Owning a car is a big responsibility. In addition to paying it off, you have to make sure it's properly maintained. You also have to take care of it in other ways, and there are some habits you have to break if you want your car, truck, or SUV to run well for an extended period of time.
Change the oil regularly, wash it properly, and avoid potholes. If you're not doing these and a slew of other things we list here, you may be shortening your car's lifespan.
Driving When The Wheels Are Improperly Aligned
Many people neglect to properly align their vehicles, but this is an important part of car care. Improper wheel alignment can cause your tires to wear unevenly. If it's not caught soon enough, premature wear and tear will affect your driving. This, in turn, can be unsafe, cause an accident, and even affect fuel economy.
Alignment issues should be dealt with as soon as possible so as not to cause any problems with the tires. After all, premature wear and tear will require you to purchase new tires sooner than you need to.
A vehicle's suspension is designed to soften road imperfections, but there are some bumps that are too large for it to support. And while it can be challenging to avoid every single pothole you come across, it's a good idea to be on the lookout for them.
If you drive through a pothole at a high speed (i.e., anything faster than a slow crawl), then you can seriously damage your vehicle's rims and brake struts. This can lead to expensive repairs.
Using The Wrong Grade Fuel
It can be tempting to fill your car's gas tank with cheap fuel in order to save a buck or two. However, using less than premium fuels can lead to costly engine damage in the long run.
If your vehicle's manufacturer recommends premium-grade fuel and you use regular fuel instead, it's a recipe for disaster. This practice can lead to driving problems and warning lights, neither of which you want to experience.
Neglecting To Wash It
Many people put off washing their cars because they know they're simply going to get dirty over and over again. However, it's very important to wash your vehicle regularly for a couple of different reasons. One, it protects the paint. Two, it reduces the odds that it will rust.
It's really important that you spray the underside of the vehicle, particularly in the winter when salt and other debris can corrode the bare metal of the chassis. Experts recommend a good car washing every 10 days or so.
Washing Your Vehicle With Dish Soap
Dishwashing liquid is meant to break down oil, grease, and food, but it's not designed for car paint, clear coat, or wax. Instead, it will strip off the wax and essential oils used in paints and sealants that provide UV protection.
Soap specifically designed for car washing removes dirt and grease but leaves the surface wax and oils, which are designed to protect the paint. These products are also biodegradable, which is better for the environment.
Buying Cheap, Wrong, Or Discount Parts
Some drivers do their own vehicle maintenance and try to cut corners by using cheap, incorrect, or substandard parts and fluids. This is not a good idea. For example, you need to be sure that you use the right viscosity oil when you do an oil change instead of buying what happens to be on sale at the store.
Also, when you're shopping for spark plugs, make sure they have the correct heat range. As for fuel and air filters, choose brands that you know and that are OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or better.
Forgetting To Clean Under The Hood
Many car owners realize that the exteriors of their vehicles should be cleaned on a regular basis, but they forget to clean under the hood. It's important to do so because over time sludge and debris can build up on the engine. It's unsightly and potentially damaging.
This detritus can shorten your engine's lifespan, which over time will cost you money. That's why keeping the engine clean is just as important as washing the roof, hood, and wheels.
Resting Your Hand On The Shift Knob
Not many new cars are sold with manual transmissions these days, but there are still some drivers who prefer a stick to an automatic transmission. Plus, there are plenty of vintage enthusiasts who drive vehicles with manual transmissions.
But one no-no when it comes to these cars is resting your hand on the shift knob. Although it may feel natural to do so, this can cause premature wear and tear to the transmission's components.
Letting Your Vehicle Sit Too Long
You need to run your vehicle regularly. If you let it sit for too long, the battery will die, and the tires will eventually become misshapen. Plus, stale gasoline can wreak havoc on the engine.
If possible, store your vehicle in an indoor location if you won't be driving it for a while. Wash it to protect the paint, overfill the tires, and soak some mothballs in peppermint to prevent rodents from getting inside of it. Also, use a trickle charger to keep the battery operational.
Driving Fast All The Time
We get it, some people like driving fast. Obviously, there's a time and place to do so (not in places like residential neighborhoods with children around). But there are other reasons why you should take your time and not drive like a speed demon.
