Once you buy a car, you’ll want to treat it properly. As the owner, you’re responsible for all repairs and maintenance. If you don’t want constant surprise trips to the mechanic, it’s important to learn some good driving habits. Even seasoned drivers are guilty of bad driving habits that cause unnecessary damage to their vehicle.
This wisdom applies to other aspects of our lives as well. You want to think about the long-term implications of your habits and behaviors. Today, it may not seem like any harm is being done, but over time, they can lead to major problems down the road.
Learn the top 10 worst driving habits and why you should avoid them.
10 Bad Driving Habits
Driving on Low Fuel
You may think you are saving time and money by waiting until the fuel tank gets low to refill the tank, but in fact, the opposite is true. Most car manufacturers and mechanics recommend driving your vehicle on at least a quarter tank of gas.
The reasoning behind this is that when your tank is low, your car is pulling the gas from the bottom of the tank where the sediment from the gas has settled. This greatly increases the amount of sediment that gets transferred to your fuel line and filter. This can cause clogged lines, dirty filter, and sometimes engine trouble if the sediment slips past the filter.
Additionally, maintaining a full tank helps keep the tank and fuel pumps cool. The extra heat caused by an empty tank will increase wear and tear.
Abrupt Braking and Accelerating
Are you the type of driver that stops suddenly at red lights, stop signs, and behind cars? When the light turns green, do you slam on the gas to leave others in the dust?
While it may be fun to put the pedal to the metal every once in a while, leave that kind of driving for the race track. Just because your vehicle can go to 0 to 60 in a couple seconds doesn’t mean you should. And those adroit brakes you are so proud of might not be so good for long if you are constantly hitting them hard.
If you have a heavy foot and are slamming on the brakes or acceleration, not only are you putting yourself at a higher risk of collision, you are also causing a lot of unnecessary strain and damage to your vehicle. Besides wearing out your brake pads and stressing your engine, you are also shortening the lifespan of your rotors and spending a lot more on fuel than you need to. Unless you really enjoy visits to the mechanic, refrain from hard starting and stopping.
Use light touches for acceleration and deceleration. If you step too much on the pedals, you’ll experience that jerking effect, most commonly associated with new drivers. At the same time, you want to avoid riding the brakes for too long. It may feel safer to have your foot on the brakes just in case you need to make a sudden stop, but what you’re actually doing is wearing out the brakes and building up heat, which can do damage to your pads, rotors, and braking capacity.
If you drive a manual transmission, shift to a lower gear when going downhill and use the engine braking to maintain a safe downhill speed.
Revving the Engine
Revving the engine can do damage to your vehicle, but it also depends on the temperature of the engine. If you rev the engine before it has had time to warm up or the outside temperature is low, your car won’t have the necessary lubrication to protect your crucial car parts.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start your vehicle and let it idle for a little bit before stepping on the gas pedal, especially during colder weather. This will give the oil some time to circulate. Otherwise, you could be putting unnecessary wear and tear on your rings, valves, crankshaft, cylinder walls, bearings, and other parts that require lubrication. Those parts are extremely expensive to replace.
Furthermore, the sound of a revving engine does not sound as good to people on the street as much as you think. Unless you have an expensive sports car, not only will it not sound good, it is also completely unnecessary.
Resting Hand on Shifter
If you drive a manual transmission, then you may have developed the bad habit of resting your hand on the shifter while driving. It does add a certain “cool” factor as we’ve all seen in movies and television shows. But while you may like the look and feel of it, the added weight on the shifter puts pressure on the transmission’s bushings and synchronizers.
You may not change your behavior hearing this, but when your transmission fails, you’ll wish you did.
Not Deploying the Parking Brake
You have a parking brake (also called the emergency brake) for a reason. You should deploy your parking brake every time you park the car. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Be careful never to drive with the parking brake on.
Here is the proper procedure for setting the parking brake:
- Press on the brake pedal and come to a complete stop.
- While your foot is still on the brake pedal, set the parking brake.
- If you are on a steep hill, shift the transmission to neutral and allow the car to settle on the parking brake.
- Then shift the transmission into park and take your foot off the brake pedal.
- Once your parking brake is set and you’ve shifted the car into park, turn the car off.
Here is the proper procedure for releasing the parking brake:
- When starting your car back up, press down on the brake pedal and start the engine.
- With your foot still on the brake pedal, release the parking brake.
- Make sure the parking brake light goes off before shifting into “drive” (D) or another gear.
Get into the habit of setting the parking brake whenever you park, not just on steep hills. Don’t forget to release the parking brake before shifting into gear. Activating your parking brake will help prevent the weight of the vehicle from resting on the parking pawl. Also, if you are on a steep hill or another car hits yours while parked, there is much less chance of the car moving.
Driving with Unnecessary Items
It’s important to have certain emergency items in the car, such as equipment to change your tire, but most drivers are driving around with unnecessary items that add a lot of weight to the vehicle. The more weight that you are carrying around, the harder your car has to work. This means worse handling and fuel economy in addition to unwanted stress on suspensions, brakes, and other important components.
So, take a look at this list of items you should always have in the car and get rid of anything else that you don’t need.
Shifting from Reverse to Drive or Drive to Reverse Before a Complete Stop
Many times, when people are parallel parking, they shift from drive to reverse and vice versa without waiting for the car to come to a complete stop. This is a very bad habit that can cause irreversible damage to your drivetrain.
Take that extra half-second or so to make sure your car comes to a complete stop before shifting gears.
Ignoring Warning Lights and Other Signs
Nobody wants to take their car to the mechanic, but ignoring vehicle warning lights and other signs can mean something a lot worse.
Pay attention to any strange or unusual sounds and sensations when driving your vehicle. Things like rattling, squeaking, and shaking can indicate a worn out parts or something even more serious. Don’t wait to find out. It’s best to take your car to a mechanic for an inspection so you can catch the problem early on.
Filling Up with the Wrong Fuel
Many drivers have no idea which fuel type they should use. Some assume that the higher priced gasoline is better for their vehicle, while others assume there is no difference and go for the cheapest option instead.
The answer is very simple: consult your owner’s manual
Using the wrong octane rating can do damage to your engine. High compression engines usually require higher octane fuel to reduce “pinging” and “knocking.” Learn more about octane ratings and the implications for your vehicle.
Not Maintaining Fluid Levels and Other Car Maintenance
As a driver, you should know how to check and change your oil and other fluids, in addition to taking care of your tires and other important car maintenance.
Learn the following car maintenance procedures to extend the lifespan of your vehicle and avoid accidents and blow-outs on the road:
- How to check your tire pressure and inflate tires
- How to change motor oil (and filter)
- Regular car maintenance
- How to winterize your vehicle
Although this list should apply to most vehicles, you always want to check your owner’s manual for proper procedures. There should be a “correct use of the car” section or something similar.
If you are a new driver, take a driving course early so you don’t develop any of these bad habits. For seasoned drivers, breaking these habits can be difficult. Try to catch yourself before you make any of these common driver mistakes.
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