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The driving habits that are hurting your car

calendar Published on: Thursday, 30th May 2019 | female icon Author: Becky Taylor

It’s easy to slip into bad habits behind the wheel that could cause damage to your car. From riding the clutch to leaving it too long to top up your fuel tank, there are a range of behaviours that can take their toll on your vehicle over time.

To help you get up to speed on this subject, here are some of the most common motoring mistakes that could be hurting your car.

Being too heavy footed on your brakes

There will probably be times when you’re driving that you need to do an emergency stop, and this inevitably means sudden, heavy braking. However, if you tend to brake late and hard on a regular basis, you’re doing unnecessary damage to your car. When you consistently apply the brakes late, you wear out your discs and pads more quickly and will therefore need to replace them sooner. To avoid this problem, try to drive more smoothly - making sure you anticipate the road ahead and are able to slow down gradually.

Driving with low fuel

Whether by accident or design, if you often drive with low fuel levels, you could be harming your vehicle. When your car is running out of fuel, it takes it from the bottom of the tank - and this is where contaminants tend to collect. Over time, this can cause a build-up of contaminants that block your fuel filter and get into your engine, potentially leading to further damage. With this in mind, it’s wise to see your low fuel light as a final warning rather than routinely ignoring it and trying to squeeze every last mile out of your tank.

Hitting potholes and speed bumps too hard

Slamming into potholes or taking speed bumps too quickly will undoubtedly harm your car. In severe cases, you risk buckling your wheels and damaging your tyres and exhaust. Even if there are no immediate signs of damage, being careless when it comes to potholes and speed bumps will take its toll on your vehicle, particularly on the suspension. This means it’s important to always slow down to an appropriate speed when driving over speed bumps. Also, when it’s safe to do so, avoid driving over potholes. If you must travel over them, make sure you take it slow.

Riding the clutch

Many drivers are guilty of riding the clutch. This happens if you fail to take your foot off the clutch pedal once you’ve changed gear. Doing this can mean that the clutch release bearing is in contact with the clutch cover, causing friction and making your clutch wear out more quickly. To prevent this from happening, always release the clutch pedal fully after you’ve changed gear.

Using the clutch rather than the handbrake to hold your car in position on a hill can also cause this component to wear out prematurely. So, when you stop on a hill, make sure you use the handbrake to keep your car in place.

Using your brakes too much downhill

If you rely too much on your brakes to keep your speed in check while travelling downhill, you could be storing up trouble for your car. Dragging your brakes in this way increases wear and tear on the discs and pads. So, rather than keeping your foot on the brake, it’s best to switch to a lower gear when you’re going downhill and to apply some light braking on and off.

Accelerating hard in a high gear

When you want to increase your speed, your first action might be to press down on the accelerator. However, if you accelerate while your car is in too high a gear, this could put your engine under unnecessary strain. It’s best to change down to a lower gear and allow the revs to increase while you gain speed before switching back to a higher gear. This is especially important when you’re going uphill or carrying a heavy load.

Bumping into kerbs

Especially if you have to do a lot of parallel parking, you might find that you often bump into kerbs in your car. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you do it repeatedly, it can damage your vehicle. For a start, it can wreck your hubcaps and tyres. It can also affect your steering column and wheel position. This means it pays to be careful when you’re getting close to pavements. If you have passengers with you, you can ask them to help you judge the distance between the wheels of your car and the kerb.

Overloading your vehicle

Cars these days are capable of carrying heavy loads, but if you’re not careful, there’s a risk you will overload yours. For example, if you’re setting off on holiday or you’re moving house and you need to pack a lot into your vehicle, you could exceed the maximum load weight. In turn, this could damage the brakes, tyres, suspension and clutch. So, if you’re filling your car with luggage or other items, make sure you check the maximum weight limit. You should be able to find this information in your owner’s manual.

Ignoring warning lights

Dashboards in modern cars can have lots of lights and symbols to get to grips with, so it’s easy to feel confused. However, it’s really important that you make an effort to understand what these signals correspond to - and to react appropriately when you see a warning light come on. If you simply carry on driving as normal and ignore these warnings, you could put your safety at risk and cause major damage to your vehicle.

Some lights require particularly urgent action. For example, if you see warnings relating to your braking system, engine, power steering, oil pressure, cooling system or airbag, you should stop driving as soon as it’s safe to do so and call a breakdown recovery service or a local garage.

By being aware of the bad habits that could hurt your car and taking steps to avoid them, you can steer clear of a whole range of problems and help to keep your repair bills down to a minimum.