When it comes to driving, everyone makes mistakes. However, there are a few habits you should break if you want to keep your car in good condition in the long run. You might even be practicing some driving habits that are unsafe for you, your passengers, and other drivers. Consult the following list for some tips about common habits to avoid when driving in order to keep your car healthy.
Ignoring dashboard lights
If a dashboard light comes on, you should never ignore it, even if everything seems normal. The following are some of the most important dashboard lights to pay attention to:
- Brake light – Keeping your brakes in good condition should be a priority. If your brake light comes on, check that the emergency brake is off. If it is, it could mean there’s an issue with the brake hydraulic system or your brake fluid level.
- Airbag warning – If your airbag light comes on, you need to get an inspection done as soon as possible. It could mean your airbags are defective and won’t deploy in the event of a crash. It could also mean they might deploy at random, which can cause serious injury. An airbag warning light can also mean there’s something wrong with your seat belts.
- Tire pressure – A tire with low pressure can pose a serious hazard to other drivers as well as yourself. If this light comes on, you should check your tire pressure immediately.
- Oil pressure – The oil pressure warning light coming on means you are low on oil, or there’s something wrong with the oil pump or bearing. This can result in engine seizure, which can be very costly to repair, so it’s important to address it right away.
- Check engine– The check engine light usually indicates that there’s a problem that’s affecting your ignition, fuel, or emission system. Because there are multiple things that this could be signaling, it’s best not to take a chance. Have an auto repair technician take a look as soon as possible.
Riding the brakes
“Riding the brakes” refers to the act of leaving your foot on the brake pedal for prolonged periods of time. It can lead to extra wear and tear and overheating, which diminishes stopping power. This is obviously a major hazard, as your brakes need to respond as quickly and accurately as possible. Instead of leaving your foot on the brake while navigating traffic or traveling downhill, try lifting your foot off the accelerator a little more to slow down, and leaving lots of space between your car and the one in front of you. If you drive manual, try using a lower gear.
Shifting from drive to reverse without stopping
Even if you’re in a hurry, you should always come to a complete stop before shifting between drive and reverse. This is especially true if you’re moving more than a couple of miles per hour. Otherwise, the harsh gear change can damage the transmission and ultimately shorten the life of the car.
Potholes are everywhere, especially in cities, and can be hard to avoid. Slamming into or driving over potholes at full speed, however, can cause serious damage. Potholes can cause the following issues:
- Wheel rim damage
- Premature shock/strut ware
- Engine damage
- Exhaust system damage
- Broken suspension components
- Cosmetic damage
- Tire puncture
If you spot a pothole, try to slow down or drive around it to the best of your ability. It could ultimately save you a lot in serious repairs.
Driving with a low or empty fuel tank
Generally, you should always keep your tank at least a quarter full. If you keep too little gas in your tank, it can cause parts of malfunction and overheat, including your fuel pump, catalytic converter, and fuel system. Only adding small amounts of gas at a time regularly can force your car to take gas from the bottom of the tank, where there’s sediment build-up. This can result in a clogged fuel filter. Ultimately, it’s critical to have regular fuel system cleanings and engine tune-ups to prevent this type of damage.
Overloading the vehicle
This one may come as a surprise, but carrying too much weight inside or on your vehicle can actually damage it. It can significantly decrease your gas mileage and puts extra stress on pretty much every component of your car. The tires can wear out and overheat, risking a dangerous blowout. In fact, technically, it’s illegal to overload your vehicle. If you’re involved in an accident, your insurance coverage can be voided if you’re carrying too much weight. All vehicles are designed to carry a certain amount of weight. If you exceed that amount, your car becomes unstable, which is a major safety hazard and can lead to a crash.
Not using the parking brake
It’s a good idea to use your parking brake every time you park. It’s a backup safety system that can keep the car from rolling, especially if you’re on a hill. Using the parking brake regularly will keep it in good condition in case there’s an emergency and you need it. Otherwise, the cables can seize up if they haven’t been used in a while. Failure to use it can cause premature wear on other parts of the car, especially the transmission. It’s important to have your parking brake inspected regularly.
Disregarding strange noises
If your car is trying to tell you there’s something wrong, it’s important to listen. All cars make noise, but if you notice an usual one, it’s best to consult an auto repair expert. While some sounds don’t mean serious damage, some mean something is wrong, and your car might not be safe to drive. A few examples include:
- Squealing or squeaking
- Sputtering or rumbling
If your car starts making any noise that you don’t recognize, don’t take the risk. Have it checked out by an auto mechanic immediately.
Revving the engine
Letting your car sit for a couple of minutes right after starting it is always a good idea. It allows time for oil to be distributed throughout the engine. Revving the engine will not speed up this process and can cause stress between components. You should always avoid revving the engine if your car is not properly warmed up. It can also cause unnecessary wear on cylinder walls, crankshafts, rings, bearings, and valves.
Using the wrong fuel
You’ll usually find an array of fuel options when you go to the gas station. It’s important to know which one you need for your individual vehicle, as using the wrong one can cause problems. If you completely fill a gas engine with diesel fuel, for example, the entire vehicle can stop working. Gas engines don’t have a compression ratio that can ignite the fuel, so it’ll just stay in the tank, where it can damage injectors, lines, and the fuel pump. Putting gas in a diesel engine can also cause damage to the pistons, rods, and engine itself.
Don’t let bad habits damage your car! If you’re experiencing vehicle issues or simply need a tune-up in the Towson, Maryland, area, call Hollenshade’s at 410-983-3423. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.