40 Ways You Could Be Damaging Your Car Every Day

Naturally, you want your car to last as long as possible. Your vehicle should safely get you from point A to point B, and it should be reliable enough to drive every single day of the year. You may think you’re doing everything correctly to keep it that way, but how true is that?

The primary key to proper vehicle maintenance is knowing what you may be doing wrong. Take a look at these 40 ways you could be damaging your car. How many of them are you guilty of doing?

Forgetting To Check The Fluids

Fuel filling stations in Ryazan, Russia
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images

When was the last time you’ve checked the oil level in your vehicle? Most automotive experts recommend checking the engine oil level every time you fill the car up at the gas station. Your vehicle requires an array of different fluids to run correctly, such as transmission fluid or engine coolant. Low fluid levels can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your car.

While running out of washer fluid is nothing more than a mere inconvenience, forgetting to fill up engine oil can lead to costly damage to your vehicle. Don’t forget to check the fluids before driving next time.

Wrong Modifications

My Hello Kitty Mustang
Adam Gray / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Adam Gray / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Car modifications are great. There are tons of aftermarket tuners that offer an arsenal of cosmetic enhancements to virtually any kind of car. While some custom modifications can improve the styling of your car, others can be way too overboard and can affect the value of the vehicle.

Some modifications can hurt more than just the value of the vehicle, or the eyes of onlookers. Adding too much negative camber to the suspension could result in quickly wearing out the tires, for example.

Neglecting Small Dents And Scratches

car dents
Unsplash/Erik Mclean
Unsplash/Erik Mclean

A small scratch on one of the doors of your car may not be the end of the world, yet it should eventually be taken care of. The same goes for minor dents. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the worse the damage can get.

A neglected car will be harder to sell. Potential buyers avoid vehicles that are damaged. Not to mention losing the pride of ownership in your car when it is not taken care of.

Coasting on Automatic

Cars on The Stelvio Pass in the Alps, Italy
Tim Graham/Getty Images
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Switching an automatic transmission into Neutral when going downhill is a surprisingly common occurrence among drivers. According to this myth, an automatic vehicle rolling downhill in Neutral will improve the fuel economy. This could not be further from the truth.

In reality, switching to Neutral while driving means the engine can no longer be used to slow the vehicle down. What’s more, modern cars will actually use less fuel in Drive when going down a hill. Popping the vehicle back to Drive while moving causes the transmission components to be out of sync for a fraction of a second, shortening their lifespan.

Smoking In Your Car

car smoke
Unsplash/Josh Kahen
Unsplash/Josh Kahen

Cars that have been smoked in are very easy to identify. As soon as you enter the cabin, you will be able to determine whether the driver is a smoker or not. The smell of smoke is nearly impossible to get rid of, especially on leather surfaces around the cabin of a car.

If you’ve been smoking in your car, you might have a hard time selling it. Most non-smokers will be disgusted by the smell. Not to mention the possible cigarette burns around the cabin that are likely to appear in cars owned by smokers.

Driving With Little to No Fuel

Petrol gauges
Lynne Cameron/PA Images via Getty Images
Lynne Cameron/PA Images via Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, driving with a fuel tank that’s nearly empty is not a good idea. According to a common car myth, it allows the particles built up on the bottom of the fuel tank to clear out via the fuel injector. Once again, this could not be further from the truth.

Driving with an empty fuel tank can actually damage the fuel pump in your vehicle, which relies on gas to be cooled and properly lubricated. What’s more, the supposed particles that will clear out of the tank are actually kept in there by the fuel filter.

Pumping The Wrong Type of Fuel

Fuel pumps
Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Sure, using premium fuel in a car that does not require it will only hurt your wallet. It won’t improve the performance of your vehicle, but it will not hurt it either.

On the other hand, you may damage your vehicle if you pump regular fuel if the engine is tuned strictly for high-octane petrol. Of course, pumping diesel in a gasoline-powered car won’t have any positive effects either. If you’ve filled up your gas-powered car with diesel, call a tow truck immediately. Do not attempt to turn on the engine, as it could cause irreversible damage.

Using The Wrong Type Of Oil

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Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Fuel isn’t the only liquid you have to look out for when maintaining your vehicle. There are tons of different types of engine oil, and it is absolutely essential to refill the car’s motor with the correct one. Pouring in the wrong type of engine oil can completely wreck the motor of the car, resulting in a long and expensive visit to your local workshop.

