Once you pass your driving test and you’ve no longer got an instructor in the car with you, the more comfortable you’ll probably feel behind the wheel. However, without someone having their eyes on you, you start to slowly slip away from the high standards of driving you had during your lessons. We all do it; we start to relax, our hands are no longer and 10 and 2 and we pick up bad habits. Have you ever thought about what those bad habits could be doing to your vehicle? Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re doing it, but whatever it is we’re doing can actually be causing unnecessary strain on our cars. We all know the pros and cons that come with buying a second-hand vehicle, but here are some bad driving habits to avoid if you want to look after your used car.
While driving down a steep hill with a speed limit of 30mph for example, you’re obviously going to need to apply the brakes at some point to make sure you remain safe. What drivers often do, however, is keep the brakes applied so that they drag as the vehicle is moving. This can increase the amount of wear and tear that occurs on brake pads and discs as you’re putting your vehicle under additional strain. Best practice says to drive in a low gear while lightly braking and releasing the pedal every so often until you reach the bottom of the hill.
Everyone tends to drive in a position that is comfortable to them. When learning to drive, it’s more than likely that your instructor told you to keep your hands an equal distance apart on the wheel – once those L plates come off though, the hands tend to slip. Many drivers like to rest their left hand on the gearstick while having their right hand control the wheel. As the gearstick is connected to the selector fork, this can actually be bad for transmission. You may be applying additional pressure to the selector fork which is then making contact with a rotating collar. This extra weight can speed up the wear and tear process, leading to noisy or crunching gears or possible failure to select a gear. For safety, it’s recommended that both hands should be on the wheel at all times unless you’re changing gears. Once you’ve got up or down a gear, place your hand back on the steering wheel until you’re ready to change again.
Many used cars nowadays – especially newer models – will have an indicator light inside telling you when to shift gear. A lot of drivers are quick to shift up a gear but don’t always move downwards when it’s recommended. When you’re travelling in a high gear and putting your accelerator to the floor, your car’s engine is working harder than what it should be. This can cause strain on the motor which isn’t necessary and can be avoided by simply changing down and allowing the revs to rise before changing up again. More often than not, this tends to happen while driving with extra weight in the car or when going up a hill, so it’s especially important during these times.
Another frequent mistake that drivers make is loading the vehicle with too much weight. This is common in large family cars when packing up for a holiday. When you have too much weight in the car, the brakes, suspension and drive train are placed under extra stress. What’s more, leaving heavy items in your car can also increase fuel consumption and also the emissions output. The car’s manual book should tell you the maximum load weight and it’s recommended that you don’t go over this if you want to avoid damaging your vehicle.
Let’s say you’ve just pulled away from your house in reverse, do you make sure that the car is fully stationary before putting it in 1st gear? Whether your used car is fitted with a manual or automatic gearbox, this movement can potentially cause damage. Shifting between reverse and first (drive) or vice versa before coming to a stop can cause wear and tear on the transmission band. The gearbox is not designed as a tool to help you stop, that’s what the brakes are for.
When shifting gears, you have to press your clutch all the way in to make sure there’s no crunching noise. What often happens is a driver fails to take their foot off the pedal after changing gear or when attempting to do a hill start. Riding the clutch in this way will cause excessive wear, with poor control resulting in a shortened lifespan of the clutch. As well as this, if you’ve ever released your clutch too early, you’ve probably experienced your car jerk on the road. This puts excessive pressure on the engine and transmission while also overheating the clutch. Once you’ve found the bite point in your car, both of these can be easily avoided – but even the most experienced of drivers still make this mistake.
We’ve all been there: you’re going to be late for work but your petrol warning light has just come on. What do you do in this situation? Many drivers will think it will be alright if they get to work quickly and then fill up on the way home. But then sometimes you’re kept back and all you want to do is get home. Leaving your car to run on its fumes will damage the life expectancy of the fuel pump. As well as this, you also run the risk of your car coming to a halt in the middle of the road.
Reports show that in one year alone, potholes caused almost £3 million worth of damage to vehicles in the UK. These holes in the road are accountable for around one third of all vehicle damage, so it’s best to avoid them where you can. However, with around 900,000 potholes reported on our roads, it’s not always easy. They can be hard to spot, especially at night or in wet weather but if you do see one, going around it if it’s safe to do so is your best bet. Speed bumps are also known for causing damage, especially if drivers hit them at a high speed or an awkward angle. To avoid damage to the front and rear of the car, the underside and the exhaust system, go over them slowly and safely.
Every car, whether new or used, whether an Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or a Citroen, Renault or Fiat, needs a little TLC. So as well as regular maintenance, avoiding these common mistakes can mean that the lifespan of your vehicle isn’t shortened by bad habits.
If you need any help or advice when buying a used car, check out our blog post: http://www.tonesusedcars.com/blog/article/top-tips-for-buying-a-used-car/
Alternatively, give H.Tones Oxford Garage a call on 01429 866554 or visit our used car garage in Hartlepool.