5 Ways You Could Be Harming Your Car Without Even Knowing

Next to a house, a car is one of the biggest purchases you can make in terms of financial outlay and its impact in your life. We are prepared to pay top price for a vehicle because of what they allow us to do; expanding our horizons and simplifying life in so many different ways. And when it comes to looking after our cars, we’ll pay out significant amounts on the right tires, valet cleaning and a wealth of other peripheral costs to make sure it stays in good condition.

However, and this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise because most of us aren’t experts in mechanics and engineering, there are still things we do unknowingly that cause damage to our cars. Damage that can, in the long run, cost a pretty penny to repair. Below, we will look at a few of the things so many of us do, and which we need to stop doing if we want that brand new car to stand the test of time.

Don’t shift into “Drive” while the car is moving backwards

Whether rolling back into position on an incline, or because you’ve reversed out of a space, your car moving backwards at even crawl speeds exerts a physical force that rivals a fastball from a major league pitcher. Trying to move forward immediately places incredible pressure on your transmission, which is an intricate and technically amazing piece of engineering. “Intricate” and “technically amazing” are good things to be, but crucially neither of them is analogous with “able to withstand immense physical force”.

If you put your car in “Drive” while it is moving backwards, you will before too long test your transmission beyond its capacity. And because it is intricate and technically amazing, it will cost a lot of money to replace. You can afford the few extra seconds to stop entirely before moving forwards; can you afford a new transmission? Even if you can, it’s easily avoidable, so don’t let it happen.

Don’t drive off immediately when it’s cold

There is no question over the incredible resourcefulness of people who design car engines, and we could all stand to recognize the job they do. What they are not, however, is magicians who can overcome the simple laws of physics and mechanics. When you place a demand on a cold engine component, you are more or less daring it to break. Again, haste to get going in the morning is understandable, but if you let your engine warm up for a minute or so before driving away you’ll see the benefit.

Bear in mind that even something as basic as the oil in your engine won’t work as smoothly in winter temperatures, and that means that the engine components will not be as thoroughly lubricated. Your car will develop faults, and those can be sorted out by the likes of Riley Ford Inc, but prevention will still always be better than cure. This is especially the case given that every fault and every repair edges your car closer to being effectively a clunker.

Don’t use boiling water to melt windshield ice

The visual effect of ice cracking and then dropping away is pleasing to witness, as you may muse while pouring a kettle of hot water over your windshield on a January morning. A less pleasing visual is the windshield cracking and dropping away, but this is something that gets more likely every time you use that kettle-based life hack. If something ice cold comes into contact with something boiling hot, it’s going to experience a shock reaction, and we’d all rather that the reaction wasn’t a sheet of glass shattering and falling into our car.

Your car has a heater setting for focusing on the windshield. While you’re running the engine on a cold morning, set that heater to full and – if you need additional help – set about the ice with a screen scraper (makeshift or otherwise). It takes a little more time than the kettle thing, but you end up with an intact windshield, so it’s still a better choice.

Don’t ignore minor faults and warnings

Car repairs don’t always come cheap, it’s true. So the temptation to ignore a little rattle, or a warning light that isn’t flashing and red, can be very persuasive. By and large, these little issues are not going to fix themselves. A car is not like a human body, where some rest and clean eating will promote healing. If left to itself, a small issue will become a big issue. What starts as a rattle can quickly become a stability issue and go from annoying to dangerous – and, apologies if you are seeing a theme developing here, but it will cost a lot more to repair.

Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet. A few of the warning lights are for things so minor you can fix them yourself, so get under the hood and get things sorted. For any other, get the car to a repair shop. It’s not worth waiting until your car becomes fit for little more than scrappage.

Don’t run the car on fumes

We all think we’re extremely clever when we first realize that a car will keep going even when the fuel gauge says that the tank is empty. It’s accepted as true that you’ll have at least another 60 miles of driving before the car grinds to a halt, so you can keep going and not refuel this time. And yes, it is technically true, your car will keep going, but in so doing it will heat the gas pump and the engine in a dangerous way. In other words, it will work until it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, that means you’re out of fuel and you’ve damaged your engine.

You should always, ideally, keep the tank topped up to at least a quarter-full. In some circumstances it will, inevitably, drop below that, but you then must refuel at the earliest opportunity. Driving on fumes is not a life hack – it’s a very risky gamble.

Our cars are so often our pride and joy, but they can only remain so if you treat them right. That means doing all the stuff we know we’re supposed to do – but it also means not doing any of the above.

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Alicia Baker

Alicia is a Canadian writer whose enthusiasm for cultural and automotive are combined in her writing. Her background includes links to insurance, finance, and automotive safety.
Alicia Baker
Alicia is a Canadian writer whose enthusiasm for cultural and automotive are combined in her writing. Her background includes links to insurance, finance, and automotive safety.