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Driving habits that could be damaging your car

By 12th July 2021No Comments

Wear and tear are inevitable results of driving. But which of your driving habits might be making things worse?

Let’s look into some habits that put more strain on our cars than we might realise.

Dragging the brakes downhill

When descending a hill, you may need to use the brakes and should do so appropriately.

But if you’re in a high gear and using the brakes harder and longer than required, this puts unnecessary strain on the brakes which will result in faster deterioration than if you select a low gear and allow the engine to help manage the speed of the vehicle.

Over-using the brakes could result in over-heating – making them less effective if you need to stop in an emergency. Over-use also results in needing to replace them more often, making driving more expensive.

Flooring the accelerator in a high gear

When you push the accelerator pedal too far at low RPM, the engine has to work extra hard to get up to speed, placing unnecessary strain on the motor. If you get into the habit of shifting gear up early and then stepping on the accelerator, you could be doing long-term damage to your engine.

In situations in which acceleration is necessary and you find yourself at low RPM, it’s better to shift down, accelerate, and shift up again when appropriate.

This is most important when carrying heavy loads or climbing hills.

Overloading your vehicle

As capable as our cars seem to be at lugging around as much as we can squeeze into them, they can be overloaded. The car’s maximum load weight should be in the owner’s manual, and indicates how much we should carry in total.

The more weight you carry in your car, the more stress you’re putting into the brakes, suspension, and drivetrain.

Carrying unnecessary items (golf clubs, fishing gear, and other non-essentials) in the boot of your car, while putting negligible added strain on the car on their own, will affect the vehicle’s fuel economy and emissions output.

Shifting from drive to reverse before stopping

Especially bad in automatic vehicles – drivers should always completely stop moving forward before putting the vehicle in reverse.

Shifting gear before coming to a stop will cause wear and tear on the transmission band, rather than the brake discs and pads, which are serviceable items. Any work on the automatic transmission will be labour-intensive, and therefore costly.

Hitting potholes and speed bumps

Most of us are familiar with the jarring thud of hitting potholes and speed bumps too fast. Reports have shown that a third of all vehicle damage is caused by pothole, so staying vigilant and ensuring they’re avoided is vital.

Impacts can cause cracked or buckled wheels, tyre damage and damage tracking or wheel balancing. Driving too fast over speed bumps can cause all of this as well as damage to the front, rear or underside of your car.

Ignoring warning lights

Some warning lights, like washer fluid or bulb warnings may not require urgent attention – depending on driving conditions. Others, however, need to be investigated straight away.

It’s worth checking your owner’s manual to find out what the warning lights on your dashboard mean and familiarising yourself with the most serious ones so you know which ones to pull over and address immediately when driving.

If the following warnings appear on the dashboard, you’re advised to stop and seek help from your breakdown provider or a reputable local garage:

  • Engine/ECU
  • Braking system
  • Power steering failure
  • Airbag
  • Oil pressure
  • Cooling system

Revving the engine when cold

Cold revving causes abrupt temperature changes that create stress between the engine’s tight-fitting components. Simply start your engine and wait 60 seconds before you set off, and everything will have warmed up for reliable performance.

Riding the clutch

Riding the clutch is a common bad habit, especially during hill starts and heavy traffic. It happens when a driver fails to take their foot off the clutch between gear changes, or uses the clutch in place of the handbrake. This puts extra stress and wear on the clutch – which is considered a ‘wear and tear’ part, and therefore not covered by warranty.

Fully disengaging the clutch and using the footrest to the left of the pedal should be second nature and is important if you want to help keep your vehicle in top condition.

Late braking

Sometimes a sudden hazard will necessitate emergency braking. We should of course be prepared to brake appropriately whenever needed. However, some drivers are in the habit of braking late when it’s not necessary, like when they’re approaching a roundabout or junction.

Heavy braking puts more strain on the braking system, and just like the first point in this list, will put more wear and tear on the braking system than necessary.

You’ll also be much more fuel efficient if you take a more slow, considered approach to driving, and braking well in advance.

Developing good habits and losing the bad ones is a fundamental component of our journeys to becoming better drivers. IAM RoadSmart is proud to offer excellent driver training, which is an extremely effective way to make sure that the habits we’re developing are the right ones.

Our flagship in-car business driver training course is Driving for Work – a one-to-one course with a fleet-registered Approved Driving Instructor. Driving for Work is designed to give people who drive for work the full package of training to keep them safe, confident, and efficient on the road, and better able to protect themselves and the vehicles they’re driving.

Charlie Reynolds

Author Charlie Reynolds

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