Without a doubt, owning a car is quite a necessity for a lot of people. After all, one may need a car to make sure that they can go from point A to point B on schedule every single day. Moreover, a car is particularly helpful if someone has a family with children that need to be dropped off to school, daycare, or soccer practice.
Without your own car, life can be rather difficult. It’s no wonder that an estimated 88 percent of the population in the United States is said to own a car, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center back in 2014. Today, there is a good chance that this number has grown even larger. In fact, at the moment, there seems to be a sizeable demand for SUVs and pickup trucks.
But the healthy demand for autos today doesn’t necessarily indicate that all buyers are ready to be responsible car owners. That’s because proper knowledge of car ownership takes time to master. You don’t readily become wiser about cars the moment you sit inside your brand new car.
Instead, proper care for your car is something that you need to invest time in to learn properly. Ideally, you should be able to set aside a few hours in your day to go over car care basics so that you can treat your car as well as you can throughout its entire lifespan with you.
At the same time, it’s also a good idea to take note of the mistakes that you can subconsciously make with your car. After all, these can easily shorten your car’s lifespan. Not sure what these mistakes are? We’ve listed 25 that you should remember.
25 Washing the car under direct sunlight
As we have just said, washing your car regularly can help maintain your car properly. However, you have to be sure that you don’t do so while the car is under direct sunlight. Otherwise, the aesthetics of your car could become compromised pretty quickly. As the website Driving Life explained, “This can cause the paint to wear off. Plus, if you wash your vehicle where sunlight is direct, then the soapy water shall dry off so quickly that you will not get time to wash the soapy water off your car.”
24 Driving infrequently
Believe it or not, driving your car infrequently can also cause some issues with your car’s performance in the long run. As the website Car From Japan has explained, “Driving the car not so often will trim down the life of your car components and battery. It hurts the tires as well.” Ideally, you should make it a point to drive your car around several times a week. And if you happen to own more than one car, it’s a good idea rotate using them so that all the cars get enough regular road time.
23 Accelerating too much
Sure, a lot of car owners enjoy driving fast. After all, there is nothing else more thrilling than revving up the RPMs and feeling your car come alive. As Popular Mechanics explained, “Every car enthusiast feels the temptation for a full-throttle blast every once in a while. A problem with that is that you usually need to mash on the brakes to slow back down. Neither is good for your car. Hard acceleration burns a ton of fuel (ok, maybe not for a Tesla) and places heavy load on drivetrain components.”
22 Forgetting about tire pressure checks
You may not realize it, but tire pressure is quite important to the overall performance of your car. In fact, improperly inflated tires can easily lower your car’s fuel economy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, having under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by around 0.2 percent for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all your tires. At the same time, not having the right tire pressure can also affect your ability to drive your car safely.
21 Ignoring misaligned tires
Aside from having improper tire pressure, another tire issue that can cause serious problems are misaligned wheels. As Big Chief Tire has explained, “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.”
20 Foregoing tire cleaning
As important as it is to keep your car’s interior and exterior clean, you also need to make sure that you get your tires washed regularly. If you fail to do so, it can affect your car’s performance on the road. As dealership John O’Neil Johnson Hyundai explained, “Since your tires are the point of connection between your car and the road, they need extra care to make sure they are in excellent condition (and cleaning them first helps to prevent grime from traveling to parts of your car that have already been cleaned).”
19 Ignoring the check engine light
When your check engine light warning is on, the last thing you should do is ignore it completely. As Consumer Reports has explained, “The check engine light can mean many different things, from a loose gas cap to a seriously misfiring engine.” Furthermore, it stated, “If the check engine light illuminates, it will either blink or remain constantly illuminated, depending on the problem. A blinking light, or in some cars a red light instead of a yellow or orange light, indicates a problem that needs immediate attention.”
18 Irregular washing
Especially when you are using a car to drive to places on a daily basis, it is not a good idea to skip regular washing. When on the road, your car tends to encounter several types of contaminants. These include the likes of air pollutants, tree sap, pollen, and dirt. Unfortunately, when you do nothing to remove them from the surface of your car, they eventually damage your paint and finish. Once this happens, having the scratches on the car removed may cost a lot more money than a few regular car washes.
17 Washing the car with just plain water
Aside from washing your car under direct sunlight, another big no-no in car cleaning is to wash it using plain water. After all, water alone is not effective in getting the dirt off your car. Hence, if you decide to wash your car with just plain water, there’s a good chance that all the contaminants are still on the surface of the car by the time you finish. And if you suddenly wipe the surface, these contaminants can scratch your exterior and cause some unflattering damage.
16 Using the wrong detergents for a car wash.
Especially in today’s world, proper car wash detergents are readily available for any make and model. Hence, there is really no excuse for substituting with laundry detergents and dishwashing agents. You may not realize it but using the wrong detergent can cause some serious damage to car’s exterior. We are talking about paint damage that can easily cost a whole lot more money to fix. Just do yourself—and your car—a favor and use a proper car shampoo at all times.
15 Applying too much wax
Sure, putting some wax on your car certainly helps keep it looking sleek and almost brand new. However, make sure that you also control the amount of your wax that you’re applying since too much would not help with your car’s appearance. As Driving Life has explained, “The excessive wax application is hard to be wiped off.” Typically, if you want your car to look really nice and shiny again, applying two rounds of your favorite car wax should be more than enough.
14 Using ammonia-based glass cleaner
Sure, we understand that you want the glass on your car to look as clear and clean as possible. This is especially true when it comes to your windshield. When choosing your glass cleaner, though, it’s also important to stay away from ammonia-based glass cleaner. Ammonia has a tendency to dry various materials, including rubber, leather, and vinyl as well as plastic. And over time, this can affect the car's frame and its ability to firmly grip on the car’s glass. At the same time, you can also end up inhaling the dangerous ammonia fumes while you’re applying it.
