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5 Common Causes of Fleet Vehicle Breakdowns—and How to Prevent Them


Every vehicle has basic maintenance requirements that keep it running smoothly and efficiently. At the same time, the occasional breakdown is inevitable, especially for fleet vehicles that are racking up miles in a shorter period of time. Luckily, regular preventative maintenance with a mobile service provider like Firestone Direct is a reliable way to reduce the risk of operational impact caused by an unexpected breakdown.

Here are five of the most common causes of fleet vehicle breakdowns—and how to prevent them with the help of Firestone Direct.


1.  Tire Damage

An unexpected blowout or flat tire is one of the most common causes of fleet vehicle downtime. Fleet vehicle tires are responsible for carrying more weight and traveling more miles than a typical set of tires, causing wear and tear to weaken tires quicker than expected. While some flats caused by punctures or uneven roads can’t be predicted, there are ways to ensure your fleet vehicle tires are well taken care of and in good condition every time your drivers get behind the wheel.

Firestone Direct offers fleet lot checks dedicated to monitoring tire condition. Our mobile specialists come directly to your fleet lot and inspect the tires on all your vehicles, looking for uneven tread wear, low tread depth, damage and punctures, and low tire pressure. You’ll get a tire health report for each vehicle with recommendations for when to book maintenance services like wheel balancing, tire rotation, and new tire installations. With this information, you can plan for future tire repairs and replacements and reduce unexpected breakdowns caused by tire issues.

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Firestone Direct mobile mechanics have everything they need to complete your fleet service on-site wherever you are, and get you back on the road. Click Get Started to contact our dedicated Fleet Support team today!

2.  Brake Issues


During their annual inspection and enforcement initiative for Brake Safety Week 2023, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspected over 18,000 vehicles and found that 12% were in violation of brake safety standards. Since fleet vehicles generally carry more weight and accumulate more miles on average, the brakes are under even more pressure on a regular basis, which can lead to problems such as:


Worn brake lines

In vehicles with a hydraulic brake system, brake fluid helps transfer pressure from the brake pedal to the brakes. That fluid moves through the brake lines. If the brake lines are faulty or corroded, brake fluid can leak, making it harder for the brakes to function properly. 

ABS malfunctions

An Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up when the brakes are activated. If the ABS isn’t working properly, the driver may experience slipping and lose control of the vehicle.

Worn brake discs and pads

When the brakes are pressed, the pads squeeze the rotor to stop the vehicle. The braking assembly in any vehicle wears out with time and use, but constant hard braking can cause the pads and rotors to wear out sooner. Driving with a worn-out brake assembly can mean longer stopping distances and increased accident risk.

It’s beneficial to educate your drivers on how to maximize brake life and make sure they are aware of the signs of malfunctioning brakes, such as grinding, squeaking and squealing sounds, a spongy brake pedal, and a shaking steering wheel. An illuminated ABS or brake warning light on the dashboard is also an indication that the vehicle needs a brake service. 

In general, brakes should be checked every 6 months or less if the vehicle is racking up a lot of mileage. For brake inspections and brake and pad and rotor replacement, Firestone Direct can make it simple by coming to your fleet lot and checking all your vehicles at once.


3.  Battery Problems

For most people, a dead battery can be a hassle, but it’s generally an easy fix if you have a set of jumper cables and another vehicle available to provide a boost. For fleet vehicles, a dead battery can mean unexpected vehicle downtime and loss of revenue. Some causes of a dead battery or ongoing battery issues include:


Electrical issues

If the driver left the headlights, the radio, or the interior light on and parked the vehicle for the night, the battery may be completely drained the next time they go to drive it. 


Loose or corroded connections

If the positive and negative terminals are dirty or loose, they won’t be able to transfer power from the battery to the rest of the vehicle. Regularly cleaning the battery terminals can help avoid this issue.



An older battery can be a lot more sensitive to extreme temperatures and have a hard time providing enough juice to get the vehicle started.


Faulty alternator

The alternator is responsible for keeping the battery charged when the car is running. If the vehicle suddenly won’t start and there’s no obvious reason, it could be a problem with the alternator.


Battery age

Some batteries last up to five years, but everyday use and frequent short trips can reduce battery life to two to three years. For that reason, fleet vehicle batteries may need to be replaced more often.

To avoid downtime caused by a dead battery, make sure your drivers are turning off all electrical systems when they park the vehicle. Regular battery checks with Firestone Direct can also help ensure you catch any issues early and you’re prepared for when the time comes to get a replacement.

4.  Engine Overheating

If an engine is overheating, that means one or more essential systems isn’t functioning properly. The problem could be related to: 


Low coolant 

Coolant helps keep the engine cool, so if there is a leak or it hasn’t been topped up in a while, the engine can start to overheat.


Damaged radiator 

The purpose of the radiator is to pull heat out of the engine. A cracked, clogged, or leaking radiator means it can’t do its job, leading to an overheating engine.


Faulty belts or hoses

Various belts and hoses are important for maintaining airflow. If they are cracked or frayed, the engine will eventually overheat.


Low oil

Engine oil minimizes friction in the engine. 


Broken thermostat

The thermostat controls the flow of coolant based on the temperature in the engine. If it’s not reading the right temperature, it can’t do its job.

Preventative maintenance and thorough inspections are reliable ways to avoid these problems from popping up across your fleet. Firestone Direct offers full fleet inspections complete with a Digital Vehicle Inspection (DVI) report so you know what needs to be fixed immediately and what can wait. That way, you don’t have to worry about fleet vehicles overheating, causing delays and loss of revenue for your business.

5.  Suspension Problems

The purpose of the suspension is to maximize performance, maintain wheel alignment, and help absorb the bumps in the road to provide a comfortable ride. In fleet vehicles that transport heavy loads daily, the suspension supports a lot more weight than in a typical vehicle, meaning essential parts can wear down more quickly. Signs of a worn-out suspension can include:

  • Constant shaking and bouncing
  • Vehicle pulling to one side
  • Difficult steering
  • Creaking, rattling or knocking sounds

Suspension issues can lead to other problems with the vehicle, including uneven tire tread wear. Regular diagnostic checks and preventative maintenance with Firestone Direct is a smart way to catch any suspension issues early and prevent them from causing further damage.

How Firestone Direct Can Help

Firestone Direct offers a range of fleet services, including tire inspections, repairs, and installations, brake services, battery replacements, fluid, and filter changes and more. In addition to service, we can also help with preventative maintenance to reduce the chance of unexpected breakdowns across your entire fleet.

Next, we can help you keep track of your maintenance history, and breakdown causes to help inform an optimized service schedule that makes sense for your fleet and business. 

Occasional vehicle trouble is inevitable, but there are ways to prevent the most common causes of unexpected breakdowns. Partner with Firestone Direct to get direct-to-your-business service you can trust and set up a plan for preventative maintenance for your fleet.

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Simplify Fleet Care with Convenient Mobile Services

Firestone Direct mobile mechanics have everything they need to complete your fleet service on-site wherever you are, and get you back on the road. Click Get Started to contact our dedicated Fleet Support team today!