You’re bound to experience driving in certain road conditions like rough terrain, snow-filled streets, and slippery highways. These are the most common conditions that can cause some vehicle parts to wear out faster than usual.
Aside from road conditions, how you drive can also make some parts deteriorate quickly. One practice you should be wary of is stop-and-go driving.
What Is Stop-and-Go Driving?
Stop-and-go driving is when your vehicle makes short periods of movement and stops at certain intervals.
In most cases, stop-and-go driving is common during traffic when vehicles are jammed bumper-to-bumper, and there’s only a small room to move forward and a short period to do so.
How Stop-and-Go Driving Affects Your Vehicle
Stop-and-go driving might not seem like a big deal, given that you’re only moving in small increments. But in reality, it can cause a few problems and affect your engine’s performance over time.
Here are the ways stop-and-go driving impacts your vehicle.
The Engine Can’t Flush Out Combustion Products
Extended idling prevents the engine from flushing out burned fuel and other acidic combustion products. This can clog the fuel injectors and restrict fuel flow.
The fuel injectors atomize liquid gasoline into droplets, which are mixed with the air that enters the engine. Then, the spark plug ignites this air-fuel mixture.
If the fuel injectors get clogged, it will push less gasoline into the engine, causing the vehicle to surge, sputter, or stall due to the fuel imbalance.
Extended idling because of stop-and-go traffic can also damage the injector tips, turbochargers, exhaust, and valve seats in diesel engines.
The Battery Gets Overworked
Getting stuck in traffic means your vehicle will be idling for extended periods, which can overwork the battery, especially if you have tons of accessories that draw power from it.
Idling prevents the battery from recharging, and it might take a while before it gets completely drained.
Some accessories that can drain the battery include socket plug-ins, stereos, car alarms, and the key fob.
Leaving the air conditioning unit on while stop-and-go driving can also cause the engine to work harder, because the A/C compressor and cooling fans are running non-stop.
Your Vehicle Is Consuming More Fuel Than You Think
Idling can use up to half a gallon of fuel per hour. It might not seem like too much fuel一until you compute how much money you’re losing every week because of it.
The engine isn’t at its normal operating temperature when idling, so fuel is only partially combusted.
Aside from decreased fuel economy, excessive idling (as a result of stop-and-go driving) can also cause fuel residue to build up in the cylinder walls and damage other components.
The Brakes Can Wear Out Faster Than Normal
The Clutch Might Need to Be Replaced
If you’re frequently driving a manual in stop-and-go traffic, you might need to check its clutch more frequently than normal.
Stop-and-go driving involves depressing the clutch pedal multiple times. Over time, a worn-out clutch can make it hard to shift between gears, resulting in performance issues.
The Cooling System Might Reach Its Limit
In stop and go driving, little airflow is going in the radiator, which means that the coolant won’t be able to cool down.
If hot air is recirculating in the engine, it can overheat because the coolant fans are pushed to the limit, too.
In stop and go driving, little airflow is going in the radiator, which means that the coolant won’t be able to cool down.–Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
Vehicle Maintenance Tips for Stop-and-Go Conditions
Gridlock traffic is often inevitable, which means there will come a time when you’ll need to resort to stop-and-go driving. Here are a couple of maintenance tips you might want to check out to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.
Stick to Your Vehicle’s Recommended Oil Change Intervals
In most cases, the oil change interval for vehicles varies, depending on different driving conditions (e.g. dusty areas, heavy towing, etc.).
If you frequently drive in areas with heavy traffic, check your owner’s manual to know the recommended oil change interval for such driving conditions.
Consider Using a Synthetic Formula Fuel Injector Cleaner
Fuel injector cleaners can reduce the risk of clogging due to residue buildup. They can either be dissolvents or detergents.
Dissolvents can break down carbon deposits and impurities in the fuel system. Meanwhile, detergents can force the carbon deposits to detach and exit the fuel system.
A fuel injector cleaner with a higher concentration of additives can help remove long-term deposits and improve gas mileage and vehicle performance. It can also reduce maintenance costs.
Reduce Speed In Traffic
Slowing down is a great way to reduce brake wear. You’re not really going anywhere if you’re stuck in traffic, so there’s no need to rush.
If the traffic is slow, it’s also a good idea to increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front to prolong your brakes’ service life.
To reduce wear on the brakes, engine, and transmission, a lot of drivers try to eliminate the slinky effect in traffic.
You can do it by maintaining the same speed as the vehicle in front and slowing down as you get closer. Then, maintain a longer distance as the vehicle in front speeds up again.
Flush Fluids Regularly
Aside from getting an oil change, you’ll also need to flush certain fluids more often if you usually drive under stop-and-go conditions. Some of the fluids you’ll need to replace include antifreeze, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.
Be sure to check the owner’s manual to know the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals for each fluid.
Stop-and-go driving might seem like nothing is going on with your vehicle, but in reality, it might be causing problems for your daily driver.
Stop-and-go driving tends to accelerate wear on some engine components because your vehicle is idling for extended periods. It can lead to problems like reduced fuel economy, shorter brake life, and clogged fuel injectors.
So if you frequently find yourself in this driving condition, it’s important to check your owner’s manual for the recommended service intervals to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.