You can find the type of oil recommended for your engine in the owner’s manual. Be sure to get the same type when you’re getting the oil changed.

Not Washing It Enough

Fabrika car wash in Kazan, Russia
Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images
Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images

How often do you take your car to the car wash? Some drivers may be surprised to hear that a dirty car is more than just an unpleasant sight. Washing your car removes any toxic chemicals that may be causing corrosion to the bottom of your vehicle.

Frequently washing your car is an absolute must, especially during the winter. In winter, many roads are covered in salt, which can stick to the undercarriage of your car and cause it to rust. Most automated car washes are equipped with sprayers for the car’s undercarriage to ensure it stays clean.

Not Using The Handbrake in Park

(Los Angeles) 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a $74,000 classic sport car that's become the inadvert
Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If you simply leave your automatic car in park or a manual one engaged in gear, you could cause damage to the car’s transmission. Not using the handbrake when your car is parked on a hill adds a lot of stress to the vehicle’s transmission.

Note that applying the handbrake, also referred to as the e-brake or the emergency brake in some cars, is not necessary when parked on a level surface. Moreover, the brake rotors might be damaged if the handbrake is applied when the brakes are hot.

Not Paying Attention to Recalls

1.3 Million Ford Explorers May Be Recalled Due To Exhaust Fume Problem
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Automakers make mistakes. Typically, a car manufacturer will recall a certain vehicle model if there are any factory issues with it. This can include anything from concerns about exhaust fumes all the way to faulty airbags.

Ignoring a factory recall of your vehicle makes it nearly impossible to sell in the future. Car buyers often look at vehicle reports and are aware of any recalls to the particular model prior to buying it. At the end of the day, everyone wants to own a car that’s safe to drive.

Ignoring Warning Lights

2005 Rover 75 One Of The Last Off The Production Line.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Warning lights, as the name suggests, are designed to warn you about potential issues with your vehicle. You should not ignore any warning light that comes on in your vehicle. While a check engine light can come on frequently in an older automobile, it should never be ignored. A check engine light can signal anything from insignificant problems such as a loose gas cap all the way up to engine misfires.

What’s more, other warning lights such as a braking system error should be checked out as soon as possible. If any warning light comes on, it’s best to take care of it straight away.

Ignoring Leaks

Oil stain
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

While an illuminated check engine light may not always be caused by a major issue, colorful stains under your car can indicate a serious problem with one of its components. If you see any colorful fluids under your car, consider a trip to the mechanic.

Don’t forget that leaks are a sign of malfunctioning car components. It could be something as little as a broken line, but it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible. Otherwise, ignoring leaks might lead to bigger issues with the engine.

Using Hot Water to Defrost The Windshield

Rear window of a car on a frosty morning
BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images
BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Pouring a glass of hot water on an ice-cold windshield may seem like a great life hack at first. After all, this “trick” is still surprisingly common. Any driver who knows a thing or two about science will quickly question this seemingly helpful solution.

Pouring hot water on a cold piece of glass, such as a windshield, can cause it to shatter completely. While it may be a spectacular sight to see on a cold morning, it is certainly not something you’d be happy to see. Scraping the window, although more time-consuming, is undoubtedly safer.

Leaving It Outside… A Lot

Snow In Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Leaving your car outside is perfectly fine, as long as you do not overdo it. It is absolutely best if you have access to a garage where your car can safely be stored between each trip. Leaving your car outdoors for extended periods of time can potentially cause lots of issues.

A car left outdoors is exposed to all kinds of harsh weather conditions, such as snow or hail storms. What’s more, the clear coat on top of your car’s paint can be damaged by tree sap. Not to mention the increased chances of theft or vandalism.

Skipping Wheel Alignment

Corona crisis makes tyre changes difficult
Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Whenever you replace the tires on your car, the tire change should be followed by properly aligning the wheels. Otherwise, you might end up ruining your car. Misalignment can lead to a whole array of issues, such as uneven tire wear or even damaging the drivetrain of your car.

Don’t forget that hitting potholes and curbs, or worn out suspension parts can potentially ruin the alignment of your wheels. It’s recommended to check the alignment of your wheels frequently before it’s too late.