The problem is that repeated acceleration and braking is really bad for your suspension and tires. Both will wear down prematurely. So, if you want to avoid costly repairs, try to curb your excessive speeding.
Ignoring That Squealing Sound
If you've been driving for a while, at some point you've probably heard a squeal when you've hit the brakes. Or maybe you've been in someone else's car and heard their brakes squeal, so you know exactly what we're talking about. Don't ignore that sound.
Typically, this means you need a new set of brake pads, which only cost an average of $200. We say 'only' because if you wait until the brakes get really bad, you will eventually need a bigger repair job that can cost upwards of $2,000.
Not Keeping Up With Regular Oil Changes
If there's one thing you should always make sure you do to maintain your vehicle, it's changing the oil at regular intervals. This is particularly important if you do a lot of city driving.
In fact, some experts recommend changing your oil even more frequently than the recommended intervals. That way, corrosive materials will stay out of the engine, and your vehicle will be serviceable for a longer period of time. Many vehicles today have recommended intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles.
Driving On A Cold Engine
Modern, fuel-injected cars start up okay in cold weather, but even with a brand-new car you should wait around 30 seconds for the oil to work its way up from the oil pan. If you drive an old carbureted vehicle, you should let it warm up before heading out. Experts recommend letting it idle for about five minutes.
Make sure to avoid full-throttle acceleration until it has warmed up a bit. It takes a while for the oil to get to the engine, and gasoline is harder to vaporize in colder temps. A cold engine can cause poor combustion and run less efficiently.
Using A Giant Key Chain
If you carry a heavy key chain with your car keys, home keys, office keys, etc., you have to be careful when it's hanging off of the ignition. The problem is that it can bounce around when you're driving, and that combined with the weight of the key chain can wear out the ignition tumblers.
Over time, the ignition switch will fail. That's why it's best to use a lightweight key chain that separates your car key from the rest of your keys. You know your ignition is about to fail if the key sticks when you try to turn on the vehicle.
Waiting Too Long To Refuel
Are you one of those people who waits until the fuel light comes on to fill up your gas tank? And then you eke out a few more miles before you actually get to the gas station? Then you need to change your ways.
It's bad to wait for the refuel light because debris and dirt that settles on the bottom of the gas tank can start to move through the engine, which is never a good thing. So keep an eye on your gas gauge and fill it up sooner rather than later.
Slamming On The Brakes
Slamming on the brakes is never a good thing. It could mean that you're not paying attention until the last moment, which is a bad thing, or it means something happens on the road that causes you to hit the brakes quickly.
Either way, if you slam the brakes on a regular basis, it can adversely affect the brake pads and motors. Over time, you'll have to replace these parts more often then you would if you were a little more gentle on the brake pedal.
Overfilling The Tires
Some people think that will get more mileage if they overfill their tires. However, this is the last thing you want to do because it can cause a rougher ride as well as premature tire wear. Also, tires with too much air in them won't stop as quickly.
Another problem is this can all cause the suspension to wear out more quickly than usual. Tires with too much air in them absorb less vibration, which can wear out the struts, shocks, springs, ball joints, and more.
Mixing Up Brake Fluid And Power Steering Fluid
It's easy to confuse a one-pint bottle of brake fluid with a similar-sized bottle of power steering fluid. Unfortunately, many people make this mistake, and it can be costly. If you use the wrong fluid in either system, expect to pay hundreds of dollars in repairs.
Power steering fluid will cause complete brake failure and require new calipers, wheel cylinders, a proportioning valve, master cylinder, and maybe even ABS components. Since brake fluid isn't a lubricant, it can cause pump and steering gear problems in the steering reservoir.
Ignoring The Low Oil Pressure Light
Don't ignore that light on your dashboard that warns you about low oil pressure. Either your vehicle is dangerously low on oil or completely out of it. It may also mean the oil pump is failing, there's a pressure drop, or oil is clogged. None of these are good scenarios.
If you continue to drive your vehicle when it's low on oil or totally out of it, your engine will be destroyed. This can cost thousands of dollars.
That Check Engine Light Is Probably Not Critical
Some people get really stressed out when the check engine light pops up on the dashboard, but there's a good chance that it’s merely letting you know that a minor issue is occurring, such as a problem with the exhaust system. It’s okay if you don’t address it right away unless you have a really old car.
