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Technology advances leave record number of drivers stranded

Posted July 20
Updated July 21

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— Automotive advances continue to make cars easier to use and more fuel efficient but experts say there could be some downsides to the progress.

AAA recently reported a record high number of breakdowns across the Carolinas last year, despite recent technological advancements.

In the 50 years Dub Melton has worked on cars, he’s seen plenty of changes to the automobile.

“I started in the business in the 60s,” he said.

Some of the latest advances, however, have come with a few unexpected consequences.

“Even though they are more modern, technology is better in vehicles, we are seeing an increase in service calls,” said AAA Carolinas branch manager Crystal Mantalvanos.

Mantalvanos said in 2015, AAA Carolinas assisted nearly 1 million drivers and noted many vehicles fewer than five years old were having issues.

“A lot of that attributes to newer vehicles no longer carry spare tires,” she said.

Many newer vehicles are coming equipped with tire inflator kits rather than spare tires to reduce vehicle weights and boost fuel efficiency. Melton said the problem is that inflator kits don’t work in all flat tire situations.

“If you damage the tire pretty hard, say a brick or something falls off a construction truck, you’re out of there. You’re not going anywhere, even with that inflation,” he said.

Drivers with no spare tire as a backup will have to be towed to a repair shop.

Another cause for the increase in tows is the popularity of keyless entry.

‘We change a lot of key bob batteries,” Melton said.

Mantalvanso said drivers often aren’t aware when their keyless entry needs a battery replacement. She said they end up stranded with no way to get the car started.

Vehicles that are between six and 10 years old have the highest proportion of battery-related issues, as the typical life of a battery is about five years.

AAA reminds drivers that storing the key too close to the vehicle can quickly drain the battery and can lock a driver out of a vehicle while the engine is still running.

Despite the troubles, Melton said there is likely no going back.

“There’s not much you can do about it. That’s just the way it’s going to be,” he said.

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