De­spite ve­hi­cle ad­vances, break downs at record high

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

De­spite ad­vances in ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing main­te­nance re­minders and other dash­board alerts de­signed to mit­i­gate road­side trou­ble, AAA res­cued a record-break­ing 32 mil­lion driv­ers in 2015 with more bat­tery, flat tire and key prob­lems than ever be­fore, a new study shows.

Ve­hi­cles fewer than five years old in par­tic­u­lar ex­pe­ri­enced a higher pro­por­tion of tire- and key-re­lated is­sues than older ve­hi­cles, sug­gest­ing that the trend to­ward elim­i­nat­ing the spare tire and mov­ing to elec­tronic key­less ig­ni­tions may have un­in­tended con­se­quences.

“Ve­hi­cles to­day are ad­vanced more than ever, yet are still vul­ner­a­ble to break­downs,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of au­to­mo­tive so­lu­tions. “Sleek, low pro­file tires are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age, elec­tronic key­less ig­ni­tions can zap bat­tery life and de­spite ad­vanced warn­ing sys­tems, more than half a mil­lion driv­ers ran out of gas last year.”

Own­ers of new ve­hi­cles may be un­aware that some new ve­hi­cle de­signs and fea­tures may leave them vul­ner­a­ble at the road­side. To re­duce ve­hi­cle weight and boost fuel econ­omy, spare tires are be­ing elim­i­nated from new ve­hi­cles at alarm­ing rates, and are be­ing re­placed with tire in­fla­tor kits that can only rem­edy some flat tire sit­u­a­tions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, new key­less ig­ni­tion sys­tems can drain the bat­tery life when keys are stored too close to the ve­hi­cle and can lock a driver out of the ve­hi­cle while the en­gine is still run­ning. Fi­nally, de­spite nearly all new ve­hi­cles be­ing equipped with low fuel warn­ing alerts and range es­ti­ma­tions, a higher pro­por­tion of driv­ers are us­ing these sys­tems to push the lim­its be­tween fuel ups.

Other key find­ings from an anal­y­sis of AAA’s 2015 road­side as­sis­tance data in­clude:

• Bat­tery fail­ures, flat tires and keys locked in­side the ve­hi­cle re­main the top road­side as­sis­tance re­quests.

• Ve­hi­cles fewer than five years old have a higher pro­por­tion of tire, key and fuel-re­lated is­sues than older ve­hi­cles. Due in part to com­plex, elec­tronic ve­hi­cle de­signs, one-in-five ser­vice calls for a newer ve­hi­cle re- quired a tow to a re­pair fa­cil­ity.

• Ve­hi­cles be­tween 6 and 10 years old have the high­est pro­por­tion of bat­tery-re­lated is­sues, as most bat­ter­ies have a three- to five-year life.

• Road­side as­sis­tance calls peak in the sum­mer (8.3 mil­lion) fol­lowed by win­ter (8.1 mil­lion), fall (7.8 mil­lion) and spring (7.7 mil­lion).

• Driv­ers are most likely to re­quest road­side as­sis­tance on Mondays and least likely to re­quest as­sis­tance on Sun­days.

• Driv­ers in the West ex­pe­ri­enced the most break­downs, fol­lowed by the South, the North­east and the Mid­west.

• De­spite ad­vances in key tech­nol­ogy, AAA came to the res­cue of more than four mil­lion driv­ers locked out of their ve­hi­cles.

“Driv­ers to­day have in­creas­ingly-con­nected life­styles, and want re­li­able, flex­i­ble ser­vice op­tions when trou­ble strikes,” con­tin­ued Ruud. “AAA has re­sponded with flex­i­ble road­side as­sis­tance offerings na­tion­wide in­clud­ing app-based ser­vice re­quests and the abil­ity to track as­signed ser­vice ve­hi­cles in real time on a smart­phone.”

To help pre­vent mil­lions of road­side break­downs from hap­pen­ing, AAA of­fers the fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for com­mon road­side prob­lems:

• Check for a spare tire: Be­fore pur­chas­ing a car, check that the ve­hi­cle in­cludes a spare tire. If it doesn’t, con­sider adding one as an op­tion. Tire in- fla­tor kits — which have re­placed spare tires on tens of mil­lions of ve­hi­cles — can­not rem­edy all types of tire dam­age.

• Check tires: At least once a month, check the tire pres­sure to en­sure proper in­fla­tion. This af­fects tire wear and ve­hi­cle han­dling. Tires should be ro­tated based on the man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­mended sched­ule for the ve­hi­cle.

• Lock­outs: AAA rec­om­mends mo­torists take spe­cial care of their “smart keys” and key­less entry fobs. Al­ways take keys when ex­it­ing the car, avoid ex­pos­ing key­less-entry re­mote or smart keys to wa­ter and al­ways re­place the key or fob bat­tery when rec­om­mended by the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer.

• Bat­tery: AAA rec­om­mends that driv­ers have their ve­hi­cle’s bat­tery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an an­nual ba­sis there­after. AAA’s Mo­bile Bat­tery Ser­vice of­fers free bat­tery test­ing for AAA mem­bers.

• Pack an emer­gency kit: A re­cent AAA sur­vey shows that more than 40 per­cent of mo­torists do not carry an emer­gency kit in their ve­hi­cle. AAA rec­om­mends that ev­ery driver have a well-stocked emer­gency kit, which in­cludes a mo­bile phone and car charger; a flash­light with ex­tra bat­ter­ies; a first-aid kit; drink­ing wa­ter; ex­tra snacks/food for your trav­el­ers and any pets; bat­tery booster ca­bles; and emer­gency flares or re­flec­tors.


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