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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.