13 Ways You’re Shortening the Life of Your Car

Put the brakes on these common mistakes to help keep your car on the road—and out of the shop.

1 / 13
deep potholes in the road make driving hazardous
Photo: koontz/Shutterstock

Banging through potholes

“Your car’s suspension is great at soaking up imperfections in the road, but it has a breaking point. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid potholes, but driving through them at any speed faster than a crawl can bend wheel rims and brake struts.” —Matt Smith, senior editor at Car Gurus

2 / 13
Gas pump nozzle in the fuel tank of a bronze car.
Photo: Tonographer/Shutterstock

Using cheap gas

“Penny-pinching by using less than top-tier-rated fuels can result in expensive engine damage down the road. Filling with regular grade when the engine requires premium can create drivability problems and warning lights.” —Richard Reina, product-training director at CARiD

Want to pay less at the pumps? Check out these tips on how to improve gas mileage.

3 / 13
Filling air into a car tire
Photo: sumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock

Not driving it enough

“Too much time without exercise will kill your car’s battery, misshape its tires, and can leave it with a tank full of stale gasoline. If you want to store a car for a long period of time, be sure to find a suitable (and preferably indoor) location. Then give it a good wash to protect the paint, overfill its tires to help keep them round, use some peppermint-oil-soaked mothballs to protect it from rodents, and hook the battery up to a trickle charger to keep it alive.” —Matt Smith

Read more on what can happen to your car when you don’t drive it.

4 / 13
Stack of brand new high performance car tires on clean high-key white studio background
Photo: lightpoet/Shutterstock

Driving on improper alignment

“This commonly neglected issue can wear down your tires, increase your chances of an accident, and hurt your car’s fuel economy.” —David Ambrogio, a consultant with Superior Honda in New Orleans

Find out 10 car repairs you’ve probably wasted money on.

5 / 13
a silver car is washing in soap suds
Photo: Olga Kuzyk/Shutterstock

Not washing it

“It’s easy to wonder why you should keep your car’s exterior clean. After all, it’s just going to get dirty again, right? Well, washing your car regularly will protect its paint and reduce the likelihood of rust. Giving your car’s underside a good spray is particularly important in the winter, when salt can quickly eat away at your chassis’s bare metal.” —Matt Smith

Find out the car cleaning tricks the pros don’t want you to know.

6 / 13
A fragment of the engine
Photo: Sergey Kohl/Shutterstock

Not cleaning under the hood

“We tend to focus on keeping our car’s exterior clean, but not under the hood. This is a mistake. Periodic cleaning of your car engine’s exterior can remove built-up sludge and debris that is shortening the life of your engine.” —David Ambrogio

Find out what sea foam is, and how it can help your engine.

7 / 13
Manual gear shift lever in the new car.
Photo: vpilkauskas/Shutterstock

Holding the shifter

“This one’s for those few remaining manual-transmission drivers: Don’t rest your hand on the gear shifter! While it may feel natural to keep your hand on the stick shift, doing so will result in premature wear to the transmission’s components.” —Matt Smith

Here’s why North Americans drive automatic, while most Europeans prefer manual.

8 / 13
Auto mechanic holds an old spark plug
Photo: Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock

Using incorrect or discount parts and fluids

“You might be keeping up with maintenance, but going cheap by using substandard or incorrect parts and fluids is bad. Regular oil changes require the use of the correct-viscosity oil, not just the least expensive stuff you can find in a big-box store. Spark plugs should have the correct heat range. Fuel and air filters should be name-brand, original-equipment-equivalent or better, not just the lowest-priced item you can find.” —Richard Reina

Hear something funny from under the hood? Our auto experts diagnose nine strange car sounds.

9 / 13
A technician in the workshop exchanges oil
Photo: ajlatan/Shutterstock

Not changing the oil often enough

“Changing your oil more often than recommended keeps corrosive materials out of the engine and helps you keep your car on the road longer. This is especially true if you mainly do city driving.” —David Ambrogio

Try this simple car maintenance hack and you’ll never miss another oil change again.

10 / 13
Color close up image of a car's snow warning symbol lighting up on the dashboard.
Photo: Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock

Driving your car cold

“A cold engine needs time to get up to temperature. Avoid full-throttle acceleration until the temperature gauge reads ‘normal.'” —Richard Reina

Find out more winter driving mistakes everyone makes.

11 / 13
Brake and accelerator pedal of automatic transmission car
Photo: Nor Gal/Shutterstock

Slamming the brakes too often

“A heavy foot on the brake pedal creates abnormal wear to pads and rotors, resulting in more-frequent replacements.” —Richard Reina

Here’s what it could mean if your brakes keep grinding.

12 / 13
Fuel gauge dash board close up
Photo: Ensuper/Shutterstock

Running on empty

“Running your car until the fuel light comes on—and then driving another 10 miles—moves debris and dirt that has settled to the bottom of your tank through your engine.” —Valerie Coleman, sales director at 5miles

Find out more things you should never do to your car.

13 / 13
Drag racing car burns rubber off its tires in preparation for the race
Photo: Toa55/Shutterstock

Putting the pedal to the metal

“Repeated brisk acceleration and braking is hard on suspensions and tires.” —Richard Reina

Next, learn to spot the signs your car is about to die.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Newsletter Unit