Over six million drivers unable to carry out basic vehicle maintenance

  • 9.4 million drivers have broken down over the past five years, but only 14 per cent were able to fix the problem themselves
  • Car battery issues are the most common cause for breakdowns, but only a third (33 per cent) of drivers feel confident checking charge levels
  • Young people (aged 18-34) leave themselves most at risk, with 59 per cent of young people investing in breakdown cover, compared to 80 per cent of over 55s

New research1 from breakdown provider Green Flag reveals one in six drivers (15 per cent or 6.2 million) are not confident in performing basic vehicle maintenance, despite 9.4 million drivers finding themselves in a breakdown situation over the past five years.

Following a breakdown, over half (56 per cent) of motorists called a roadside assistance company to fix the problem, while one in six (17 per cent) relied on another person they were with to resolve the issue and one in eight (12 per cent) called a friend or family member to help. Only 14 per cent were able to fix the problem themselves.

Only half of drivers (53 per cent) would feel confident doing basic tasks like refilling the oil levels in their car or checking tyre tread depth (50 per cent).   Just one in eight (13 per cent) would be able to tell if there was a problem with the anti-lock braking system, an important safety element when driving and usually indicated by a warning light.

Despite this lack of knowledge, one in four drivers (24 per cent) don’t have breakdown cover in place, leaving them at risk when their cars let them down.

Car batteries are the most common cause for breakdowns, accounting for 35 per cent of Green Flag callouts2. But, worryingly, just one in three drivers (33 per cent) feel confident in checking their car battery. One in six (17 per cent) of the callouts Green Flag supports are for tyre or wheel related issues, which is not surprising given only 37 per cent of drivers know how to change a tyre.

Young people (aged 18-34) leave themselves most at risk. Only 59 per cent have breakdown cover in place, with the group also lacking knowledge compared to those aged over 35. When asked how confident they’d be in carrying out 19 common car maintenance tasks, young drivers were 100 per cent less confident of completing them than those aged over 55.

Mark Newberry, Commercial Director at Green Flag, commented: “Breakdowns are common, but they are often caused by issues that are easily prevented. Knowing the basics such as regularly checking tyres, ensuring fluid levels are topped up, and checking the health of the car battery, can help prevent problems on the road.

“Our research shows many drivers lack confidence in maintaining their vehicles, especially young people, so we’re urging drivers to ensure they have the right cover when hitting the road.  Older drivers were not only more confident in how to fix their cars and carry out maintenance, but they were more likely to have breakdown cover in place, showing that being prepared is just as important as knowing what to do when something goes wrong.”

Green Flag recommends drivers follow these easy steps to ensure their car is road ready and to help prevent a breakdown:

  • Walk around the car and look for any signs of potential issues, including flat tyres or lights that need replacing
  • Have a regular service on your vehicle to ensure your car is at tip top condition for driving and ultimately prolonging the car's overall life span
  • Check your tyres, both for tyre pressure (including the spare) and tyre tread. Tyres do have their own built-in tread wear indicators, but this can also be checked by using a 20 pence coin; if the outer band on the coin is visible when placing the coin in the groove between the treads, it means they’ve worn too low, and the tyres need replacing
  • Check all fluid levels, making sure to top up if necessary and carrying water, oil, and screen wash with you just in case
  • Make sure you have fuel, if you’re driving a petrol or diesel car make sure you have enough petrol to get you to the next fuel stop and if you’re driving an electric vehicle, make sure your car is fully charged before you start head off, and try and locate charging points on the route so you’re fully prepared for your journey
  • Make sure your phone battery is topped up prior to your journey and pack a portable charger. In the event of a breakdown, using an in-car phone charger without the engine running can flatten a car battery in a very short space of time
  • Make sure you have breakdown cover to ensure you’re covered in the event of a breakdown situation.

For more vehicle maintenance tips, visit the Green Flag blog: https://blog.greenflag.com/category/car-maintenance/.



Notes to editors

1 Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults between 25th to 28th of January 2022

2 Analysis of roadside assistance call-out rates based on historic Green Flag data for 2021.

For further information please contact:

Kate Burns

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 020 7025 6567

Hayley Fewster

Green Flag PR Manager

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 07837 007224

About Green Flag

With over 50 years' experience, Green Flag provides customers with breakdown cover 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Customers have access to a network of breakdown operators across the UK and mainland Europe (Euro Plus cover required).

Green Flag is underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Green Flag and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. 

Customers can find out more about Green Flag products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 1557, connecting via the Green Flag Rescue Me Application, or visiting www.greenflag.com