13 Foregoing the change of old parts
When you use your car on a regular basis, certain parts tend to become worn out over time. And once this happens, you should make sure that you get them changed as soon as possible. Otherwise, they can affect the car’s performance and your own road safety. At the same time, a worn-out car part can easily contribute to the damage of other related car parts. And when this happens, you will also end up paying for costlier repairs than what you originally expected.
12 Making a mess in the interior
You may not realize it, but the interior of your car plays an important role in making sure that your car runs well. When you fail to clean the interior of your car, substances like dust, dirt, crumbs, and even spilled liquids can end up spreading more inside. And eventually, some of these pollutants can also reach your car’s air conditioning system, transmission, and filters. When this happens, your car’s performance can become affected. At the same time, having a dirty interior can also eventually compromise your ride comfort.
11 Skipping fluid checks
When it comes to maintaining a car properly, one of the most critical things to do is check its fluid levels. These include the ones that pertain to your power steering, brakes, windshield washers, transmission, cooling system, and engine oil. As Big Sky Collision Center explained, “Like oil changes, your car manufacturer also has recommendations regarding the frequency of having these other fluids checked, replenished, and/or replaced. Ignoring these recommended schedules might not only result in damage to the specific component involved. It might damage other parts of your car too.”
10 Delaying oil changes
Of all the things you need to do to maintain your car properly, an oil change is an activity you should never delay or skip completely. Without it, your car will not be capable of running for much longer. As Mieneke explained, “Engines are made up of many moving parts, and those parts need to be properly lubricated to avoid damage. Oil in the engine provides this vital function. Over time, that oil breaks down and becomes contaminated with dust, dirt, and debris from the engine as well as the environment. When that happens, oil can’t properly do its job.”
9 Going with an unqualified mechanic
Sure, service shops nowadays are practically everywhere. However, you need to be able to choose wisely for your car’s sake. That’s because sending your car to an unqualified auto mechanic can only cause you more headaches. As Big Sky Collision Center has explained, “Especially if you do not know much about technical auto stuff, it will be so easy to take advantage of you by putting in incorrect or inferior quality parts in your car.” Before bringing your car in, take your time to research auto shops in your area. Feel free to ask for recommendations from your knowledgeable friends, too.
8 Driving over potholes
Potholes are a serious headache for drivers on the road. Typically, most motorists make the conscious effort to steer their cars away from them. However, there are motorists who choose to ignore these and simply drive over them. What they don’t realize is that this will just end up causing problems for the car. This is because driving over potholes can seriously harm the car’s suspension. At the same time, it can also end up causing damage to the car’s rims. Both problems can definitely lead to a costly repair.
7 Ignoring safety recalls
A safety recall is typically issued by a car's manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are issued when it has been determined that a vehicle, car seat, tire, or specific pieces of equipment “creates unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards,” according to the website Safer Car. Hence, ignoring a recall that affects your car is never a good idea. Furthermore, if you get notified of a recall, it is also important to contact your local dealership as soon as possible and follow your car’s interim safety guidance.
6 Resting your hand on the gear shifter
For some drivers, they prefer to keep one hand down, especially when they are stopped at a red light. In fact, the tendency for plenty of people is to rest their hand on the gear shifter until the car moves again. Unfortunately, doing so can shorten your car’s lifespan. This is because when you rest your hand on the gear shifter, the selector fork can become forced against the rotating collar for a significant amount of time. This, in turn, can cause it to become worn out.
5 Accelerating with a cold engine
Especially among today’s cars, it’s completely fine to start your car and drive away without having to wait for the engine to warm up. As Your Mechanic explained, “A few seconds of running is enough to get full oil pressure throughout the engine, so you can simply drive off as you would on a summer's day.” Ideally, though, you shouldn’t accelerate hard with a cold engine. As Car From Japan has explained, “Accelerating the car engine while it’s cold can reduce some years from the life of your car. Avoid full-throttle-acceleration as an engine needs a little time to heat up.”
4 Running your car until the fuel is empty
Sure, you may be having an extremely busy day, so much so that you have completely forgotten to fuel up. Unfortunately, letting your car run until your tank is empty is never a good idea. As How Stuff Works explained, “You could also get debris stuck in your fuel pump by running your tank too low. That's because any tiny particles that find their way into the gas tank settle at the bottom, and they tend to stay there until your car is trying to grab every last bit of fuel it can.”
3 Applying a heavy foot on the brakes
Just like other parts of your car, the brakes become worn out eventually. The process is also further sped up when you tend to apply a heavy foot on the brakes with every drive. As the website Buy Here Pay Here USA has explained, “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.”
2 Driving even if the engine is overheating
When your car’s engine is already overheating, the last thing you want to do is to keep on driving it. After all, doing so can only cause more damage to the car, resulting in more expensive repairs. As Pep Boys explained, “Your car’s engine gets very hot while it is running, so it requires a cooling system to avoid overheating. Sometimes that cooling system can fail to do its job. If your engine begins overheating, stop immediately, turn off the ignition, and call for a tow.”
1 Putting off scheduled maintenance
Over time, your car’s functions and parts will eventually become worn out. And the only way to stop these from causing problems is by bringing it in for scheduled maintenance and repairs. If you skip these intervals, there is a good chance that any issues in the car will become major problems. These, in turn, will end up costing you more money. Even worse, your car’s value also tends to go down and there is a good chance that your safety on the road is also compromised.
Sources: Pew Research Center, U.S. Department of Energy, Big Chief Tire, and Consumer Reports.