's recommended car servicing intervals.

HT leads

  • High-tension (HT) leads and their connections can deteriorate with age. Water and dirt enter cracks in the insulation, reducing the ignition voltage.
  • Damp-repellent sprays are only a temporary solution.
  • Ask your local car garage to check the condition of the leads and replace as necessary.  

AA Members enjoy access to Ireland’s largest and best equipped Breakdown service plus fabulous deals such as cheaper AA Car and Home Insurance, a discount on AA Car Servicing and savings on a wide range of accommodation, tourist attractions, restaurants and retail outlets. To become an AA Member click here or call +353 (0)1 617 9977