Not Using The Parking Brake
A lot of us are guilty of not following this rule. Sure using the parking brake is essential when you’re parked on a hill so it doesn’t roll away, but did you know that the brake relieves tension on your transmission? Your vehicle is not meant to be held in place by the transmission; that’s definitely your parking brake’s job. Whether you’re driving an automatic or manual it’s best to pull that e-brake. And don’t forget to release it before driving away!
Using Ethanol Fuel
Just because it’s regulated and put in our fuel doesn’t mean that it’s the best for your car. Though newer flex-fuel cars can handle high ethanol fuel, those with conventional motors are better off avoiding it. The reason is that ethanol absorbs water and as we all know, water is not good for engine internals. The ethanol creates a molecular bond with the water and then carries this water throughout the car, possibly corroding fuel lines, injection systems, valves, rods, cylinders and heads, and crankcase.
Ethanol is also bad for certain polymers and can weaken rubber and plastic parts. Though using ethanol here and there won’t spell doom for your car, consistent use can. If this is the case for you then fuel additives are a must.
Shifting Into Reverse Without Stopping
A very obvious rule, but many new drivers will fail to remember this. Be sure to completely stop before putting the shifter into reverse. Failure to do so will strip the gears and bands in your transmission. Eventually, you won’t be able to shift gears because they will no longer have teeth to mesh, nor any bands to apply tension to hold all that force in place for propulsion.
Forgetting To Check And Change The Oil
It’s honestly scary how many people fail to check their oil periodically. Consider this your timely reminder! Being a big, hot internal combustion motor, you definitely want to keep your car engine nice and lubricated. The engine has metal pistons with round metal rings that slide up and down inside the metal cylinder. If the oil is not maintained, the metal-on-metal rubbing can eventually lead to some major issues. Most modern car manufacturers recommend using lightweight synthetic oil which lasts 7,500 to even 10,000 miles with some brands. Conventional oil users should get their vehicles serviced every 5,000 miles or so.
When checking your oil should be a nice gold to normal brown color and up to the correct level on the dipstick. If you pull out a dry dipstick or see black oil well that means it’s time for a change, or you’re either burning or leaking oil.
Pressure Washing The Engine And Exterior
If you care about your car’s paint job you’ll ditch the pressure washer for a good old car wash and some wax. Power washers apply extreme pressure and though they won’t ruin your paint instantly, repeated use will nick the coat and cause rust. Plus, who doesn’t love washing their car in the driveway with some soapy water, a sponge, and the garden hose? It’s also a good rule of thumb not to pressure wash the engine bay. Most modern engine bays are chock full of sensitive sensors and electronics that can be easily damaged by high water pressure.
Treating Your Car Like A Trash Can
Food and drinks can begin to rot in your car just like they do in the refrigerator. Those empty containers on the floor and the junk left in them WILL rot, stink, and possibly stain upholstery. Eventually, you won’t be able to get rid of the smell. Remember! This is your CAR, not your couch or trash can.
Not Changing The Air Filter
Even if you’re not very car-savvy, changing your air filter is certainly one of the easiest maintenance jobs you can do. Each car is different but you can generally change your filter with the flick of a few clips or a couple of turns of a screwdriver. The air filter is integral to your car’s combustion process and keeps the engine clean of dirt and other debris. Change the air filter every 12,000 miles.
Running Your Car On Empty
Fun fact, but the fuel in the gas tank actually helps cool down the fuel pump. Everyone knows what happens when your tank hits ‘E’ but allowing it to do so often can damage the fuel pump. Now, this won’t immediately harm your vehicle but repeatedly allowing your vehicle to run on empty will put unneeded wear and tear on the fuel pump. Try to keep your tank at a 1/4 or more full to avoid fuel pump issues.
Using The Wrong Octane Fuel
When refueling a new vehicle make sure to double-check the correct fuel octane. This information is usually found on the gas cap. This is an easily avoided mistake that will ensure the life of your vehicle. Most cars will use regular 87 octane fuel while other performance and luxury brands may require 91-93.
Regular vehicles will rarely need anything other than 87 octane fuel, but lower octane fuel in a high-performance vehicle will cause decreased fuel economy, acceleration, and other internal problems like cylinder misfires. Better safe than sorry.
Not Replacing The Timing Belt
Yes, it’s pretty much a big rubber belt, but oh boy is it important to your engine. The timing belt synchronizes the opening and closing of your valves so it has a pretty significant job to do. If your timing belt goes out you’re going to be in a world of regret so be sure to get it changed at recommended intervals. Many manufacturers encourage timing belt changes every 50,000-110,000 miles.
Forgetting To Rotate Tires
For just a few bucks more at the auto shop (or a few moments of your time if you’re a DIYer) you can increase the life of your tires by periodically rotating them. Some people recommend rotating tires every oil change (5,000-7,500 miles) but at the very least, rotating them every six months will certainly suffice. Rotating tires preserves balance, handling, and makes sure that your tires wear evenly.
Ignoring Leaks And Fluids!
This is a biggie that inexperienced car owners will overlook. Simply put if you see something leaking out of your car check your fluids and dash warning lights. The difference could be the cost of a major repair.
Some important fluids to keep an eye on include but are not limited to:
- Power steering fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Radiator coolant
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