Top 10 Bad Driving Habits That Damage Your Car

Your vehicle is one of your most costly possessions, and it’s certainly one on which you heavily depend. So, you want it to last as long as possible. Even if you have the proper vehicle maintenance measures in place, there may be important day-to-day responsibilities you overlook that have a negative impact on the life of your car.

Here are the top 10 bad driving habits that can cause inadvertent but significant harm to your car:

  1. Ignoring the Parking Brake: When you park on an incline, use the parking brake even if you don’t think it’s necessary (read: your car has an automatic transmission). If you don’t, you put pressure on your transmission, where there’s just a small little pin the size of your pinky finger, known as the parking pawl, keeping the whole weight of your car in place.

  2. Shifting Into Drive or Reverse When Not Completely Stopped: In a car with an automatic transmission, making the shift into Drive or Reverse isn’t like switching from first gear to second in a manual. You force your transmission to do things it’s not intended to do, and that can cause damage to your drive shafts and suspension.

  3. Riding the Clutch: In cars with manual transmissions, drivers sometimes keep the clutch engaged when it’s not time to brake or shift gears. This can wreak havoc with the hydraulic system where the pressure plates meet the flywheel. Riding the clutch causes those plates to graze the flywheel willy-nilly, wearing down the system in general and potentially setting you up for sudden clutch failure in the future.

  4. Regularly Adding Small Amounts of Fuel to the Gas Tank: Although there may be times when you just can’t afford to fill the tank entirely or plan to wait for a better fuel deal, adding a few gallons of gas at a time and regularly running with low levels of fuel can actually hurt your car. That’s because it forces your car to take gas from the bottom of the tank, where there is sediment build-up. This can lead to a clogged fuel filter or debris passing into the engine.

  5. Riding the Brakes Downhill: Despite feeling like you’re poised to stop in an emergency, riding the brakes while going down hills, or even in general, causes undue wear and tear on your braking system. Driving in this manner actually sets you up for a higher risk of brake failure, so try driving in a lower gear instead, if you have the option.

  6. Sudden Stops and Take-Offs: Regularly slamming on the brake or gas pedal takes a large toll on your gas mileage and can even cause deterioration on parts like your brake pads and rotors.

  7. Using the Shift Lever as a Hand Rest: Unless you’re a professional racecar driver, there’s really no reason to drive around with your hand resting on your car’s shifter. The weight of your hand actually puts load on the sliders within your transmission, causing unnecessary wear.

  8. Carrying Heavy Loads You Don’t Need: It’s one thing to load your car down when helping a friend move or carrying tools to your job, but driving around with a bunch of extra weight for no reason decreases your gas mileage significantly and puts extra stress on all of your car’s components.

  9. Improperly “Warming Up” Your Car: While there’s nothing wrong with starting your car and letting it idle for a few minutes before you leave the house on a cold morning, revving the engine right off the bat to “warm it up” is a bad idea. This causes sudden temperature changes that can actually harm your car and forces the engine to work under load before the oil has a chance to fully circulate.

  10. Ignoring What Your Car Tries to “Tell” You: It’s not uncommon for your car to make unusual noises before mechanical issues make themselves known in more obvious (read: severe) ways. You know what your car should sound like, so putting off investigating a new rattle or hum only allows a problem to fester and get worse. When something starts to sound amiss, contact us to book a mechanic who can diagnose the issue and put things back in order.

If you’re guilty of any of these common bad driving habits, put your new knowledge to use today. Do you have any “good-driver” tips we missed? Send them to us at gooddriver@yourmechanic.com.


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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