A decade ago, if I broke down on the side of the highway, I could lift the hood, tinker around and tell you what was wrong.
Now, not so much. My usual lament: “Bad news. It’s hackers. Maybe Mr. Robot. Tough to tell from here.”
If you feel like the days of being able to listen to a rattle or finagle a tube to fix your car are bygone ones, you're not alone. The AAA just released figures that show that new cars pay more frequent visits to the shop than the makes of yesteryear.
In 2015, a survey of some 32 million broken-down vehicles revealed that cars five years old or fewer were more likely to be on the fritz than older makes — generally owing to problems with the keys, tires or computer-controlled functions.
“Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of automotive solutions said in a statement. “Sleek, low profile tires are highly susceptible to damage, electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life, and despite advanced warning systems, more than half a million drivers ran out of gas last year.”
Gas? Really? That one’s on you, man. But for the rest, you can fairly fault the manufacturer.
Blame technology. The more bells and whistles a vehicle has, the more that can go haywire. And fixing things with a little elbow grease and automotive know-how — the way your father did — isn't always an option. In fact, the AAA stats report that, “one-in-five service calls for a newer vehicle required a tow to a repair facility.”
Should you find yourself the lucky recipient of a shiny, new car, though, the AAA recommends checking to ensure you have a spare tire, monitoring tire pressure frequently, minding those smart keys (easy if you have a Jaguar F-Pace) and carrying an emergency kit with mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, drinking water, extra snacks/food, battery booster cables and emergency flares or reflectors.
Although we're not sure how much good all that will do you if you’re locked out.