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Some Popular New Car Technology Stranding More Drivers

AAA reports that new car technology may not be reducing the number of roadside breakdowns. In fact, according to the nonprofit motoring organization, in the case of keyless start, as well as other advances, technology seems to be adding to the number of stranded motorists.

Technology is often a wonderful thing, but putting too much faith in it sometimes lulls drivers into trading good sense for technological promises. In a recent study, AAA concluded that despite advancing technology in later model cars, it’s receiving more breakdown calls than ever. Not only that, but because of the complexity of late-model cars, a higher percentage of roadside-service responses result in towing the member’s vehicle to a facility for repair.

Most Common Culprits

For cars less than 5 years old, three general issues appear to be driving up AAA service calls. All three are advances gaining huge popularity in the past decade. Anyone purchasing a new vehicle in the past 5 years probably has at least one, and maybe all three, of these advances on that car.

  1. Keyless ignition systems are a convenience relieving the driver from rooting around in a pocket or purse for an ignition key or fob to start the car. In fact, the ignition can be engaged and turned off without the driver ever touching the key or fob. However, because the driver can turn the car on and off without the key, it’s more susceptible to being locked in the car with the engine running. Additionally, AAA says that keyless systems can drain the battery if the fob is stored too close to the car.
  2. To reduce weight and enhance mileage, more and more new cars come without a functioning spare tire. In place of a full-size spare many of these cars are equipped with a small tire inflating kit. Although these kits can get motorists up and running again in some situations, often the tire damage is such that the inflating kit is useless. Even in the case of the full-size spare being replaced with a much smaller doughnut tire, motorists often attempt to exceed the estimated distance it can safely be used, resulting in another flat without a backup.
  3. Trip computers found as standard equipment in most new cars usually include a fuel-range indicator, estimating the remaining miles a driver can go on the current amount of gas in the fuel tank. Some motorists regard these predictions as exact projections of miles left in the tank, waiting until the very last mile or two to add fuel. In such a situation, some drivers are discovering the hard way that these estimates aren’t exact.

Other AAA Findings

  • Battery failure, flat tires and keys locked in vehicle lead roadside-assistance requests.
  • Vehicles younger than 5 years old have a higher proportion of tire, key and fuel-related calls.
  • Because most batteries have a 3- to 5-year life, vehicles between 6- and 10-years old require the most battery-related calls.
  • Drivers are more likely to request service on Mondays and least likely on Sundays.
  • Despite — or perhaps because of — advances in key technology, more than 4 million drivers locked themselves out of their cars in 2015.

What it means to you: Just because a carmaker replaces a real spare tire with an inflating kit or even a doughnut tire, doesn’t mean it’s best thing for you. Moreover, don’t rely entirely on new car technology to replace good sense. You are the one who will be stranded on the side of the road, not some computer programmer.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More

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