Eventually, you’ll have to get it checked out, but it’s usually not a big deal if you can’t do it expeditiously. However, if the check engine light starts flashing make sure you get it checked out ASAP.
Referring To The Tire For The Correct Pressure
If you want to know how much pressure you need in your tires, always refer to the sticker that's inside the driver-side door. Never use the pressure that's listed on the tire. That's because those tires may be used on a variety of different cars, each of which requires a different pressure.
For the most accurate reading, use a digital pressure gauge on the tires when they're cold. If you use the wrong pressure, it can adversely affect the handling, safety, and fuel economy.
Not All Mechanics Are Top Notch
Do your research when looking for a reputable repair shop. It can be hard to find a good mechanic, so you may need to shop around a bit before you settle. You can also ask friends, family members, and locals for advice.
You know a mechanic is good if he or she thoroughly explains the repairs required and has some options for you to consider. Don't just go to the closest shop because it may not be the best one in your town.
Some Services Aren't Necessary
Have you ever gone for an oil change at a quick lube shop only to be pressed to do a coolant flush or power steering flush? These are big moneymakers for these types of shops, and they're not always necessary. The best thing to do is to check your owner’s manual.
These days, many vehicles can go 100,000 miles using a particular fluid. Also, avoid getting the fuel injectors cleaned because you can purchase additives to do the job.
You Can Change Your Own Oil
It's not too hard to change your own oil. And since it’s one of the most common maintenance procedures, it’s worth considering. While many auto shops try to get you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, many modern vehicles can go 10,000 miles or more without needing a change. It’s just one way a shop makes fast money.
If you have some extra time and don’t mind getting a little dirty (or finding a place to dispose of the old oil), you can easily change your own and save some money in the long run.
You'll Save Money If You Buff Out Blemishes Yourself
Body shops make a lot of money because they repair cosmetic damage on all kinds of vehicles, which is something the average consumer has no interest, or experience, doing. Even minor dents and blemishes can cost $1,000 or more to fix. But you can fight back by doing your own touch ups.
If you have a scratch or scuff that needs repair, simply buy some products on your own to take care of the problem. While it may not quite as professional looking as what a body shop can do, it can still produce reasonable results.
Installing New Brakes Is Not That Hard To Do
If you have even a tiny bit of mechanical know-how, you can change your own brake pads and motors. Auto shops make a lot of money from these types of jobs. That's because while the task itself isn’t very hard to do it can be time-consuming. Therefore, they make a lot of money due to labor costs.
You can use a jack, but it will take a few hours even if you’re only changing the brake pads. The job is much easier and quicker to do if you have a hydraulic lift.
Inexpensive Tires May Be Old Stock
Depending on what type of vehicle you drive, tires can be expensive. That means it can be hard to pass up a good deal when you see one. However, you need to make sure that the tires you get are good quality. When you visit a shop, ask to see the "build date" of the tire.
That good deal may apply to tires that are several years old. This can be dangerous, particularly if you're buying snow tires. While saving money is important, safety is even more important.
A Lifetime Muffler Deal Isn't Really A Bargain
Some shops promote deals such as mufflers that will last a lifetime. That sounds like a bargain, right? But it's not. The problem is that while the shop will repair and replace the muffler for free, it’s not including other parts.
The muffler is only one part of the exhaust system. If you need to have the pipes repaired, then you’re responsible for their cost and probably the labor as well. Don’t get sucked into deals that seem too good to be true because they probably are.
There are Some Jobs A Dealer Should Always Do
Once a car moves out of the bumper-to-bumper/powertrain warranty period, many people avoid the dealership like the plague. The biggest reason is because dealerships tend to be more expensive than local repair shops. However, some jobs should always be carried out by the official manufacturer.
This includes work on a catalytic converter or emissions parts. Consult with the dealer first because these components often have long warranty periods. Also, federal law requires that they are replaced for free. It's worth double-checking just in case.
Never Bring Your Car In For Repairs On A Friday Afternoon
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you need repairs on your vehicle, schedule an appointment but don't make it on a Friday afternoon. That’s because, just like you, the mechanics often want to finish quickly so they can get on with the weekend.
As a result, they may rush the job and won’t do it as thoroughly. The best time to take your car in for repairs is earlier in the workweek. The employees won’t feel as stressed to finish the job.
