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Bad Driving Habits That Can Damage Your Car

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
October 1, 2014
5 min. Reading Time

It’s absolutely mind-boggling how many people abuse the cars they spent so much time researching once they have them. There are driving habits that can damage your car; causing it to consume too much fuel, accelerating its need for maintenance, and in some cases even flat out fail. When these things happen, many people usually blame some aspect of their car—which, when you think about it, is actually reasonable. After all, problems like these can always be traced directly to the nut behind the wheel.

Driving With A Low Fuel Level

OK, so you’re driving along and you notice your fuel gauge is reading very low, so you pull into a gas station, pump a few gallons into the tank and go on your way. If you do this consistently, you’re wreaking havoc with your fuel system. You might think you’re saving weight by driving with a light load of fuel, but you’re making your car draw its fuel from the very bottom of the tank—where all of the sediments in the gasoline settle. This pulls them into the fuel line where they can clog your fuel filter, and in some cases slip past it into your engine. Experts suggest always keeping at least a half tank of fuel.


Sudden Acceleration and Braking

There’s nothing like screaming away from a signal, showing everyone how fast your car is, then braking hard at the next one to carry your speed as far as possible. It’s positively thrilling. However, while this might be a good thing on a racing track where every bit of momentum counts, on the street all you’re really doing is drawing your next date with a mechanic nearer. Oh, and making your car use way more fuel than is really needed for the trip at hand. Those hard stops are also stressing your braking system big time, along with wearing out your pads and rotors prematurely to boot. 


Blipping The Throttle For Attention

Nothing says badass louder than the blat of a finely tuned high performance engine when the throttle is blipped repeatedly. Of course, nothing says dumb-ass louder than a finely tuned high performance engine when the throttle is blipped repeatedly, while cruising through a town, or waiting for a traffic signal to change. While never sounding as good as you think it does to the majority of the people on the sidewalk, it also uses fuel to do absolutely nothing. Further, it wears engine components more rapidly. And, if you’re doing it at startup, wear and tear on your engine is accelerated because the oil isn’t fully circulating.


Riding The Brakes

Ever been on the freeway behind a car whose brakes lights seem stuck on? That “driver” is in all probability riding the brake. And while it might make them feel safer to drive along with their foot poised on the brake pedal—you know, in case something happens—what they’re really doing is setting themselves up for the brakes to fail one day when they really need them. Even the lightest pressure on the brake pedal can cause the pads to come into contact with the rotors or the drums. Driving this way builds up heat in the brakes, which can diminish the braking capacity of the system; it also wears out pads, rotors, and/or drums a lot more rapidly.


Riding The Clutch

It seems everyone new to driving with a manual transmission is afraid to remove their foot from the clutch so they won’t forget to engage it when they need to stop. Here’s the thing, clutches use hydraulics to disengage their pressure plates from the flywheel. Even the lightest pressure on the clutch pedal can pull the pressure plate away from the flywheel a little. Because the plate isn’t in full contact, the flywheel is slipping against it ever so slightly. This causes heat buildup and premature wear—which will ultimately lead to clutch failure. Which, in turn, will lead to you writing a pretty sizable check to your mechanic.


Parking Improperly On A Hill With An Automatic Transmission

Ever parked on a hill and noticed it was difficult to take the transmission out of park when you were ready to go? Here’s why; if you park on a hill and just put the transmission in park, when you take your foot off the brake, the weight of the car rests against the transmission. To avoid this, once you’re in the space, with your right foot still firmly on the brake, shift the transmission into neutral and set the parking brake. Remove your right foot from the brake slowly, let car settle against the parking brake, and shift the transmission into park. The car’s weight will then be resting against the parking brake—rather than the transmission, reducing wear.


Resting Your Hand On The Shift Lever While The Car Is In Motion

Yes, we know it feels way cool to grip the shift lever while you’re barreling along in your high protein speed machine. After all, you see it in the movies and on TV all the time, right? Thing is, in the movies and on TV, they don’t have to replace the sliders in the transmissions when they wear prematurely. Resting your hand on the shift lever preloads the shift fork against the slider while the transmission is spinning. You’ll the feel the vibration in the shift lever if you pay attention. When this occurs, the slider wears more rapidly. Which, of course, means—yet another funds transfer to your mechanic.


Accelerating Too Slowly

Not to point fingers, but many people who drive a certain hybrid model have a tendency to pull away from traffic signals verrrrrrrry slooooooowly and verrrrrrrry graaaaadually, because they’re trying to maximize the use of their electric motor before their internal combustion engine kicks in. Thing is, the gas they save is more than offset by all the gas the internal combustion engines behind them burn because they can’t get to their optimal cruising speeds in a timely fashion. In other words, accelerating too slowly can cause your car to use more fuel. It’s better to get to cruising speed as soon as practicable (without accelerating too briskly) and take advantage of the efficiencies to be derived there.


Driving Hard During The Break-In Period

So, you just got yourself a brand new supercharged Accelerator Turbo Star 99,000, and you just love the way that turbo-supercharged engine lets you scream away from traffic signals. You love it so much you’ve been doing full-throttle starts every time. Further, the braking and handling capabilities are so adroit, you’re treating every drive like you’re two cars back from the lead on the last lap of the Indy 500, fighting hard for position. Dude, you’re tearing your car up—big time. Those early break-in miles are crucial to its longevity. Things need to settle in and mesh on any newly assembled device before they’re employed in full earnest. It’s just one of those things cars need to do—chillax puppy!


Carrying Unnecessary Items

A former Eagle Scout with every merit badge, you’re still living by the organization’s guiding credo; “Be Prepared”. To that end, the trunk of your car is stocked like the Abilene Tractor Supply Company store. Come hell, high water, or a visit from Oprah—anything you might possibly ever need is in there. Which, is making your car work way too hard. The more weight you ask your car to carry, the more fuel it burns, and the more wear and tear you put on every one of the mechanical components responsible for setting it into motion and stopping it again. Pare it back a bit pal, you’ll survive. Plus, the odds of a visit from Oprah? Slim—at best.



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