New research from Green Flag reveals one in six drivers (15% or 6.2 million) are not confident in performing basic vehicle maintenance. This is despite 9.4 million drivers finding themselves in a breakdown situation over the past five years.

Need help

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

Only half of drivers feel confident doing basic tasks topping up the oil levels or checking tyre tread depth. Just one in eight (13 per cent) would be able to tell if there was a problem with the anti-lock braking system. The latter figure is surprising considering a warning light will usually illuminate on the dashboard.

Despite this lack of knowledge, a quarter of drivers don’t have breakdown cover in place.

Rolling to a standstill

Car batteries are the most common cause for breakdowns. A flat battery accounts for 35 per cent of Green Flag callouts. But, worryingly, just one in three drivers (33%) feel confident in checking their car battery.

One in six (17%) of the callouts Green Flag supports are for tyre or wheel related issues. Tyre a wheel problems are increasingly an issue with the number of serious potholes. However, only 37% of drivers know how to change a tyre.

Young and naive

Young people (aged 18-34) leave themselves most at risk. Only 59% 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, says problems “are often caused by issues that are easily prevented”.

“Knowing the basics” can make a huge difference, whether checking tyres or topping up fluid levels.

“Our research shows many drivers lack confidence in maintaining their vehicles, especially young people. 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.”

Basic steps to confidence

Green Flag recommends drivers follow some basic steps regularly:

  • 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.


Find more vehicle maintenance tips here.