Mechanics Don't Catch Every Little Thing, Particularly If They’re In A Rush
Nobody's perfect, not even mechanics. This is particularly true if an employee is working on your vehicle and has a time limit. He or she may miss something or forget to do something simple such as lubricate a hinge or other mechanism. While little things like this may not matter in the moment, they may affect performance over time.
The best thing to do is make sure that every little thing has been completed before you drive away from the shop. That way, you have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been completely checked over.
Not All Tires Need To Be Replaced
It's important that you familiarize yourself with your vehicle before you take it into the shop. That includes the tires. Don’t buy new ones unless you know you need them. A bad mechanic may try to sell you tires when the ones you have can last a few miles more.
Check the tread specifications yourself, and make sure the mechanic measures the tread with a gauge. That way, you know for sure that the tires are either ready for replacement or fine for another season.
A Good Shop Won't Try To Scam You
You're right to be suspicious if an auto shop advises you "not to drive your vehicle another mile." This is one scam some mechanics may try to pull if they think they can get more money out of you. If you feel like you’re being pressured to do certain repairs, take your car to another shop.
Also, check to see if the facility has one of the following certifications: ASE, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or AAA (America Automobile Association). In addition, make sure it has a state license. Good auto shops will display this information.
High-Tech Devices Are Not Their Shtick
Many newer vehicles come with fairly complicated infotainment systems that can include an audio system and Bluetooth technology. Some mechanics can work on these types of devices, but most concentrate on issues with the engine, transmission, and drivetrain, not anything screen-related.
If you're having a problem with your car’s in-dash system, it’s probably better to take the vehicle to the dealer. They are more experienced in dealing with those types of issues. Plus, you don’t want a mechanic who’s unfamiliar with the technology to make things worse.
Inferior Chinese Parts May Be Installed Instead Of Brand Names
Like other businesses, auto shops do what they can to save money. Unfortunately, some of their cost-saving procedures can adversely affect you and your vehicle. When you need a part replaced on your car or truck, ask for a brand name.
The problem is that some shops use cheap parts from China if they can get away with it. These parts are often inferior in quality and not as durable as more established brands. Make sure the mechanic uses high-quality components, and ask to see the box to ensure that the part was actually installed.
You Should Mimic The Weird Noise Your Car Is Making Rather Than Describe It
Don't be embarrassed when talking to your mechanic. If your vehicle is making odd noises, you need to do whatever you can to get the point across–including mimicking the noise to the best of your ability. It’s often a lot easier and quicker for you to try to make the sound yourself rather than describe it.
Your description may not make any sense to the mechanic, but the funny noise you emit may actually help them better determine the cause of the problem.
Working On Cars Can Be Dangerous
It's not always easy being a mechanic, and it’s certainly not the cleanest job in the industry. While most mechanics don’t experience severe injuries on the job, they do get a little banged up now and again.
It’s not uncommon for employees in an auto shop to experience hot oil spills or to drop heavy tools on the feet. They also get scrapes and bruises from working on vehicles and have occasionally been bumped by cars.
Some Local Auto Shops Lack The Resources Dealerships Have
Many people prefer taking their vehicles to local shops because they want to support small businesses. However, not all of these shops have the resources to work on all types of makes and models. Independent shops may not have all the tools that a dealership does because they're very costly.
So, before you take your slightly used BMW or other import to a local repair shop, make sure it has the tools to repair it. Otherwise you can waste a lot of time.
Tacky Add-Ons Are Just That: Tacky
If you want to soup up your vehicle, you have every right to do so. But you might want to think twice about adding that racing stripe to your Honda Civic. Many auto shops have no problem boosting the look of your car with aftermarket accessories, including spoilers, strange wheels, and exotic paint.
Since it's not really hard for them to do these jobs, a lot of auto shops will simply take your money and carry out your request. But a good mechanic or auto guy will be honest about any tacky requests and suggest more attractive alternatives.
There Are Times When Investing In A New Car Is The Best Thing To Do
Many people cringe at the thought of buying a new car because it can cost a lot of money upfront. But there are many advantages. Typically, new cars run really well the first few years of service life, and if something does go wrong it's almost always covered under the warranty.
Plus, new cars provide the latest and greatest in technology. Local mechanics, of course, work largely on used cars. They won’t make as much (or any) money if you’re driving something new.