Driving Habits that Help Your Car Last Longer
Interestingly, many people know why cars break down, but never really think about what makes a car last longer. True, you could just turn the key and drive, change the oil occasionally, and get rid of the car when it gets too expensive to run, but there are ways you can help your car last longer without spending anything extra. Here is a list of driving habits that will help your car last longer:
Habit #1: Break In
New cars, with less than 1,000 miles on the odometer, may need a specific break-in period. Usually, this involves not driving aggressively, not idling for extended periods, and keeping engine speed below 4,000 RPM. After the break-in period, an engine oil change may be recommended. Many manufacturers don’t specify a “break-in” period, as the engine has already been running in production, but driving moderately can do no harm.
Habit #2: Acceleration
Rapid starts not only waste fuel, but also put excess strain on the drivetrain. Accelerate moderately from a stop, such as pulling out of your driveway, pulling away from a stop sign or traffic light, or in congested stop-and-go traffic. Accelerating moderately prevents overheating and helps your engine, transmission, differentials, CV joints, and tires last longer. It also prevents wear and damage to engine and transmission mounts, responsible for absorbing the strain.
Habit #3: Step On It
This might seem counterintuitive, but driving moderately isn’t always the best thing for your car. Some engine deposits simply won’t burn off under normal operating temperatures. Occasionally, with the engine and transmission at operating temperature, spirited driving increases temperatures enough to burn off carbon deposits and clear out diesel particulate filters. This helps your car last longer by keeping the engine clean.
Habit #4: Rolling Turn
If you need to turn the wheels, do so when the vehicle is moving. Even if you are pulling out of a parking spot or making a three-point turn, turning the wheel when the vehicle is rolling, even slightly, makes it easier to turn and reduces strain on the power steering system, tie rod ends, and ball joints. It also reduces uneven wear on the tires.
Habit #5: Drive Regularly
If there’s one thing that can kill a car, it’s not driving it often enough. Drive your car at least once a week to keep oil circulating, prevent dry oil seals, and maintain battery charge. This also reduces stress on the alternator/generator.
Habit #6: Long Trips
Short trips are also a killer, as they don’t allow the engine to heat fully to operating temperature. Combining trips keeps the engine at operating temperature longer, helping to burn off deposits, vaporize condensation, and reduce corrosion, helping your car last longer.
Habit #7: Bumps
Habit #8: Reduce Weight
Excess weight isn’t great for fuel economy, but neither does it do any good to your suspension and shock absorbers. More weight means more stress and more strain, reducing the lifespan of bushings, bearings, and shocks. Also, more weight requires more braking to stop safely, increasing wear and stress on the brakes.
Habit #9: Speed Limit
While speed limits are mostly considered for safety reasons, they may also be set for fuel economy considerations. Driving at 65 mph increases fuel consumption by up to 15 percent when compared to driving at 55 mph. Slowing down also puts less stress on the engine, transmission, and tires, enabling them to run cooler and last longer.
Habit #10: Coasting
By paying close attention to road and traffic conditions, you can anticipate when you might need to slow down or come to a stop. Instead of running full speed and then braking hard at the last moment, simply let off the gas and let the vehicle slow down on its own. Using the brakes after letting the car coast a little prevents them from heating up as much and reduces wear, helping your brakes last longer.
Habit #11: Engine Braking
This might seem obvious for those driving manual-transmission vehicles, but many automatic-transmission, hybrid-electric, and electric vehicles allow for some measure of engine braking. If coasting isn’t enough, employing engine braking can further slow your vehicle before engaging the brakes. On hills, especially, engine braking reduces heat levels in the brakes and keeps them effective in case a stop is needed.
Habit #12: Don’t Follow
Getting stuck behind a big truck is inevitable, but don’t follow too closely – pass if possible and when safe to do so. Following too closely could set your car up as a prime target for falling rocks or kicked-up road debris. These could chip your paint, leading to corrosion, or your windshield, an expensive fix.
Habit #13: Chip Repair
If you do get a paint chip, have it touched up or repaired as soon as possible, especially if the chip is down to the metal. Exposed metal is no longer protected against corrosion, which can quickly spread through the panel.
Habit #14: Full Stop
When backing out of your driveway or making a three-point turn, it may be tempting to change gears while the vehicle is still rolling in the opposite direction. This puts a lot of strain on CV joints, differential gears, transmission and engine mounts, and the transmission. Use the brakes to come to a full stop before changing gears.
Habit #15: Parking Brake
When parking an automatic-transmission vehicle, especially on a hill, letting the vehicle rest in “Park” can damage the transmission, particularly the parking pawl and transmission linkage. To remove all strain from the transmission, put it in “Neutral” and set the parking brake. Then, release the service brakes and let the vehicle rest on the parking brakes. Finally, put the transmission in Park. Reverse these steps to get moving again.
Habit #16: Shop Time
Drive regularly to your trusted mechanic. Regular maintenance is key to a long-lasting car. You should visit the shop at least every six months or 5,000 miles, giving your technician a chance to inspect your vehicle. If any repairs or adjustments are necessary, taking care of them right away can limit collateral damage.
Habit #17: Wash Time
While this isn’t a driving tip, it’s important to drive often to the car wash. Regular car washing not only helps your car look good but helps it last longer by preventing corrosion. If you live in northern climes, where they use salt on winter roads, be sure to clean the undercarriage, as well.
Habit #18: Shining
A shiny paint job helps your car last longer by preventing paint damage and corrosion. Waxing can be done twice a year to protect your paint prevent rust from taking hold of your vehicle.
Of course, when we say “extra,” what we really mean is “nothing beyond regular maintenance and prompt repairs.” In other words, no snake-oil, just tried and true driving tips to help your car last longer. Overall, you’ll save money on fuel and repairs, and you won’t have to fix or replace your car as often.