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Summer time breakdowns

Common causes of breakdowns and accidents

Buried or submerged car key fobs

It does happen from time to time that motorists drop their keys in sand and can’t find them or accidentally head in for a swim with their remote control car keys in their pocket. The salt in sea water can ruin electric circuits and render transponder keys useless meaning the damaged key won’t open your car door. So our advice to drivers is to keep your car keys safe when hitting the beach and also to familiarize yourself with how to get into your vehicle if your car fob gives up the ghost. This information can usually be located in your vehicle handbook.


Punctures can be quite common in summer or when driving in warmer climes as higher temperatures heat up tyres and exasperate any existing faults in the rubber. Under-inflation can also add to increased wear and tear and poor vehicle handling during hot weather. Check your handbook for the correct tyre inflation pressures, especially when towing or your car is fully loaded.

Caravans that haven’t seen the light of day all winter should have their tyres checked for cracks and any damage before you take them out for a drive.

Fuel saving tips

  • Load luggage on your roof rack as low as possible and wrap the luggage tightly in plastic sheeting or consider using a roof box to reduce the effect on fuel economy. If you are staying in the same place, it is worth removing the roof rack/box before driving to beaches and tourist attractions - but make sure you don't lose any of the bits.
  • Try your air vents first before opening windows: you may find that the airflow is enough to keep two people comfortable in the front of the car, particularly on a motorway.
  • Don't use the air conditioning all the time: once the air conditioning has cooled the inside of the car, you may be able to turn it down or off. Don't start the air conditioning if doors or windows are open.
  • If you are carrying extra passengers or heavy luggage, pump up the tyres to compensate for the extra weight. The car's handbook gives advice on this.
  • If you park in the sun, using a windscreen shade and opening up the car as soon as you get back to it will help to cool the interior. Opening windows while you drive out of a car park may lower the inside temperature several degrees before you start the air conditioning.


Driving fatigue is a hazard faced by all motorists particularly on long holiday journeys aggravated by high temperatures

4 in 10 motorway accidents are caused by tiredness. Recognize the symptoms of fatigue and learn how to prevent it. Fresh air, exercise or turning up the radio may help for a short time but are not as effective as the following:

  • Break any journey of over 3 hours with a 20 minute break and on longer journeys, take a break every two hours or so.
  • Frequent short stops (of at least 20 minutes) are better than one long stop.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before driving.
  • Counter sleepiness by taking a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink two cups of strong coffee.
  • Remember that it's illegal to stop on the motorway hard shoulder, except in an emergency


Minimise the effect of hayfever when driving.

If you're doing 110kmph and sneeze you lose your vision for as much as 100 metres. Have a 'fit' of, say eight sneezes in a row, and you've just travelled 'blind' for the guts of a kilometer!

Hayfever is particularly bad in the summer but accidents could be minimised if sufferers take action.

  • Only take medication which doesn't cause drowsiness
  • Get someone else to drive if you are having a particularly bad hayfever day
  • Enquire about pollen filters, if available for your make of car
  • Keep a box of tissues on or near the dashboard for easy access
  • Slow down and drop back if you're about to sneeze
  • Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  • Vacuum car mats and carpets regularly during summer, to get rid of dust

Loose chippings

Summer is the time for surface dressing as highways authorities improve local roads by laying tar covered with loose chippings. But while the work is necessary and effective, preserving roads and improving skid resistance, it is the curse of motorists, with bills for cracked headlamp glasses and windscreens, and damaged paintwork.

Reduce the risk of damage to bodywork by being aware of road re-surfacing work, driving within posted speed limits and nor driving too close to other vehicles.


Being blinded by sun glare causes many accidents, particularly under clear skies at dawn or dusk.

Keep a clean and unscratched pair of sunglasses handy but avoid Photochromic lenses, which darken in strong sunlight - the ultraviolet rays which trigger the change are filtered by the windscreen so that the glasses will change only slowly. This is dangerous when driving in and out of tunnels for example.

Clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, to remove smears, which will catch sunlight and impair vision. Renewing worn or damaged wiper blades will also help to improve vision.

AA Ireland Limited trading as AA Insurance is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.