Top 10 Bad Practices that Reduce Your Car’s Lifespan

Wilbert Tan

Vehicle maintenance is like a religion in itself. You need to change the oil, check the fluids, rotate/balance the tires, etc., and you need to do all these on a regular basis following a strict schedule (5,000 kilometers or three months–whichever comes first, anyone?). There’s nothing for car owners to complain though, as these responsibilities are part and parcel of vehicle ownership–take good care of your car and it’ll return the favor with years of steady, reliable service.

Unfortunately, not all car owners are able to keep their end of the bargain, unintentionally (or even deliberately) forgetting to stick to their recommended maintenance skeds. Some just quite simply fail to uphold practical driving practices. Nevertheless, the results are the same–the length of their car’s usable life is greatly reduced. Here are ten most common ways people reduce their car’s lifespan. See which ones you are guilty of.

1. Forgetting to Engage the Parking Brake

You need to engage the parking brake whenever and wherever you park, even when it’s on an even surface. Not doing so puts a lot of pressure on the parking pawl, a little piece of metal inside the transmission that locks the drivetrain so it will not move while the vehicle is stationary. The parking brake helps take some of the pressure off of the pawl, thereby helping it and other transmission components last longer.

2. Overspeeding

Putting the pedal to the metal can harm your car and induce unnecessary wear and tear. Not only that, you are also increasing your risk for accidents. You’ll give your car–and yourself–more road life by being a safe and cautious driver.

3. Keeping a dirty car

Allowing your car to go without a wash for too long leads to the accumulation of damaging dirt and chemicals. Wash your car at least twice a week, and have it fully detailed every six months or more frequently if it experiences heavy use.

4. Hitting humps and potholes

Hitting road obstacles at full speed does three things that you definitely don’t want to happen: It weakens the shock absorbers, disturbs the vehicle’s wheel alignment, and damages the steering column. The steering wheel shakes when you hit potholes and humps deliberately, which can jar it out of its normal position. Avoid all these by reducing your speed when encountering these obstacles.

5. Resting your foot on the clutch

If you own a manual vehicle, you need to remove your foot from the clutch pedal when you’re not using it. Otherwise, you’re burning out the friction material on your clutch disc. This is because while your clutch is spinning in one speed, the engine’s pressure plate is moving at another. They’re working against each other, which can work out your friction material, and consequently, your clutch.

6. Leaving your hand on the gear knob

Another no-no for manual car owners is to rest one hand on the shift lever knob. Though it may look harmless, the weight of your hand on the lever actually causes the transmission’s bushings and synchronizers–the parts responsible for gear shifting–to rub together. This strains the said parts, causing premature wear. To avoid this problem, keep both hands on the steering wheel when you’re not shifting, which is where they should be.

7. Driving with the fuel tank almost empty

Many drivers think that driving with extremely low fuel tank content is a money-saving measure, but the truth is quite the opposite, as the practice can lead to damage in the fuel systems parts, which can be expensive to repair or replace. Most fuel pumps are kept cool by being immersed in fuel. If you keep your gas tank low on fuel, you also keep your fuel pump exposed, which could potentially cause it to overheat.

8. Revving your engine

Pressing on the engine accelerator while the engine is cold can damage your engine’s internal parts. When you start your engine, you need to give the oil time to build up some pressure so it can provide the lubrication and cooling that the engine needs to function optimally. Revving the engine during a cold start means the components are not properly lubricated yet, potentially causing damage or premature wear to the engine. Give your engine at least 60 seconds before you hit the road.

9. Changing gears from ‘R’ to ‘D’ before coming to a complete stop

For automatic car drivers, always ensure that you stop the car completely before shifting from ‘D’ to ‘R’ and vice versa. Over time, sudden direction changes can damage your drivetrain severely. Save yourself from future engine, axle, or transmission damage by coming to a complete stop before shifting.

10. Ignoring the warning signs

Ignoring the glaring signs of disrepair, such as the check engine light, bald tires, pulling, or loud and unusual noises, can result in serious car trouble and costly repairs. If you see, hear, or feel something strange in your vehicle, don’t ignore it. Inspect it yourself or have a mechanic take a look at it right away. If you catch a small problem early on, you can prevent it from becoming a huge issue and save yourself a serious amount of money in the long run.

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