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16 Ways You’re Killing Your Car

For many people, a car is their first big investment, yet many don’t worry about taking care of their vehicle until something goes wrong. This is particularly true for younger drivers, who are responsible for the care and maintenance of a vehicle for the first time. Owning a car can be a dream or a nightmare depending on how well you take care of your vehicle. Ignoring warning signs and key services is the quickest way to send your big investment to an early grave.

These tips will help you to maintain the value of your vehicle and save you some major expenses in the long run.

Here are the 16 habits you need to break immediately:

Ignoring Your Maintenance Schedule:

A common misconception is that the maintenance schedule outlined in your vehicle’s owner’s manual is designed only to ensure a steady income stream to the dealership service department. That’s just not the case. Proper periodic maintenance is essential to replace worn parts and identify small issues before they become expensive.

An example is the timing belt that some manufacturers suggest replacing at around 40,000 miles. If that belt fails, your engine will self-destruct from the inside out. The worn parts such as bent and broken valves will break off in the engine block causing your engine to completely give out.

Avoiding Fixing Collision Damage:

When you have a little blemish on your car it’s easy to get used to it. You assume because it’s just a small scrape or dent that it’s not necessary to get fixed right away. You disregard that scrape and say you’ll get it fixed at some point. The problem is, you never get around to it and rust or water damage sets in, multiplying the cost of the eventual repair.

That surface blemish may also be hiding more damage below the skin. The further you get away from the collision, the more difficult an insurance claim is likely to be.

Then maybe something else happens…another scratch or ding. No big deal you think. Then all of sudden your car begins to look a little beat up. Before you know it, you’ve just fallen down the slippery slope of letting the condition of your car deteriorate. Avoid the slippery slope by getting that scratch or ding repaired in an auto body shop. Fix your car and restore your pride

Ignoring Warning Lights:

The warning lights on your dashboard aren’t mere decoration. Each one means something, and none of them should be ignored. While a check engine light could indicate something as trivial as a loose gas cap, a brake or tire pressure monitoring system could mean a significant safety problem.

Best advice: Get it checked out as soon as possible to avoid having a small issue become a big problem. Whatever you do, don’t “solve” the problem by putting a piece of electrical tape over the light to cover it up.

Skipping Oil Changes:

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Engines can go longer between oil changes than they used to, but that’s no excuse for not regularly having your oil changed. When your car’s maintenance reminder light comes on, or you have reached the interval listed in your owner’s manual, it’s time to get it done.

Oil is the lifeblood of any engine. If you let it run dry, the various parts will be starved of lubrication and serious damage will follow. Similarly, putting in too much oil can also cause major problems. Fill it up too much and you run the risk of oil being pushed into places it has no right being. Provided the engine hasn’t been turned over and damage already caused, the only solution is for your motor to be towed to a garage where the oil can be drained out. Failure to change your oil and oil filter puts your entire engine at risk of costly damage.

Forgetting to Check and Change Fluids and Filters:

Many fluids are required for the operation and protection of vehicle systems and components. Checking fluid levels regularly and changing the fluids and filters periodically can minimize the risks of breakdowns and prolong the life of the engine, transmission, cooling system and brakes

Neglecting your Tires:

Automakers recommend specific types and sizes of tires for a reason. They are engineered to work with the car’s performance capabilities and expected loads. Putting the wrong size or type of tire on your vehicle can affect its handling, stress its powertrain, and compromise its safety systems.

The advanced safety and driver assistance systems on many new cars are designed to work only with the tires that the vehicle is engineered to run on. Using tires with more or less grip can negate the value of systems like automatic emergency braking.

Installing tires that are too large can cause rubbing on suspension parts or the inside of your fender, and lead to premature tire failure.

Your vehicle’s tires should also be checked frequently for inflation and tread depth. Among the greatest causes of premature tire failure is not keeping the proper amount of air in the tires. It can also dramatically affect your vehicle’s fuel economy and handling. Underinflated tires can wear out more quickly, needing to be replaced sooner, and can negatively impact safety, gas mileage and performance.

Skipping the Car Wash:

Your car is metal. Well, mostly metal, although a lot of plastics are being used these days in such places as bumpers, the linings of the wheel wells and some trim parts. Metal is known to rust. The paint protects the car from the elements, forestalling the process of rusting. The paint is in turn protected by a clear coat, which is what gives the shiny-looking finish to the paint.

