Many car owners are well aware of what can cause their vehicles to break down. However, some owners don’t know the preventive steps to take to make their cars last longer. Although changing your oil regularly is a good way to help your car last longer, there are some other things you can do to help increase your vehicle’s longevity. Practicing good driving habits plays a big part in how long your car will last.
The following are some of the ways you can improve your driving habits to help your vehicle last longer.
New Car? Break It In
If you have just bought a new car with fewer than 1,000 miles, then it is a good idea to employ a break-in period. This means driving the car gently for the first 1,000 miles or so. Avoid driving your car aggressively, don’t let it idle for a long time, and keep your engine rpm below 4,000. Sometimes after this break-in period, manufacturers will also recommend an oil change.
Avoid Rapid Acceleration When at a Stop
Rapid acceleration doesn’t just waste gas; it also puts a strain on your engine, transmission, and brakes. Try accelerating slowly from stop signs and lights to help your drivetrain, tires, CV joints, and differentials last longer.
Know When to Step on the Gas Pedal
Hard acceleration in stop-and-go traffic isn’t for your car; however, there are times when you should drive a bit faster and harder to help your engine and transmission burn off carbon deposits. A good place to do this is on the freeway, such as when you are merging onto the highway. Normal operating temperatures are not always enough to burn off some of these stubborn deposits.
If you have to turn the wheels on your vehicle, try to make sure that you are moving when you do turn them. Even if your car is just rolling, it is better to turn your wheels then when you are at a stop. Dry-turning the wheel puts stress on your power steering system as well as your tie rod ends and ball joints.
You may think that less driving is better for your car; however, it is important to drive your vehicle at least one time per week. When you let your car sit stationary for long periods without driving it, your seals can dry out, and your battery can become weak. Your alternator can also experience more stress when you drive less.
Take Longer Trips
Taking frequent short trips can affect your car negatively. If you drive your car only short distances, the engine most likely won’t get to full operating temperature. This can cause deposits to build up as well as condensation and corrosion. It can also weaken your battery as the alternator does not have time to fully charge your battery.
Go Slow Over Those Bumps
Potholes can damage your tires and wheels if they are large or jagged. If you can’t avoid them, then at least slow down when crossing them. Your suspension, shocks, and steering all take the brunt of absorbing impact from bumps and potholes.
Sometimes it’s recommended that you don’t waste gas warming up your car, but if you don’t drive your car often, then the warm-up period is very important. Allowing your car to warm up before driving gets the fluids flowing through the engine and dissipates any condensation. You don’t have to warm it up for a long time, just enough to put the engine rpm down from the initial start and to get the temperature gauge needle moving. It is also a good idea to drive the first few miles after a cold start at low engine rpm.
Reduce Cargo Loads
Unless you are driving a vehicle designed to haul heavy loads regularly, you should avoid filling your vehicle with heavy cargo. Heavy loads put extra stress on your transmission, suspension, and brakes. Be wary of things like large drink packages, heavy equipment or tools. It is a good idea to know your payload and towing ability so that you don’t overwhelm it.
Drive the Speed Limit
If you drive over 65 miles per hour, your fuel consumption goes up by as much as 15%. Driving at high speeds also puts stress on your engine, transmission, and tires by increasing the heat generated. Driving the speed limit is also a safety issue and decreases your risk of getting into an accident.
Don’t Drive Frequently on Empty
If you’re one of those drivers who likes to keep small amounts of gas in your gas tank and you are only adding a few gallons here and there, you might want to reconsider this practice. Modern fuel pumps stay cool by being submerged in fuel. If you drive near empty all the time, your fuel pump is going to get hotter than it should, and it could wear out faster. It is a good rule of thumb to keep about a quarter of a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. This way, you can keep your fuel pump submerged and still pay for less than a full tank at the pump.
Stop Before You Shift Into Reverse
It is important to come to a full stop before putting your car into reverse from driving or if you’re shifting from reverse into drive. If you don’t, you are putting extra strain on the transmission band. Transmission repairs are among the most expensive on a vehicle, and this simple habit change can help your transmission last longer.
Most modern vehicles have a tachometer, which is a gauge in the dash that measures the engine rpm. These gauges have a red line that shows a certain engine speed that is not considered safe for your vehicle. If you do too much redlining, you run the risk of overheating your turbocharger and/or engine. Overheating causes your parts to wear down faster as well.
Pay close attention to the traffic and road and anticipate slowdowns so you can avoid braking often. Instead of braking, you can simply take your foot off the gas and let your car naturally slow down before braking. This is especially easy to do if you have a manual transmission as there is nothing driving it when it’s in neutral. You can also downshift to slow down rather than stepping on your brakes. Either way, you can save extensive wear and tear on your brakes.
Tailgating is a form of aggressive driving that can put strain on your brakes and set you up for an accident. In addition, tailgating puts you at risk for being hit with debris from the vehicle in front of you. This is especially true if the vehicle is a large truck. Debris can chip your paint and crack your windshield.
Repair Your Paint Chips
Paint chips may seem mild, but they also expose the metal on your vehicle. Exposed metal makes your car more vulnerable to corrosion. Corrosion spreads quickly, too. If you find chips in your paint, it is important to get them repaired as soon as you can.
Using your parking brake is especially important if you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission. Leaving it only in “Park” puts a lot of stress on the transmission linkage and parking pawl. In addition, the part that holds your car in “Park” can fail.
Instead, put your car in “Neutral” and engage the parking brake. Release the brake pedal and let the vehicle rest only on the parking brake. Put the transmission in “Park” before shutting the vehicle off. Do these steps in reverse to get going again.
Wash Your Car
Even though washing your car isn’t exactly a driving tip, it does help your vehicle stay in better shape. Washing helps prevent corrosion and keeps your paint in good condition. If you live in a place where salt is put on the roads in the winter, be sure to wash the underside of your vehicle as well.
Don’t Drive Distracted
Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents each year. If you want to reduce your risk of getting into an accident, then it’s important that you also reduce the distractions happening in your vehicle. These can be anything from using your phone to turning the channels on the radio or anything else that takes your attention away from the road.
Keeping your vehicle maintained and driving safely are good habits to get into, but by taking a few extra precautionary steps, you can increase the longevity of your vehicle’s life as well.