Hitting Potholes

Road damages
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

As obvious as it may seem, you should avoid potholes whenever it is possible. Contrary to popular belief, large cars such as SUVs can still be damaged by potholes. Driving over potholes, especially at high speeds, can result in anything from a popped tire up to irreversible damage to your car’s suspension system.

It’s best to avoid roads with potholes altogether. As that is not always possible, you should at least slow down when you see a large pothole. Driving over a pothole at a lower speed will reduce the potential damage.

Not Driving It Enough

Panaji, Goa
Petr Svarc/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Petr Svarc/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If driving over potholes kills your car, wouldn’t it be better to just leave it parked? Well, not exactly. In fact, not driving your car enough can actually lead to some major damages. Some of the issues that can be caused by letting your car sit for too long include deformed tires, a dead battery, or a ruined, neglected paint job.

If you’re planning to store your car for a few months, it’s best to correctly prepare it for storage first. If you have the chance, do your best to take your stored garage queen out for a drive every now and then.

Only Driving It On Short Trips

Snow On Highway In Pennsylvania
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Did you know that driving your car too much can be just as bad as letting it sit for months, if not worse? When going for a really short drive, you may be harming your vehicle. Driving your car for just a couple of minutes, only to shut the engine off before the components get a proper chance to warm up, could result in a hefty repair bill.

Pay attention to your short trips and ensure that your car gets enough time to warm up its components. A 2-minute drive every day could lead to some major damages after some time.

Not Shifting Gears Properly

Daniel Ravech's 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 for Drive. 10 November 2006. THE AGE DRIV
Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images
Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

Cars with a manual transmission are great. Many car enthusiasts adore the stick-shift transmission for having more control of the vehicle, resulting in a better driving experience. While some drivers prefer manual gearboxes, many inexperienced drivers struggle with it.

Using a manual transmission incorrectly can lead to a hefty repair bill from your mechanic. While an occasional mishap should not result in any damage, repeatedly missing gears can break the gearbox. When stopped at a traffic light in a manual car, pay attention to the clutch pedal. Keeping your foot on the clutch pedal for too long can cause it to wear out quickly.

Shifting To Drive While The Car Is Moving Backward

ME.bumps.1001.RL––Coto de Caza––I line of cars slows down to face a large speed bump on Vista del Ve
Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Many drivers, especially impatient ones, are guilty of doing this. Perhaps you were quickly trying to leave a parking spot and be on your way. Either way, shifting a car to Drive while the vehicle is still rolling backward can cause major damage to the drivetrain.

Every time a car shifts from Park to Drive, it should be completely stopped. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to replace the transmission of your vehicle a lot sooner than you would expect.

Not Cleaning Up Spills Inside The Car

GettyImages-1211125902
Yuttachai Kongprasert/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Yuttachai Kongprasert/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hopefully, the interior of your car looks relatively clean. Many of us have spilled something in our cars at least once, and it is crucial to take care of such spills straight away.

Not cleaning up spills can lead to a lot more than just an unpleasant sight. In fact, liquids spilled in your vehicle can make their way to cables and damage the electronic components in the car. What’s more, some carbonated liquids, like Coke, can cause rust in the cabin of your car. Take care of those spills as fast as possible.

Irregular Oil Changes

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Xinhua/Yang Zhisen via Getty Images
Xinhua/Yang Zhisen via Getty Images

Changing the oil regularly is a crucial part of car maintenance. Luckily, engines in modern cars can last a lot longer without an oil change. However, it is still good practice to change the oil frequently to ensure that the engine can work as efficiently as possible.

Many modern cars are fitted with a maintenance reminder light for forgetful driver. Once it comes on, it’s high time to get your oil changed. If your car isn’t fitted with a maintenance reminder, consider writing down the mileage at every oil change to make sure you don’t miss the next one.

Ignoring The Maintenance Schedule

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Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Believe it or not, the owner’s manual of your car is filled with useful information. One of the greatest parts is the maintenance schedule, which is extremely helpful when it comes to planning your next appointment at the service center. That way, mechanics can spot issues with your car at an early stage, and change out worn out parts of your vehicle.

