It’s not rocket science when you think about it. Sometimes however, we need to be reminded of the best ways to keep running costs down and lengthen the life of our car (at least while we own it). These tips will keep you going for thousands of stress-free miles without the need for a mechanic.
1. Stopping and Starting Aggressively
Screeching off at the traffic lights to beat the competition is a sure sign that your tires will not last long. The same applies if you continuously brake hard either from following too close to the car in front, racing to beat the red traffic light but last minute deciding to brake, or continuous ‘brake-slamming’. ‘Burnouts’ and ‘Donuts’ cause aggressive wear and tear on the rear axle, rotors, brakes, transmission and stability of the car. This leads me onto the next point.
2. Mixing and Matching Tires
You may think if your car fits a 15 inch tire, then any brand will do right? Wrong. Using the same brand of tire for all your wheels will give you a smoother, more balanced ride requiring less need of tire balancing and rotation (as long as they are in tip-top condition). Using different brands gives you different tire-tread and pattern formations leading to uneven tire wear between them. It also changes the way the ABS system operates and the wheel sensor operations, and affects how accurate your speedometer is. Putting a set of larger tires of the same brand on your car will also affect the accuracy of the speedometer.
3. Changing Fuel Types
You may already know that putting diesel into a gas tank will damage the car’s engine severely. This can, however also apply to different octane levels of gasoline. Every vehicle is designed to run on a specific grade of gasoline for optimum efficiency and longevity. Using a low-grade fuel in a high-performance sports car can cause a dramatic decline in performance for example, and mixing a different fuel with an existing one already in the tank is just asking for trouble. Some cars can take a fuel with less ethanol as an alternate to the recommended fuel listed in the car manual or on the fuel cap, but it is essential to check first before filling up.
4. Aggressive Gear Shifting
This relates directly to the second most expensive mechanical part on your car (after a blown engine) – the transmission. Manual transmission drivers who shift gears abruptly either to gain speed quickly or drop down to help slow the vehicle quicker are wearing away the components that make up the gearbox unit. Trying to engage gears harshly or disengage continuously without the clutch is asking for trouble and a huge repair cost. Throwing your automatic transmission into park from drive, or rapidly shifting between drive and reverse can also damage the transmission. Make sure to get your transmission fluids changed and serviced at the correct intervals to avoid such a huge replacement cost.
5. Ignoring The Warning Signs
This is a common occurrence amongst drivers. Ignoring any warning sign on a car’s dashboard is just asking for danger. While there have been known cases of faulty electronics causing signs to light up – that in itself is enough to get the car checked. Warning signs are usually the first indicator that something is not as it seems and a good time to book the car in before things get progressively worse. It’s better to pay $200 to get in early and fix any potential problem before it gets too bad than to spend $2,000 by ignoring it. I have seen used cars advertised for sale with comments like ‘the petrol gauge light is continuously on yet there is always petrol in it so it’s not a problem’ or ‘the engine light has been on for the last two years, but there’s nothing wrong with it’. This screams ‘RED LIGHT’ and should be avoided at all costs.
6. Rarely Driving
Sometimes it’s unavoidable to let your car sit dormant like traveling overseas for extended periods of time for instance. However, leaving your car sitting around can cause the battery to die, tires pressures will deflate placing more pressure and potential cracking of the rubber, dust, bird poop and other environmental debris can deteriorate and cause rust to the paintwork, fluids can dry up and engine hoses can crack and leak. That’s why cars that are left for years in a shed or barn have to have many parts replaced before starting them up and running them again. Weatherproof car covers can help protect the car whether it’s outside or inside, putting the battery on a low charging battery charger while you are away will keep your battery’s condition well or getting someone you can trust to start it up once a week and let run for fifteen minutes to let the fluids run through and keep the battery charged would be an advantage.
7. Ignoring the Car Manual
Most people ignore the owner’s manual except maybe finding out how to adjust the clock on the car’s stereo, but the manual has helpful tips and the most relevant information for keeping your model in tip-top condition including the correct tire pressures. This book also tells you what each warning light means and when different parts and fluids need changing. If your car or the car you are thinking of buying doesn’t have a manual, you can find PDF versions online. Even if you only read one section a day or week, it will ensure you have a better understanding of what your car is all about. One such website is carmanualsonline.info.
8. Altering the Factory Settings
If you are looking at a ‘modified’ car or have modified your own at some point, these things can play havoc with different parts of the cars settings. Lowering the car, changing tire size, or changing out the computer chip to increase power all mess with the correct settings for your car. This can put the car ‘out of whack’ such as the speedometer not reading properly or the engine having to work much harder than it is supposed to, thus shortening its life.