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What's the most popular reason for car being stranded?
Old 07-01-2011, 12:05 AM   #1
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What's the most popular reason for car being stranded?

I drove on a trip about 200 miles today. As I was driving, I noticed I'd seen about 4 cars over the 200 mile trip stranded on the road. Was asking myself....out of curiosity...what's the most popular reason for cars being stranded? Bad battery? Bad fan belt? Radiator? Other?

Of the cars I've owned, I only got stranded while driving twice. Once using a really really junk box of a car. The other time due to a bad cataylic converter (only found that out after many dollars to the mechanic), the car would just shut off..and then I'd notice the speedometer slowing down -- pretty scary, actually.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:13 AM   #2
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I owned a 1969 MGB for 12 years, and a '74 for a few years before that. So I had a bit of experience getting stranded. :O

The times I had to get a tow included: broken U-joints (twice) where the driveshaft separated from the transmission; blown head gasket; and a burnt exhaust valve.

Looking back I'm amazed I didn't get stranded more often. In the '69 MG, I had a dead battery maybe half a dozen times, but always had jumper cables, a jump-starting battery pack, and/or a battery charger. Leaks developed in the radiator, but never large enough to fail catastrophically before I could re-solder or replace it. The fuel pump occasionally died, but I could always get it working again by whacking it with a hammer until I had time to replace it.

The MG also had genuine wire wheels that required tubes (like a bicycle), and I got 13 flat tires in 12 years. Thirteen! But most were overnight flats and for the ones that weren't, I just quickly put the spare tire on.

One year in college, the seal in the slave cylinder for the clutch was leaking, and one night when I was going to drive home, the clutch pedal just fell to the floor. So there I was underneath the car in the college parking lot at around midnight bleeding the clutch, using a can of beans (after I ate the beans ) to catch the clutch fluid.

The most epic trip I had was with the same MGB in July 2006. I had already moved to Colorado from California a year prior, and it was time for me to move the car from a friend's place in CA to my new home in CO. During that 1100-mile trip I got three flat tires (fortunately, two of them occurred next to a Big O Tire shop in Reno) and the car was stalling out on I-80 near Salt Lake City. I got the car going again after swapping the spark plug wires for some old ones, but the car only ran on three (out of four) cylinders for the rest of the journey.

I was then so anxious to just get the car home that the only sleep I got was a catnap in the car in Wyoming, and somehow was back home in CO after only 25 hours despite the problems. All without needing a tow.

But probably unsurprising to say, I decided to sell the car shortly after that. :O
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:24 AM   #3
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I think most in-transit breakdowns today are caused by the electronic control unit (the cars computer) having a malfunction or a belt breaking.
Late moodel cars have a serpentine belt that drives everything mechanical such as power steering, A/C, fan, water pump,etc. Shy of running out of gas, I would think the two items I mention are the main culprits. Also, over heating.
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:32 AM   #4
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Oh, I'm an authority, having owned POS's all my life. Strandings in my world have been the result of a snapped power steering unit bracket, a bad alternator, trash in the fuel tank that clogged up the fuel filter, wires worn out across hot metal, and in the category of "I stopped somewhere and it wouldn't start again" a weird problem in the motorhome that involves swapping out some mystery part that costs $85 but can be reused later.

And that wretched serpentine belt. Ah, yes...that one will leave you in a minute.
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:54 AM   #5
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No idea, I'm sure AAA has good statistics.

I've only been stranded twice in 40 yrs. One was burned points on a 74 Mercedes 450, 600' from my house. Another was a burned out ballast resistor in my Winnebago on the Oregon coast highway. Fixed it enough with parts from my junk box to make it to Eugene, and bought the right part. $2.75.
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:01 AM   #6
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In Seattle it's because it snowed and the drivers decided that interstates and hills are the best place to leave the vehicle
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:06 AM   #7
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I would speculate that there are a variety of causes. Top of the list I speculate are:

Bad serpentine (or older style V) belt.

radiator (or other) hoses
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:13 AM   #8
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I doubt that any reason, although common, would be 'popular'..........at least not with the drivers.....tow truck operators/mechanics, maybe.
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:42 AM   #9
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I would have guessed simple 'out of gas' would be high on the list but I'd be wrong according to the Chicago Trib:

Why cars break down: 5 common car failures - Chicago Tribune

Quote:
Nothing can slow down a road trip like car trouble, and seeing that "check engine" light flash on the dashboard is a surefire way to put the brakes on a summer getaway. In preparation for the summer travel season, CarMD.com announced the five most common reasons for breakdowns as compiled by Automotive Service Excellence technicians, along with tips to help avoid roadside incidents this summer.
  1. Evaporative leak
  2. Engine hesitation or surge
  3. Overheating
  4. Flat tire/blowout
  5. No start
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:14 AM   #10
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Between me, DW, and DS:

1. Belt
2. Complete engine meltdown, apparently not due to cooling system. 40k on engine, replaced by manufacturer.
3. Radiator leak
4. Belt
5. Alternator

Been stuck at home a few times with a dead battery, but I don't remember being stranded elsewhere with that problem, other than with the bad alternator.
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:43 AM   #11
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Seems like on the older cars it was usually an overheating problem. Water pumps, etc. These days? Timing belts.
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Old 07-01-2011, 12:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colorado_felix View Post
I owned a 1969 MGB for 12 years, ...
My wife had a '63 MGB when we got married. We drove it from Ohio to California, shipped it to Hawaii and drove it a few more years. It was very dependable. The body underneath the driver's seat rusted away, at last, so we decided to get something more prosaic.
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Old 07-01-2011, 12:51 PM   #13
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My wife had a '63 MGB when we got married. We drove it from Ohio to California, shipped it to Hawaii and drove it a few more years. It was very dependable. The body underneath the driver's seat rusted away, at last, so we decided to get something more prosaic.
Nice! Bet it was a blast to drive in Hawaii.

I drove mine as a daily driver about 10-12,000 miles/year for the first 5-6 years I had it, and did a few trips that seem pretty crazy to me in hindsight.

Trips like from Palo Alto to LA., San Diego, Yosemite, Death Valley, etc. Even autocrossed it once in Rancho Cordova (alas that is where I had one of the busted U-joints incident) and did an MG Car Club tour around the Laguna Seca speedway.

For the most part it didn't let me down and I had a lot of memorable adventures in it. Eventually I decided that modern vehicles that don't break down and rarely require any more attention than washing and routine maintenance were good things, however, and moved on.

Oh, back on the subject of getting stranded, I forgot about how the MG's alternator went out a few times (Lucas electrics).
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Old 07-01-2011, 01:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Nemo2 View Post
I doubt that any reason, although common, would be 'popular'..........at least not with the drivers.....tow truck operators/mechanics, maybe.
I'd guess the most popular reason to be stranded due to the ol' nudge nudge wink wink - "gee, looks like we're out of gas"... would be the passenger.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:10 PM   #15
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Oh, back on the subject of getting stranded, I forgot about how the MG's alternator went out a few times (Lucas electrics).
Those words in ( ) are all I ever needed to know about crappy wiring. My long-ago boss had several Jaguars and a very finicky Lotus Esprit that he cursed daily.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:23 PM   #16
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I'd guess the most popular reason to be stranded due to the ol' nudge nudge wink wink - "gee, looks like we're out of gas"... would be the passenger.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:37 PM   #17
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I guess dead battery is "no start". Although maybe since a jump is easy to get, it doesn't count. Lots of folks leave headlights or dome lights on.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:53 PM   #18
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I doubt that any reason, although common, would be 'popular'..........at least not with the drivers.....tow truck operators/mechanics, maybe.
+1
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Old 07-01-2011, 04:21 PM   #19
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Guess my favorite "stranded" story was about the time I was on a field trip as a Jr. high student. The driver's car ran out of gas out in the middle of corn country. I told him to whip the car from side to side and any remaining fuel might reach the pick up point (probably a 1961 Chevy as I recall). I told him there was a gas station less than two miles ahead. Sure enough, the engine coughed to life and we made it to the gas station. The driver was impressed with my knowledge of cars. In a scene right out of the blues brothers, the station was out of gas. As I recall, my dad brought gas to us.
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Old 07-02-2011, 08:18 PM   #20
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My guess is poor maintenance, when you take care of your car you're far less likely to suffer a breakdown. With gas prices and a poor economy it may be they ran out of gas.

I have been stranded only 2 times in my life and both times the ignitor failed and there's no way to know when they will die. I replaced mine last summer cuz I think it is long over due - it was last replaced in 1997 when I was stranded coming home from work in rush hour traffic.

BTW, once the car is running you can take the battery out and throw it away, the car is running on the alternator.
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