The 10 driving habits that can damage your car

Are your bad driving habits placing your car under unnecessary strain? We’ve put together a list of 10 things that could be damaging your vehicle – and you might not even realise you’re doing them.

1. Running the tank low on fuel

The 10 driving habits that can damage your car

It might be close to pay day, or you’re running late, or you might be curious to see just how far your car can coast on fumes but running your car on low fuel will cause it to pick up dirt from the bottom of the tank.

On top of that, your fuel acts as a lubricant and coolant for the fuel pump, so letting the fuel run dry causes increased wear and tear to the pump, leading to failure, a stop by the side of the road, and eventually an expensive replacement.

2. Resting your hand on the gear stick

Resting your hand on the gear stick

Cast yourself back to your driving lessons (if this memory is a little hazy, don’t worry, we are in the same boat). One of the first things your instructor probably told you was to keep both hands on the wheel at all times, but many of us develop bad habits as soon as the ‘L’ plates come down. One of these might include resting your hand on the gearstick. But did you know this can be bad for the transmission?

The gearstick is attached to a control rod in the gearbox that has selector forks, which is designed to make contact with a rotating collar for a short amount of time. If you rest your hand on the gearstick, you risk applying pressure to the selector fork, resulting in unnecessary wear.

Some owner’s manuals specifically advise against resting your hand on the gearstick, it's worth checking yours to see if that's the case.

3. Slamming on the brakes

Slamming on the brakes

If you’re always slamming on the brakes because you’re driving too close to the car in front, you need to back off. In 2018 the PSNI reported that ‘driving too close’ was the 2nd most common principal causation factor in injury road traffic collisions. As well as this, sudden stops place more strain on the braking system, wearing out your pads and discs faster, as well as costing you more fuel in the process.

In general, a slow and considered approach to driving, anticipating the road ahead, is better for your safety and the safety of others, your car and the environment.

4. Resting your foot on the clutch pedal

Resting your foot on the clutch pedal

Poor clutch control will cause excessive wear, shortening the life of the plate. Make sure your foot has left the clutch pedal – using the off-clutch footrest, if fitted. When performing hill-starts, leave the car in neutral with the handbrake on until you’re ready to move.

5. Revving the engine before it’s warm

Revving the engine before it’s warm

Avoid revving the engine until its warmed up to give the oil the time to warm and circulate around the engine. This will avoid potential damage and pointless wear and tear.

6. Delaying regular maintenance

Delaying regular maintenance

It’s another thing that we love to put off… “it can wait to next week, next month, next year.” Keeping up with servicing can be a pain, and quite expensive, but if you don’t you’ll suffer a build up of horrible sludge and burnt oil in your engine. This much can block oil galleries and stop the oil protecting your engine, which can result in catastrophic failure.

7. Neglecting warning lights

Neglecting warning lights

Some lights such as ‘washer fluid’ or ‘bulb gone’ can be ignored until you get a chance to stop, but others need to be investigated at the earliest opportunity. It’s worth checking your owner’s manual to find out what the warning lights on your dashboard mean and familiarizing yourself with the most serious ones so you know when it’s necessary to pull over immediately when driving.

8. Hitting potholes and speed bumps

Hitting potholes and speed bumps

Where possible, potholes should be avoided. Reports have found that a third of all vehicle damage is caused because of potholes. The impact can cause buckled wheels, lumps in the tyre and cracked alloys, as well as upsetting the tracking and wheel balancing. Similarly, driving over a speed bump without slowing down can cause damage to the front and rear of the car, the underside, and potentially the exhaust system.

9. Being in too high a gear

Being in too high a gear

You might think you’re saving fuel by keeping the engine revs low but being in too high a gear at too low a speed, creates unnecessary strain on the engine and can damage your cylinder heads, leading to expensive repairs. Similarly, using a low gear that has the engine screaming is going to cause unnecessary wear and tear, too.

10. Overloading your vehicle

Overloading your vehicle

The greater the load, the more strain you’re placing on the brakes, suspension and drivetrain. It’s also worth noting that while leaving unnecessary items like golf clubs or gym gear in the boot of your car won’t add increased strain on your car’s parts, it will affect your car’s fuel economy and possibly your car’s emissions output.

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