Most new vehicles sold today come with a couple of years’ regular service included in the price of the car. Even if your complimentary service period is over, it’s certainly worth following your car’s maintenance schedule.

Not Letting The Engine Warm Up

Snow Storm In Pennsylvania December 12, 2020
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Warming up the engine before driving is crucial, particularly when it’s cold outside. While the belief that letting the car idle before setting off is nothing more than a common car myth, you should allow the engine to warm up before going full throttle.

Note that driving the car will warm it up faster as opposed to letting it idle on the driveway. After setting off, it’s best not to drive at maximum throttle until the engine has warmed up to its standard operating temperature.

Forgetting To Change Shock Absorbers

TÜV North
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

Driving around with worn-out shock absorbers is not only highly uncomfortable but also incredibly dangerous. Worn out shocks can dramatically worsen the handling of your car, ending up in anything from the vehicle jerking from side to side all the way to losing control of the vehicle altogether.

You should ask to have the shock absorbers checked out by your local workshop whenever the car’s tires are changed. Note that driving over a pothole or hitting a curb can damage a shock absorber, too.

Not Having It Serviced By An Experienced Mechanic

Training market in Lower Saxony
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

Nobody wants to spend a lot of money when it is not necessary. More often than not, car owners find themselves heading to shady workshops hoping for having repair work done at a fraction of the cost. While this may have worked with older, simpler vehicles, it is a lot harder to do with modern cars.

Unqualified mechanics can do more harm than good. Modern cars are packed with high-tech systems, therefore it’s safest to take it to an authorized dealer for service. The repair bill may be higher, but you can rest assured that the job will be done properly.

Overloading It

Tachkent, Ouzbekistan
Veronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Veronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

You can find the maximum load capacity of your vehicle listed somewhere within the owner’s manual. Ignoring it and overloading the car can negatively impact the handling and performance of your car. What’s more, repeatedly overloading your car can lead to an array of different issues.

Extra weight adds additional stress on the engine, transmission, tires, and suspension components of your car, shortening their lifespan. You might find that the brakes won’t work as well either. Overall, it’s a lot safer to take your cargo in two trips rather than surpassing the maximum load capacity.

Using Water Instead of Coolant

Retromobile 2016 Show : Press Preview At Porte de Versailles In Paris
Chesnot/Getty Images
Chesnot/Getty Images

When some drivers run out of coolant in the radiator, they refill it with tap or bottled water instead. While it may seem like a great trick that will save you some cash at first, it has to be done correctly in order to be effective.

It is true that you can mix regular water with coolant, but you should never just have water by itself in the radiator. What’s more, the engine of your car can warm up a lot (especially during the summer) surpassing the boiling point of the water, resulting in possibly cracking the engine block in the worst case scenario.

Not Letting The Engine Cool Off

Turbocharged Offenhauser Racing Engine - Studio Display
Fred Enke/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images
Fred Enke/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

This applies primarily to turbocharged cars. After a long drive, it is absolutely crucial to drive at low RPM for at least a few minutes before parking and shutting off the engine. That way, the turbocharged engine has the chance to properly cool off.

It is important to note that it is unlikely for your car’s turbocharged engine to reach such high temperatures during the everyday commute. If you are a fan of driving quickly or perhaps are planning to drive on the race track, don’t forget to let the engine cool off before turning it off.

Forgetting About Wax

waxing car
Gail Fisher/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Gail Fisher/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Many car owners seem to forget about getting wax applied on the surface of their cars. To some, it may seem like an unnecessary measure or a trick for the local car wash to make more money. In reality, waxing your car a couple of times every year can have an enormous impact on the vehicle’s paint job.

A layer of wax acts as a shield that protects the clear coat and the paint on your vehicle. The wax absorbs most of the dirt and other unwanted substances, rather than the paint itself.

Rapidly Braking And Accelerating

Toyota Recalls 2010 Prius In U.S. and Japan For Brake Problems
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Driving instructors always mention that young drivers should refrain from rapidly braking or accelerating. The downsides of braking rapidly go beyond simply being uncomfortable for the occupants.

Hard accelerations put a lot of stress on the drivetrain of your car and could lead to problems with the transmission. Braking rapidly, on the other hand, can quickly wear out the brake pads in your car. In the absolute worst-case scenario, the driver behind you might even fail to brake in time and rear-end your vehicle in effect.

