Cars naturally experience wear and tear over time. However, certain bad habits can speed up this process, causing parts to become damaged more quickly. Below are just some of the ways you could be unknowingly damaging your car.
Skipping Regular Service Intervals
There are multiple types of service, the first is a standard oil change which should be done every 3,000 miles, though modern cars with high-quality oil can extend that to 5,000 or more miles. For cars with premium synthetic lubricants, the range can be extended even further. Despite the need for an oil change being postponed, there are other needed services that should be done too. For instance, checking the filters, tires, brakes, and other fluids. Bringing your car for periodic service and assessment will help reduce the lowlihood of catastrophic damage such as worn brake pads causing damage to the rotors since you'll catch the wear more quickly.
How can skipping an annual service damage your car? If oil and filters aren’t regularly changed, oil could start to harden and get contaminated with dirt, which will have a knock-on effect on your entire engine, potentially damaging everything that’s under the hood. Driving on overly worn or damaged tires could meanwhile increase the risk of a blowout, which could also lead to wheel or suspension damage. All in all, servicing can be useful for preventing further damage later down the road. It’s possible to service your car without paying for a mechanic to do it for you - just make sure that you know what you’re doing.
Beyond those regular service checks that are done a few times each year, you'll also want to make sure not to neglect the big checks that require more comprehensive reviews of your car's mechanical systems.
Driving on Underinflated Tires
Are your tires starting to look a little flat? Continuing to drive on underinflated tires could be putting greater pressure on your car’s suspension and wheels, causing excess wear. You could also be increasing the risk of blowout - which could mean new tires and potentially new wheels.
If your tires are looking a little low, check the pressure and pump them up. Most gas stations will have pumps for doing this. It’s worth also checking the tread depth as this can have a similar impact.
Carrying Too Much Weight
Carrying heavy loads in your car could also be causing damage to your vehicle. Just as a human can pull muscles and damage their back from lifting overly heavy loads, a car can similarly start to buckle under the weight (suspension damage and exhaust damage are the most common effects).
You should be able to find the maximum load weight in your driver’s handbook. If not, look at how low the car is - if it looks like it’s physically straining under the weight, it’s probably a good idea to reduce some of the load. Most cars will be able to carry fairly large weights once in a while. Those who regularly carry heavy tools or equipment in their vehicles are the most likely to cause damage (don’t treat a small family car like a pickup truck).
Driving Too Fast Over Potholes and Speedbumps
Potholes don’t just cause a nasty bump. Driving over them can also potentially damage your car - the tires, wheels and suspension can all get damaged if you hit a pothole at speed.
When possible, you should always avoid potholes or drive over them slowly, just as you would with speed bumps. Some tires and wheels are less robust against bumps in the road and while you might be able to buy 4x4 wheels online that are more capable of tackling bumps in the road, chances are you don't want to make that investment when you can simply pay more attention to the road. Good suspension could also benefit you if you live somewhere that has very bad roads. It is sometimes possible to claim compensation for pothole damage.
Riding The Clutch
If you drive a manual car, you should be careful of ‘riding the clutch’ while driving. This involves keeping one’s foot on the clutch pedal after changing gear - many people do this when going around a corner or slowing down in case they need to brake or change down a gear. This can cause unnecessary friction between the pressure pad and clutch plate, causing the clutch to wear out more quickly.
You should only keep your foot on the clutch pedal if you are changing gear or stopping. This will prevent you from having to prematurely fork out money on a new clutch.
Resting Your Hand On The Gearstick
Resting your hand on the gearstick is another driving habit that can damage your car if you have a manual transmission. When you rest your hand on the top of the gearstick, it results in pressure being applied to the selector fork. In the long run, this can result in gearbox components becoming worn - the gearbox may make crunching noises when selecting gear or may fail to select the right gear at all.
Unless you’re changing gear, try to keep your hand away from the gearstick. This will prevent unnecessary wear and tear to the gearbox (gearboxes can be very expensive to repair and replace, so it’s definitely worth doing all you can to preserve them).
Using The Brakes On Long Downhill Sections Of The Road Instead of Shifting To A Low Gear
When descending a long downhill section of road, for instance coming down a mountain, it can be brutal on your brakes. This is especially true if you have a heavy vehicle or are towing a trailer. Even with lighter vehicles though, an extended period of braking can cause the pads to wear out quickly from the friction and extreme heat being generated. Instead, you can shift to a lower gear and the transmission will help slow your descent without using the brakes the entire time.
Regularly Using a Car Wash
Taking your car through an automatic car wash may save time compared to manually washing your car. However, you should be careful of doing this too often. While some automatic car washes are ok, many have strong brushes and harsh chemicals that can potentially damage your car’s paintwork, decals, bumper stickers, and other ornamentation. Sometimes, this will even result in "swirl marks" caused by the brushes leaving scratches in your paint.
While it may take more time and effort, the best way to clean your car is to use an old-fashioned bucket and sponge. Make sure the sponge is non abrasive so as to not cause any scratches. Car shampoo will help to get off any muck (it’s best to use specialized car cleaning products rather than products like dish soap). You can rinse off the soap using a hose or a pressure washer on a low setting.
Not Cleaning Your Car
Unfortunately, not cleaning your car isn’t an option either. When you don’t clean your car, it can damage the paintwork. The finish will slowly fade and it could eventually start to develop rust. Bird poo is particularly not good for your car as it contains nitrogen, which makes it corrosive against water-based paints.
You should ideally wash your car once per fortnight. Most people wash their car less than this, but if you want to keep your paintwork looking shiny you’ll want to wash your car at least every two weeks. Contrary to what some people claim, you can’t wash a car too much (unless you’re washing it incorrectly). That said, unless you’re obsessive, you’re probably not going to want to wash your car more frequently than once a month anyhow.