Vehicle Breakdowns Hit a Record High in 2015: AAA

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
vehicle breakdowns hit a record high in 2015 aaa

More Americans enjoyed a vacation on the side of the road last year than ever before, according to the American Automobile Association.

Vehicle breakdowns reached a new high in 2015, with 32 million calls logged to AAA from drivers in distress. Of the most common problems, vehicles less than five years old make up a large part of the tally. So, what’s the deal? Are vehicles going backwards in quality?

Short answer: no, but they are rapidly accumulating technology, and that can lead to issues. Dead batteries, flat tires and key problems topped the list of breakdown calls, and newer vehicles saw the most calls for tire, key, and fuel problems. That hints that certain automotive trends can shoulder some of the blame for the stranded motorists.

“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,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA managing director of Automotive Solutions, in a release.

Locking your keys in your car is a time-honored tradition, and AAA still makes plenty of trips to help those who can’t find a wire coat hanger. Four million, to be exact. The growing use of keyless ignition systems now add variety to those calls for help.

Keyless 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,” AAA stated.

Full-size spare tires are as scarce as supermarket food in Venezuela, and the number of vehicles equipped with a donut spare is shrinking. Tire inflator kits don’t always repair the damage, leading to more calls for assistance. Due to this problem and others, one in five newer vehicles that AAA responded to had to be towed to a repair facility.

Going by AAA’s data, it looks like the best tool to have on you is a charged phone with a good calling plan.

[Image: Michael Kappel/ Flickr]

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  • Frylock350 Frylock350 on Jul 21, 2016

    This all amounts to more reasons that trucks are awesome! Mine has plenty of sidewall (P265/65R18 tires), a full-size spare, and a key. Its also painfully easy to get under to jack up to change to a spare if needed. I dislike smartkeys not because I'm a luddite; but because I don't think the car's ignition is a binary function and I don't like the lack of an "instant-off" switch. When the Toyota acceleration fiasco was fresh I remember thinking that none of this would have resulted in accidents if drivers could either shift into neutral or instantly kill the engine. Cadillac used to have a cool hybrid; it was a smartkey that powered a permanently fixed key on the column. It had the advantages of both. I guess I just don't like push-buttons. Any vehicle that's designed to tow a significant amount of weight will have a full-size spare.

    • Kyree Kyree on Jul 21, 2016

      Fair point. My car *never* locks me out of neutral, even though the gear selector is electronic and has no mechanical linkage. It's mainly the ones with monostatic shifters (see BMW's joystick) that have the propensity to do that. Mind you, if you're in a runaway car and you shut off the engine with the conventional key, you lose power steering and power brakes...which is dangerous. To me, unless there's a fire, being able to shift into neutral and decouple the engine from the wheels is infinitely more useful than being able to shut off the engine. And as far as that "smart knob" that functioned like a key, I assume you're talking about the one on the previous CTS. But Nissan also had it on its early smart-key cars. We had a 2005 Murano with it. So did Acura, on the final RL.

  • Runs_on_h8raide Runs_on_h8raide on Jul 21, 2016

    That's what these people get for not buying Hellcats.

  • Tassos Government cheese for millionaires, while idiot Joe biden adds trillions to the debt.What a country (IT ONCE WAS!)
  • Tassos screw the fat cat incompetents. Let them rot. No deal.
  • MaintenanceCosts I think if there's one thing we can be sure of given Toyota's recent decisions it's that the strongest version of the next Camry will be a hybrid. Sadly, the buttery V6 is toast.A Camry with the Highlander/Sienna PSD powertrain would be basically competitive in the sedan market, with the slow death of V6 and big-turbo options. But for whatever reason it seems like that powertrain is capacity challenged. Not sure why, as there's nothing exotic in it.A Camry with the Hybrid Max powertrain would be bonkers, easily the fastest thing in segment. It would likewise be easy to build; again, there's nothing exotic in the Hybrid Max powertrain. (And Hybrid Max products don't seem to be all that constrained, so far.)
  • Analoggrotto The readers of TTAC deserve better than a bunch of Kia shills posing as journalists.
  • Lou_BC How do they work covered in snow, ice, mud, dust and water? Vibration?