Record-breaking year for vehicle breakdowns

AAA rescued 32 million drivers in 2015

A record-breaking 32 million drivers in 2015 were stranded on the side of the road due to dead batteries, flat tires and key problems,  according to a new AAA study.

Vehicles fewer than five years old in particular experienced a higher proportion of tire and key-related issues than older vehicles.

“It’s important that motorists pay attention to their vehicle's warning system and not push the limits if their low tire pressure or low fuel indicator alerts come on,” said Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan Public Affairs Director. “Understanding the limitation of technology and taking a pro-active approach to vehicle maintenance can help motorists prevent a breakdown on a hot summer day.”

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.

New keyless ignition systems can reportedly 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.

Also, AAA reports, 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.

AAA Tips for Preventing 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 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.

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.