Does the way you drive damage your car?

Simon Heptinstall 6 June 2022

If you've been driving for a few years, you may have picked up some bad habits that are damaging your car. These are some common mistakes to look out for.

Some drivers damage their vehicle every time they use it because of their harmful driving habits.

Even if you clean your car regularly, always check your tyres and service right on schedule, experts say that you may be abusing your car without knowing it.

Are you guilty of these common driving sins? Check your driving style against our list below.

Starting your car from cold

Engines don’t like running when the components and fluids are cold. It can cause much more wear than when they have reached normal temperature.

You can’t avoid starting your car from cold, but the critical thing is to avoid revving the engine too high or doing too many drastic manoeuvres until the car has warmed up.

"The worst thing to do is give the car a good revving to 'warm it up'"

Use your temperature gauge and your common sense to drive gently at first. The worst thing to do is give the car a good revving to “warm it up”. The most important factor is giving the oil time to circulate around the engine, avoiding undue wear and tear.

Resting on the clutch

What do you do with your left foot when you are not changing gear in a manual car?

Some cars have a dedicated left-foot rest but most don’t. Some drivers rest their foot lightly on the clutch pedal as they drive. This can cause premature wear of the clutch—an expensive repair.

For most drivers, the precise use of the clutch tends to become more and more relaxed years after their driving test.

Any poor clutch control, like holding the car on the clutch and high revs while waiting on a hill, can be very bad for your car’s mechanics.

When performing hill starts, leave the car in neutral with the handbrake on until you’re ready to move.

Keeping hold of the gearstick

Woman rests hand on gearstick in manual carKeeping your hands on the steering wheel is not only safer but saves your gearbox from undue wear and tear

Generally, it’s safest to keep both hands on the steering wheel when you can but, again, many of us develop bad habits as years pass.

One of the most common is resting a hand on the gearstick while driving, as if in readiness to change gear.

This can be bad for the car’s gearbox by constantly transmitting vibrations through the gearstick and causing wear in the gearbox.

Sticking with a high gear

Pressing the accelerator hard when the revs are too low makes the car feel like it’s struggling and means you are in too high a gear. It places unnecessary strain on the car’s mechanical components.

The answer is to change down a gear, not to try to force the engine to do what it doesn’t want to.

Wearing out the brakes

Don’t over-use the brakes. It decreases their power and wears them out early.

Try to anticipate problems and slow down naturally using engine braking.

Change the gears down when you need to travel slower. When driving downhill, for example, brake a little then choose a low gear.

Overloading your car

Any load reduces a car’s fuel efficiency and adds to wear. Check you aren’t carrying things for no reason, like a toolbox or set of golf clubs.

"Any load reduces a car’s fuel efficiency and adds to wear"

Filling the car with luggage for a holiday or moving house brings its own problems too. All cars have a total load limit beyond which the brakes, steering and suspension may not operate correctly.

The greater the weight, the more strain you’re placing on the car’s mechanical components.

Switching your automatic into reverse

It’s a common habit among drivers of automatic cars, but shifting straight between reverse and drive (and vice versa) can cause expensive damage to the transmission.

Similar warnings apply about crunching the gears in a manual car. Never try to jam the gear lever into reverse before you’ve come to a complete stop.

Driving through potholes

Pothole full of water in roadPotholes cause around a third of all damage to cars, with RAC reporting a three-year high in pothole breakdowns

However good your suspension or how much of a hurry you’re in, don’t drive into potholes or speed over speed bumps.

Pay attention to the road surface. Drive around any holes. Always slow for bumps.

"A third of all vehicle damage is now caused by the jarring of a car dealing with a pothole"

Around a third of all vehicle damage is now caused by the jarring of a car dealing with a pothole or speed bump. This can range from extra tyre wear to major suspension problems.

Too many sudden stops

Sudden braking is only needed during an emergency stop, which is usually a very rare occurrence.

But drivers who don’t pay attention or fail to anticipate problems ahead often have to brake fiercely. This will wear out pads and discs.

Ignoring your parking manoeuvres

However tired you are at the end of the journey, it’s the best time to do your parking manoeuvres.

Reverse into spaces and leave your car in a position where it can drive away easily. Every part of your car will be warmed up to maximum efficiency when you do your parking moves.

If you leave it until you return, you’ll have to manoeuvre out on cold tyres with a cold engine and gearbox, causing unnecessary wear and tear.

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