Things You Do That Might Be Shortening The Life Of Your Car

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

wheel alignment
Petr Urbanek/Unsplash
Petr Urbanek/Unsplash

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.

Hitting Potholes

avoid potholes
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

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

Wrong Grade Fuel
SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images
SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

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

a dirty car
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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

carwash with dish soap
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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

Discount Parts
Jack Milton/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Jack Milton/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

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

under the hood
Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images
Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

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

GettyImages-165446000
Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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

VW
Marco López/Unsplash
Marco López/Unsplash

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

Driving Fast
Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images
Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images

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

Woman in red car
Xinhua/Chen Binjie via Getty Images
Xinhua/Chen Binjie via Getty Images

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

Regular Oil Changes
Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

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

cold engine
Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images
Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images

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

Giant Key Chain
Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images
Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

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

refueling
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

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
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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

overfilling tires
Michel GARNIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel GARNIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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

Mechanics work on a Barn Find Skoda
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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

Jiffy Lube
David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

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.

Referring To The Tire For The Correct Pressure

checking tire pressure
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

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.