Look, I get it—we’re all busy, we all have places to be and things to do, and proper vehicle maintenance isn’t necessarily at the top of the list when it comes to how you want to spend a day off. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t take proper care of your vehicle today, then you’re more likely to end up at an auto repair shop tomorrow, whether you like it or not. You can’t plan for every issue, of course, but you can take some steps to ensure your car is in the best shape possible. And even if you don’t feel like following a service schedule for your vehicle or paying attention to a check engine light the moment it comes on, the least you can do—the very least—is not actively harm your poor ride. By which I mean, don’t do the following things:
Hard Braking and Accelerating
Unless you’ve got a lady in the backseat giving birth, there’s no reason to drive with a lead foot—all you’re doing is putting everyone in danger and reducing the lifespan of your car. This goes for both the gas pedal and the brakes. The best way to keep your vehicle in great shape is to accelerate smoothly from a stop, get up to speed, and then give yourself time and distance to brake gently and easily. Of course, hard braking may be necessary to avoid hitting someone or something, but otherwise, just ease up on those pedals.
Driving Your Car Cold in Winter
You might think I don’t need to say this, but you’d be wrong because it’s something I see all the time when I’m in parking lots or shoveling snow off my sidewalk. When it’s cold outside, your engine is cold too (unless you have a heater for your engine, in which case ignore me.). You need to give your engine time to warm up. This lets your motor oil reach a good viscosity and for everything to be running smoothly before adding the strain of driving somewhere. Give your vehicle time to warm up when you first start it in the winter, and it’ll be much happier.
Ignoring Your Service Schedule
Remember when I gave you an out by saying, “Even if you don’t feel like following a service schedule for your vehicle” up above? Well, that out is officially closed; follow your car’s service schedule. That schedule isn’t created just for fun; it’s the proper guide for how often you should handle a wide range of different maintenance tasks for your ride. Properly changing your oil, rotating your tires, changing other fluids, and inspecting a variety of parts of your vehicle is the best way to keep it in terrific condition. If you’re not up to the task, head to a repair shop and have them do it for you—your car deserves it.
Choosing Cheap Parts
Life is expensive, I get that—I’m not immune to it either. That being said, most of the time, you really do “get what you pay for,” and going with cheap parts for your car will eventually come back to bite you. I know it can be tempting to choose the cheapest option possible for tires, new brakes, motor oil, or whatever else your vehicle needs, but cheap parts break sooner and won’t work as well as more expensive options typically will. Worst of all, you risk voiding your warranty if you choose cheap parts your vehicle’s manufacturer doesn’t approve of, which means you could be footing the bill for issues that would otherwise be covered.
Driving Around in a Dirty Car
I’m not here to judge anyone’s lifestyle or personal habits. That being said, a dirty car doesn’t just look bad; it’s also actually bad for your vehicle. Dirt, salt from the road, and other pollutants can all damage the exterior of your vehicle and make it rust much faster. It’s essential to clean your vehicle outside (do whatever you want inside) and be sure to wash down the underside of your ride and clean under the hood. A clean engine runs better and maximizes the lifespan of your vehicle.
Driving On Old/Bald Tires
I cannot stress just how important your tires are for the overall health and longevity of your vehicle. For one thing, bald and old tires aren’t safe. They are at greater risk of a blowout and provide you with inferior traction and control on the road. These things increase the chance of you getting into a collision, and I don’t have to tell you that a crash isn’t good for your car. Tires in bad condition can also reduce your fuel efficiency and overall ride quality.
Ignoring Your Alignment
Do me a favor: the next time you’re driving on a straightaway, look at your steering wheel. Is it nice and straight, or is it cocked slightly to an angle? If it’s off-center, your alignment is off, and you’re correcting for it—you might not even realize it; we get into these habits so easily. If your alignment is off, you’re at greater risk of a crash since you’ve compromised your overall control over your vehicle. It’s also just not very fun to have to fight against your car when you’re on the road. It’s bad for your alignment and suspension in general. Have your alignment checked and corrected to make your daily drive more enjoyable and to keep your car running for a long time.
Going with Cheap Gas
Remember what I said about cheap parts? Well, the same goes for cheap gas, too (and all fluids going into your vehicle, really). Cheap gas is cheap for a reason, and the pricier stuff is typically cleaner and better for your vehicle. We’ve all had to save on gas sometimes and go for the cheap stuff to get through to the next payday, but try to keep that to a minimum if you can. You’ll get a better ride from your vehicle and avoid more significant problems down the road.
Hitting Potholes and Curbs
I don’t ask for much; all I want is for you to maintain control over your vehicle and avoid hitting anything. That includes potholes in the road and objects like curbs, neither of which are great for your vehicle. Hitting them can damage your tires, throw off your alignment, mess up your suspension, and more. In fact, hitting a pothole unexpectedly can create a very real threat of losing control of your car and getting into a serious, potentially dangerous collision. Sometimes things are unavoidable—I get that—but be careful out there and avoid these things as much as you possibly can. Ramming into a pothole or grinding against a curb doesn’t exactly feel great for your passengers, either.
Please, Just Take Proper Care of Your Car
Whether you’re interested in maintaining the value of your car, selling it, or using it for a trade-in later, or you simply want a vehicle you know you can rely on, the best thing you can do is take care of it whenever possible. Things come up, and life gets in the way sometimes, but by following some simple habits that put your vehicle’s needs first and taking the time to actively care for it, you avoid cutting its lifespan short. A lot of this stuff won’t cost you a dime and can actually save you money since your vehicle won’t need service for avoidable issues. Trust me; it’s worth getting used to driving smoothly rather than hard braking every 20 seconds, even if it adds a few minutes to your daily commute for the sake of your vehicle and the sanity of drivers around you.