As dirt builds up, it traps moisture. That moisture and dirt on the bottom layers are now in continual contact with the clear coat. As you drive down the freeway, the wind generated by your speed is enough to move that dirt around some, and as it moves, it makes tiny scratches in the clear coat. Over time, those tiny scratches become larger ones, and then the real trouble begins.

Once the clear coat is damaged, the dirt and moisture are able to seep underneath and begin to lift and destroy the clear from underneath. Once the clear coat is gone, there is nothing to protect the paint, which is the next thing to begin to be abraded by the action of dirt and wind—and clueless, careless people brushing against the car in parking lots, or stupid kids writing stupid sayings in the built-up dust. All of these things continue to scratch the paint.

Once the paint is damaged, you’re down to the bare metal… and now the problems get worse. A scratch in the paint may be minor, but if it goes all the way through the paint, and exposes any metal at all, that moisture and dirt will directly damage the metal.

Washing your car prevents contaminants like dust, dirt, pollen, tree sap, bug guts, salt, air-borne pollutants from adhering to your vehicle. Many auto detailing and car experts recommend washing your car once a week to successfully prevent contaminants from damaging your paint and finish.

Not Avoiding Potholes:

Sometimes potholes are unavoidable, but if you can avoid them, you should. Potholes have cost U.S. drivers $15 billion over the past five years, which adds up to about $3 billion annually. They can not only damage your tires, but they can also bend your wheels, throw your car out of alignment, and break suspension components.

When you drive over a pothole the strut fully extends, pushing your tire into the pothole. The strut is not properly absorbing impact, it’s passes the impact down which will damage either the tire or the rim.

If you can avoid routes that look like the surface of the moon, you should. If they are unavoidable, slow down before you reach the crater and gently let each wheel drop into the hole and climb smoothly out. 

Not Engaging Your Emergency Brake:

The parking brake is an essential component of your vehicle’s safety system and it should be used on a regular basis – not just when the car is parked on a hill. While a parking brake is usually recognized as essential in a manual transmission vehicle, it should be considered just as important in an automatic transmission vehicle as well.

When a car with an automatic transmission is put into park, a device inside the transmission called a “parking pawl” engages. A parking pawl is a metal pin that engages into a notch ring that is attached to the transmission’s output shaft. Not engaging the parking brake puts the entire weight of your vehicle on the parking pawl. Unfortunately, parking pawls can break or possibly become dislodged. It’s only about as big as your finger, so it can wear out or break eventually from holding all that weight. While this is not a common occurrence, it can happen, and if it does your car may end up rolling down the street.  Using the parking brake evens the load, helping delicate transmission components last longer.

Even if you’re parked on a level surface, there’s really no reason not to use the parking brake. Even in an automatic, leaving the car in park alone can put tremendous stress on the transmission. Plus, you can forget to put the car in park, or it could pop out. The parking brake will act as a failsafe to keep the vehicle from rolling away.

There are few times that you don’t want to use the parking brake. If your brakes are extremely hot and you are on a completely level surface, using just Park or putting the car in gear could be a better choice, as pulling on the handbrake risks warping your brake rotors. 

Not Fixing a Cracked Windshield:

Your windshield blocks elements like wind and rain while offering clear visibility. Windshield damage is a frequent occurrence that is normally associated with flying stones and other debris carried by the wind. Most people overlook a small crack because it may appear to be a trivial cosmetic concern. It’s easy to assume that getting stuck with a ticket is the worst that can happen. However, the dangers that can stem from ignoring that crack or chip are severe and even life-threatening.

For this reason, it is not advisable to drive with a cracked windshield, especially if the damage obstructs the driver’s view. Even if the crack is small, keep in mind that it will expand over time and turn into a bigger headache later on. Furthermore, a cracked windshield can shatter anytime due to factors such as temperature fluctuations, an object striking the glass, or the entrance of dirt in the crack. Small windshield chips can often be fixed without replacing the windshield. If you let a small chip spread into a crack, you’ll be looking at the cost of a whole new glass.

Regardless of the size and position of the crack, it is never a good idea to keep riding in a car with a damaged windshield, and you should get it checked out as soon as possible.

 Ignoring Recalls:

Automotive recalls are steadily on the rise, and federal statistics estimate that about 30 percent of them go without being repaired. Recalls such as the widespread Takata airbag recall regularly make the news.

While nobody will hunt you down for ignoring a recall notice, car companies put them out for a good reason. That good reason involves the safety of you, your passengers and the other people on the road. The Takata airbag recall, for example is so serious that many manufacturers suggest parking your car and not driving it until the recalled part is replaced.

