It’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits, such as watching too much Netflix and eating junk food all the time. When it comes to your car, you might also find yourself stuck in a cycle of less-than-desirable behaviors, such as skipping routine oil changes or ignoring strange noises from the undercarriage.
Bad habits—regardless of whether they concern your health or your car—create unwanted results. We all know that constantly binge-watching Netflix and scarfing down cheeseburgers leads to an expanding waistline. Similarly, failing to take care of your car will eventually lead to a trip to the shop and a hefty repair bill.
Your vehicle is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. And guess what? You could be ruining it with these bad behaviors. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways you could be unintentionally hurting your car.
Failing to Check the Fluids
The fluids found throughout your car cool, lubricate, and perform other vital tasks. Because these fluids are so crucial, failing to check them can quickly lead to big-time problems. For instance, low fluid levels can cause engine seizure, transmission failure—the list goes on and on.
To avoid these types of catastrophes, be sure to check all of your car’s fluids regularly.
Ignoring Warning Lights
There’s a reason dashboard warning lights are referred to by some as “idiot lights.” Ignoring these warnings isn’t the wisest move, and can quickly lead to a major breakdown.
So, if you’d prefer not to dip into your 401(k) to pay for car repairs, take heed of any warnings that pop up on the dash. Examples include the check engine light, over-temperature light, and low coolant light.
Not Paying Attention to the Gauges
Dashboard warning lights illuminate when there’s already a problem with your car. But you can avoid some issues (e.g., engine overheating) altogether by paying attention to your car’s gauges.
You’ll also want to remember to monitor the fuel level, as low fuel can cause the fuel pump to overheat and fail.
Putting Off Routine Maintenance
There are probably a million and one things you’d rather be doing than changing oil or flushing coolant. But as boring as routine maintenance might be, it’s vital if you want to keep your car on the road.
Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (listed in your owner’s manual or supplemental booklet) to determine what needs to be serviced and when.
Forgetting to Inspect the Engine Compartment and Undercarriage
Be honest—how often do you pop the hood to inspect your car’s engine compartment? If you’re like most drivers, the answer is next to never. And you probably check underneath the vehicle even less frequently.
The problem is, when you fail to inspect the engine compartment and undercarriage, you could be missing issues. Hidden faults, such as fluid leaks and worn-out parts, can be a safety and reliability concern.
Driving Like a Maniac
Slow down, Turbo—arriving a few minutes earlier to work won’t win you any medals. What driving like a maniac does get you, however, is increased wear and tear on your car. You could even end up causing catastrophic damage to the engine or other expensive assemblies.
A few examples of maneuvers you’ll want to avoid include:
- Jackrabbit starts and slamming on the brakes
- Over-revving the engine
- Moving the automatic transmission gear selector from Drive to Park (or Drive to Reverse) while the car is still rolling
Although these are just a few examples, they point out the obvious: If you want your car to last, you need to slow down and drive with caution.
Not Washing Your Car (Including the Undercarriage) During the Winter
Breaking out the pressure washer (and your thermals) during the winter is not enjoyable, but it’s necessary to prevent your car from rusting away.
If you live someplace where it’s sunny and 70 degrees all year long, cleaning your car is no more important in the winter than in the summer. But for the less fortunate souls who live in colder climates, washing your car in the winter plays a crucial role in removing rust-forming road salt.
It’s not enough to just wash the body panels, either. You should always clean the undercarriage to remove salt from the steering, suspension, and frame (or sub-frame).
Postponing Needed Repairs
Although ignoring car problems and spending money on something else (the latest gadget or a fancy dinner, perhaps) is tempting, doing so often ends up costing more in the long run. All too often, the issues your car is experiencing now will snowball into bigger problems, leaving you with a larger repair bill down the road.
Using the Wrong Fluids
We all know that person who added washer fluid to their car’s coolant reservoir.
It’s important to know the location of each of your car’s fluids to avoid a similar mishap. You also need to know what types of fluids your vehicle requires. These days, an array of oils, coolants, etc. are available. And if you put the wrong product in your car, you could easily damage vital components.
Not Reading the Owner’s Manual and Supplemental Booklets
There’s a wealth of automotive information available online. Unfortunately, much of it is either misleading or doesn’t apply to your car.
That’s where your owner’s manual comes in. Inside, you’ll find all kinds of important info, including fluid specifications and maintenance interval recommendations. What’s more, if you’ve misplaced your owner’s manual, in many instances, you can get a digital copy for free from the automaker’s website (e.g., Toyota.com).