Although your car is just a means of transportation, its mechanical soul needs a little love now and then. Regularly scheduled maintenance is necessary in order to keep your 4-wheeled friend on the road, but there are some signs to look for in between maintenance appointments to ensure everything is running in tiptop shape. With automobile health in mind, here are five reasons why cars break down and what you can do to avoid turning your vehicle into a jalopy.

1. Bad Battery or Alternator

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Image via Flickr by Evil Erin

If your car’s engine is its heart, then the battery is definitely its pacemaker. Without a fully functional battery, your car can experience ignition problems as well as malfunctioning electrical components that can leave you broken down on the side of the road.

Likewise, your car’s alternator is the mechanical intermediary that sends power back to your battery. If the alternator isn’t functioning properly, then it’s only a matter of time until your battery runs dry. To avoid these pitfalls, have your battery and alternator tested by a professional mechanic every year.

2. Neglecting Oil Changes

Friction is the number one cause of engine failure, but friction is easily avoided by keeping up with your oil changes. It’s always wise to follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule, so rescue your owner’s manual from the glove box and start reading.

In addition, the type of oil you use also plays a huge role in engine performance and longevity. 10W20 oil isn’t the same as 5W30, and synthetic isn’t the same as regular, so again, go with what the manufacturer recommends.

3. Radiator Leaks

Everybody knows that engines produce an immense amount of heat, which is why the radiator is so essential. Without a properly functioning radiator, your car’s engine is likely to overheat, which usually leads to break downs and costly repairs.

To keep your radiator happy and healthy, change the coolant/antifreeze at least once every year and check the fluid levels every other month. Likewise, have a professional mechanic perform a pressure test and flush the coolant system every 3 to 5 years.

4. Oil Leaks

Now that you know the importance of changing your oil regularly, it’s plain to see why oil leaks are so troublesome for your car. If you’re adding oil every time you check the dipstick, then you might have an oil leak that can eventually lead to major problems down the road.

To check for an oil leak, place a piece of cardboard or heavy paper under your engine’s oil pan at the end of the day. If by morning there are oil droplets present on the cardboard, then it’s time to take your car to the shop.

5. Worn-out Rubber Components

Just like your car’s tires, other rubber components on your vehicle have a lifespan too. The hoses and belts that make your engine ebb and flow are made of rubber that can wear-out over time, so it’s important to check for hose wear and proper tension on all your belts in order to avoid unexpected malfunctions.

By following the advice above, you can steer your car through life without the fear of breaking down.