Completing recall work will not only make your car run better and preserve its value, but it can also save your life. It’s important to realize and remember that an unattended recall can have repercussions beyond just the driver and passengers in that vehicle.

Not Getting Your Wheels Aligned:

Proper wheel alignment is necessary for a vehicle to handle well when driving. When a vehicle’s wheels are out of alignment, it increases the risk of tire damage and accidents on the road.

When driving at high speeds, wheel misalignment can cause difficulty in steering, increasing the risk of an accident. Tires that are out of alignment tend to drag to the side, forcing the driver to keep a hard grip on his or her steering to keep the vehicle under control. Misalignment can adversely affect how a vehicle brakes and handles, compromising safety on the road.

Regular wheel alignment inspections can help protect the life of a vehicle’s tires while enhancing vehicle safety. You should get an alignment done on your car at least as often as you have your tires replaced. If you notice your vehicle drifting right or left without any steering input, you should get a four-wheel alignment performed.

Driving With Worn Shock Absorbers:

Want to destroy a perfectly good set of tires and have an uncomfortable ride while you do it? All you have to do is ignore worn shock absorbers. Shock absorbers are an essential part to the performance of your vehicle. Their purpose is to ensure that your tires stay on the ground when encountering rough or bumpy roads. This keeps you in control and prevents you from running off of the road every time you hit a pothole.

A faulty shock absorber can result in your steering wheel not effectively communicating with your tires. Thus, this could create an uncomfortable and hazardous driving experience. Since shock absorbers help your car to “hug” the road, broken ones can make your car more susceptible to swerving. For example, a slight wind could easily sway your car while driving. If this occurs during limited wind, this is an obvious sign of bad shock absorbers. The accuracy and safety of your vehicle is contingent on how healthy your shock absorbers are.

Shocks don’t usually fail instantly unless you hit a pothole. Instead, they wear down over time, and then you realize one day that your car doesn’t feel right. If you suspect that your car has faulty shock absorbers, don’t hesitate to give us a call. The effects of driving on bad shock absorbers over an extended period of time can compromise the quality of your car and your overall safety. Imagine not being able to stop in time or possibly running off of the road.

Riding the Brakes:

Resting your left foot on the brake pedal or using both feet to drive can prematurely wear out your brakes, cause excessive heat buildup that can damage braking system components, and compromise the effectiveness of your automatic emergency braking system.

The biggest danger of riding your brakes is the possibility of generating so much heat the brake fluid actually boils. The reason fluid is used in the braking system in the first place is that it is in compressible, and thus transfers force directly from your foot. When it boils, however, gas bubbles form in the fluid, and the gas can be compressed. Under these conditions, pushing the pedal won’t build pressure in the system, and the brakes will fail. Brake fade can also occur when a large amount of heat causes a chemical reaction with the friction material itself; creating gas bubbles between pads and rotor, and these air pockets can reduce efficiency.

Automatic emergency braking systems typically will not activate if they think that you are already starting to depress the brake pedal. If your foot is resting on the pedal, it may signal the system not to activate when it should. 

Overfilling Your Gas Tank:

Topping off your gas tank can hurt your wallet, compromise your car’s performance, damage your paint, and increase air pollution. When you put gas in your tank, it expands and creates vapors.  The EPA required vapor recovery system absorbs these vapors and are eventually burned by the engine during the combustion process.  However, when you top off your tank, you can force liquid gas into the chamber that holds the vapors and cause it to fail.  This will lead to a poorly running vehicle, higher emissions and eventually a costly repair bill.

Trying to get those last drops of fuel in the tank can also lead to fuel spills, with corrosive gasoline or diesel damaging the paint below the fuel filler on the side of the car. That spilled fuel will also evaporate into the air, increasing air pollution.

Using the Wrong Oil:

Manufacturers specify the precise oil that their engines are designed to run on, and tolerances are getting tighter year by year. While 30-weight oil was once the standard, many new engines run on much thinner lubrication than older motors and can be damaged if the wrong oil is used.

Some automakers employ synthetic oil in their engines due to its extended life, resistance to thermal breakdown, and more consistent performance in frigid temperatures. Drivers risk long-term engine damage if they ignore the manufacturer’s recommendation. In some engines, the use of conventional oil can cause the buildup of sludge, which can block narrow passageways in the engine block and kill your motor.

Avoid unexpected car problems by keeping a regular maintenance schedule. Even the best-made cars suffer wear on their components, and need to be replaced over time. Preventative maintenance is the safest, and cheapest, method ensuring your vehicle’s optimal drive-ability.

The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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