AAA: Flat Tires and Dead Batteries Remain Top Problems for Drivers

July 21, 2016

Battery failures, flat tires, and keys locked inside a vehicle remain the top needs of those who call for AAA roadside assistance, but in 2015 AAA rescued a record number of 32 million drivers with more of those problems than ever before. What's most surprising is the age of those stranded vehicles.

AAA analyzed the data from its roadside assistance calls and says vehicles fewer than five years old 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."

Cliff Ruud, managing director of Automotive Solutions for AAA, says “Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns. 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.”

AAA says some of those breakdowns may be a result of vehicle owners being unaware of how new features might leave them vulnerable. It cites the removal of spare tires and use of keyless ignition systems as key factors. "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."

Plus, AAA says drivers are using low fuel warning alerts and range estimations to "push the limits."

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 required 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.

To help prevent millions of roadside breakdowns from happening, AAA makes a few recommendations, including:

  • 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 inflator 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.
  • 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.

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