1. Not Using The Parking Brake
It’s a little pedal near your left leg, or a lever on your right. Yes, that mysterious device that you’ve never used is actually valuable. When you park on an incline, or even on fairly steady ground, without using the parking brake, you’re putting all of the stress of the car on your transmission. The only thing inside that transmission holding your car steady is a little pin called a parking pawl. By using the parking brake, you lock up the non-drive wheels as well as the drive wheels and take the stress off of the transmission. It’ll add years of life to your cars transmission. Just remember to disengage it before you start driving again.
2. Not Coming To A Complete Stop Before Shifting
So you’re in a rush, and you pull out of a parking space and shift into drive while the car is still coasting backwards. You’ve just added months of wear to your transmission in seconds. Inside your transmission is a complex set of gears, when you shift without stopping like that, you’re asking those gears to work as your brakes, which puts an amazing amount of stress on such a small area. You can also damage your drive shafts, the things that send power to the wheels, by shifting that way. After a while, it’ll lead to sloppy suspension handling, and a worn out transmission.
3. Riding The Brakes Down A Hill
If you are driving on a hill that goes on for a while, you’ll want to avoid riding the brake the whole time. Alternate between braking and letting off the brake so you don’t heat up and wear out your brake pads. It’s a common mistake, because it feels like the safest way to maneuver down a hill, but if the hill is sufficiently long, you can end up almost totally wearing out your pads, since as they heat up, they wear faster.
4. Forgetting To Change The Oil
You need to change your oil every 5,000 miles at the most. That’s really all there is to it. I actually read a blog online that said you can wait until your oil light comes on to change your oil. I’ve worked in the automotive business… by the time your oil light comes on, the oil inside your engine has turned into jet black molasses and is of no use to your engine. In the short term, I suppose it’s not that important, but more frequent changes can actually double the life of your car and greatly increase its performance.
5. Pressure Washing The Engine
I can respect a person’s desire to want a clean engine. It gets grimy under there and a guy with a pressure washer is a dangerous thing for grime – you want to point it at anything even slightly dirty. But a grimy engine that runs right is better than a clean engine that doesn’t run at all. And if you spray a high powered jet of water around rubber seals and hoses and electrical bits, you’re bound to dislodge something important. A modern engine is a complex thing, all manner of sensors and wiring harnesses and components, and it’s no place for a jet of high pressure water. A regular garden hose is OK if you want to wash it down, just be careful with the high pressure business.
6. Starting Your Car The Wrong Way
It seems simple, but you can make a big difference by turning off your radio, wipers, climate control, all of those accessories, when you start the car. Most of the wear on the engine happens when you start the car, and by turning off those accessories, your engine doesn’t have to work as hard when starting.
Another thing people do is revving the engine in the winter. This actually doesn’t help “warm up” the car. Although it does technically make the engine hotter, it’s not the kind of “warming up” that you want. Revving your engine in the winter causes extreme temperature changes right away, which is actually the opposite of what you want. When you start the car, the oil hasn’t yet worked its way through the system, so the engine is working without lubricant. The right way to do it is just let the car sit and idle for about 30 seconds to a minute at the least.
7. Ignoring Your Car’s Sounds
Every sound your car makes means something, if you pay attention, your car can usually tell you exactly what needs fixing. Those squeaking brakes mean you need new pads, and if you ignore that sound, eventually you’ll hear scraping metal, which means you need new rotors, and if you ignore that, you’ll eventually hear the sound of your own scream as you lose your brakes completely and fly off a cliff in a spectacular fireball of death. It’s more common than you think. Listen to your car.
8. Letting The Interior Go
You’re in a rush again, and you eat most of your disgusting egg and cheese bagel, and toss the rest in the wrapper on the passenger seat. Lovely. You know who you are, your car is filthy, never been vacuumed, 15 air fresheners hang on the mirror, and yet, no air freshener made by mortal man can stop the sickening wind within your car. You need to clean it. If you don’t vacuum your carpets and clean out the garbage every so often, you’ll develop a smell that is impossible to destroy. I’ve worked in the auto salvage business, and I know that there exist smells that are so obscene, so inhuman, that no shampoo can vanquish them. The only way to stop them is to never let them develop. Clean your car, for the sake of all mankind.
9. Running Your Car Down To Empty
There’s actually a bit of a debate about this one. The old wisdom says if your car gets down to E, the sediment in your tank will get sucked into the system and foul your fuel injectors. Although some mechanics says thats not true. Either way, running down to E does pose other problems. You cut the life of the fuel pump considerably, since the fuel actually cools the pump.
An interesting note: Most cars can drive another 60 miles+ after they hit Empty, automakers call this extra gas the “buffer zone”. US cars have the largest “buffer zone” of any vehicles. German drivers, for instance, like to know exactly how much gas in is the car, so their “buffer zone” between the gauge’s E and the actual empty tank is much smaller.