Ignoring A Cracked Windscreen

A view through a cracked taxi windscreen on the lonely road...
Jerry Redfern/LightRocket via Getty Images
Jerry Redfern/LightRocket via Getty Images

If you spot a small chip somewhere on the windshield of your vehicle, it is most certainly best to have it taken care of as soon as possible. Otherwise, a small chip might turn into a larger one, and eventually end up becoming a major crack. Sudden changes in temperature, for example, can cause a windshield crack to expand.

Many drivers are not aware that small windshield chips can be fixed, without the need for purchasing a replacement. Once your windshield is cracked, however, you have to replace it.

Ignoring Unusual Sounds

Commuter Driving in Evening Traffic
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Hearing weird noises coming from your car is often a signal of a problem with the vehicle. If you act quickly enough instead of ignoring the sounds, it may turn out to be a minor and cheap fix. If the noises are ignored, however, they can turn into major issues over time.

A great example of this would be a squealing sound whenever you push the brakes. This could likely indicate worn out brake pads, which is a quick and easy fix. If you choose to ignore it instead, worn out brake pads could lead to damaged brake rotors that are a lot more costly to replace.

Driving Over Speed Bumps Incorrectly

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Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There is a certain approach to correctly drive over a speed bump. You may be surprised to hear that it’s not just about going over one at a slow speed.

Naturally, if you clear a speed bump too quickly you may damage your car’s suspension or scratch the bumpers. However, you may also cause these damages even when driving at a slow pace! The key to speed bumps is to approach them at a slow speed. Braking hard right before the bump itself will cause the front of your car to go down, and can ruin your front bumper as a result.

Not Checking Tire Pressure Often

Tyre air pressure
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Many drivers seem to forget that ensuring your tires have the correct pressure is absolutely crucial. Afterall, driving with underinflated tires can lead to a variety of issues. Bad fuel economy, irregular tire wear, or drastic changes to your car’s handling are just some of the problems that can be caused by underinflated tires.

Checking the tire pressure takes just a couple of minutes and can be done at most gas stations. Don’t forget to fill up the tires in accordance with the proper pressure noted on the sticker on the driver’s door pillar, or in the owner’s manual.

Not Checking Tire Wear

Williams technicians check tyre pressure
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images

Checking your tires does not finish with checking the tire pressure. Inspecting the tire wear is just as important as ensuring the proper pressure. Much like underinflated tires, tires that are worn out have a dramatic impact on the handling and safety of your car.

A visual inspection of your tires can be done at any time, anywhere. Watch out for uneven tire wear, it can be a sign of bad alignment or suspension system issues. Be sure to check the tire wear before it’s too late, otherwise you might face expensive repair costs.

Fitting The Wrong Tires

Changing tyres from summer to winter
Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images

While forgetting to check the tire pressure and tire wear are both important when maintaining a vehicle, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that your car has the right tires on. A wrong type of tire can drastically affect the handling and safety of your car, even if they appear to be fine at first sight.

Double-check what size and type of tires are recommended for the make and model of your vehicle before having them fitted on the car’s rims. Buying tires that are too big for your car, for example, can result in the wheels rubbing and damaging your vehicle.

Voiding The Warranty

Game crossing
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

This only applies to owners whose vehicles are still covered by the warranty. A good warranty can cover anything from regular maintenance all the way up to repairs that would be pricey otherwise. The last thing you want is to accidentally end up voiding the car’s warranty.

If you take your car to a race track, the warranty will most likely be void. Adding any modifications to the vehicle will void the dealer warranty as well. Keep in mind that dealers can scan the engine’s history to find any power-adders or even electronic modifications such as an ECU tune.

Overfilling The Car

LUKOIL Neftochim Burgas
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Have you ever tried to continue filling up your vehicle after the gas pump stopped pumping fuel into the tank? Many car owners are guilty of this and are unknowingly damaging their cars in effect.

Overfilling the gas tank does more damage than just hurting your wallet. Ideally, there should be a set amount of vapor in the fuel tank. By overfilling the tank, the excess fuel can reach the car’s vapor collection system. Then, the vapor is replaced with fuel, resulting in the engine running inefficiently. It can cause damage to the vapor collection system, too.