Van Nuys Auto Repair & Service Center

Common Reasons for Car Break Downs

By Jack Bulko, AutoAid

Sometimes I get the wackiest calls. A woman called me several months ago and told me about a scary incident she had after her car battery died on a deserted road. She was able to get help but felt vulnerable and didn’t like that feeling. I felt for her, but then she asked me to promise her something no one in their right mind would agree to do. She inquired if AutoAid could fix her car so that it would never break down on the road again. I knew she didn’t mean NEVER, but I understood her fears. I told her that AutoAid has some of the most qualified automotive mechanics in the industry and by doing regular maintenance can catch a great deal of the issues that might sneak up on car owners. But nobody in their right mind is going to guarantee to fix your car so that it never breaks down, because life happens.

I explained this all to her and said “Look, cars are machines and machines have moving parts which at some point will crack, warp, become loose or need to be replaced. That’s just the nature of the beast. However, if you bring your car in for regular check-ups we can make sure that we check the vehicle fluids, the condition of the tires, the belts, etc. to make sure that everything is in proper working order and less likely to break down. I also mentioned that she may also want to stop in before going on another road trip.

I went on to talk about some of the more common reasons automobiles break down. Here’s a quick list.

Running Out of Gas. No matter how often you think you have looked at the gas gauge, check again. Unless you have a hybrid or an electrically-powered car, please take note of your gas gauge to see if you have enough to get to where you need to go and return home safely. If you do run out of gas or out of charge and it’s local, AutoAid does have a towing service.

Bad Starter. If you still start your car with a key and you only hear a clicking sound or nothing at all when you turn the key or push the button to start it, you may need a new starter, alternator, or a short circuit so have it checked out before replacing any parts unnecessarily.

Dead Batteries. Most batteries have a three to five-year lifespan, but they should be checked after three years have passed. If it’s under three years, but you are going on a road trip in the warmer months, you may also want to bring it in so we can test the voltage, make sure the connections are secure and that the terminals are clean and not corroded. Batteries are vulnerable to extreme changes in temperature. You may also want to invest in a pair of jumper cables, which will be useful if someone stops to help and doesn’t have cables to jump-start your battery. 

Alternators. This important component converts mechanical energy from the engine into electric power to charge the battery. So when it stops working so does the car battery. How do you know if your alternator is going? Look for flickering lights on the exterior and interior of the care, or take note if a dashboard light goes on (check your manual for what the individual symbols mean), indicating a problem.

Engine/Radiator Problems. If you’re driving and you see that the arrow on your car’s temperature gauge has gone into the red zone, the engine may be close to overheating. A quick remedy is to turn your air conditioner off and put the heat on full blast. This will move hot air away from the engine, cooling it down. Then have your radiator checked to make sure it has enough coolant. If it is the radiator, you may see smoke coming out of the car’s hood. Turn the car off and don’t touch anything for about 30 minutes. Then check to see if the car’s coolant tank is full

Transmission Trouble. Do you hear a sound or feel your car delay shifting or slipping gears? If you do, it’s likely your transmission. Don’t wait for it to break down entirely, bring your car into our shop as soon as you can so we can perform diagnostics on it. We refer all our transmission jobs to a nearby shop that specializes in these repairs.

Flat Tires. Make it a habit to check your tire pressure every month and don’t forget to check the pressure in your spare, too. You may also want to read, “Where is My Spare Tire?” which offers some tips on how to check your tire tread.

We don’t expect you to know how everything in your car works or what it is intended to do; that’s our job. All you have to do is to bring your car in for regular manufacturer suggested maintenance and we’ll do the rest. If, however, you want to find out more about the inner workings of your vehicle, you can find short, informative videos on our website. We make it easy to make appointments online, or to give us a call or send an email. We’ll answer you within 24 hours.

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