Can Bad Driving Habits Damage Your Car?

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Bad driving habits are bad for more than just the driver - some can be costly to repair or permanently damage your car

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Though we may not like to admit it, every car owner forms bad driving habits, especially after a lifetime of driving. And, while some of these are nothing to be too concerned about, others can cause serious damage to our cars and even expedite wear and tear. In some cases, these bad driving habits can even lead to irreparable damage. At the least, you'll be wasting money on expensive and unnecessary repair and maintenance bills if they're not quickly recognized and corrected.

Bad Driving Habits That Damage Your Car

To help you identify and avoid any bad driving habits you may not be aware of, and maybe even save you some money on unnecessary repair costs, here's a brief list of some common bad driving habits that could be detrimental to your car:

Fast start with no warm-up

You will want to let your car warm up every time after turning it on, especially if it hasn't been driven for a while or if the weather is cold. A fast start is one of the most common bad driving habits that will damage your car as most people are constantly rushing to get to where they're going. Letting your engine warm up for a minute or two before driving allows the oil to get up to temperature and distribute properly throughout the engine block. Revving a cold engine isn't going to speed up the process. Rather, it actually places more strain on the engine's tight-fitting components. This poor practice can be particularly harmful to a diesel truck. Read more about cold starts here.

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Over-revving your engine

Engines are designed to be operated at a certain RPM and are usually electronically limited. An automatic transmission prevents you from over-revving the engine by automatically upshifting when optimal and not downshifting if it will cause the engine to over rev. With a manual gearbox, however, there's nothing stopping the driver from downshifting when it could result in excessive revs. Dropping to the wrong gear can result in the engine blowing out, resulting in catastrophic damage. This is why excessively revving your car is bad and why it's important to know when to change gear. Short shifting, or changing gear before your engine reaches the maximum power band actually preserves the engine and benefits fuel economy. This is not to be confused with rev matching, which we discuss in detail here.

Ignoring certain car noises

Cars make plenty of noise when being operated: the hum of the engine, road vibrations, and wind are just a few of the standard car noises. Just like unfamiliar spills or leaks, however, there are many sounds that are indicators of something wrong with the vehicle. Here are some noises you should take care of as soon as possible:

  • Any tapping, clicking, or popping from the engine
  • Grinding when shifting a manual gearbox
  • Any noises from the car when turning
  • Scraping, grinding, or squealing brakes
  • Low-pitch humming or squealing from under the car

Overfilling your gas rank

Overfilling your car's gas tank can definitely damage your car. Every gas-powered car has a closed-circuit system that captures and burns the fumes emitted from your car's gas tank whether it's a full-size sedan like an Audi A8, or a used Chrysler 300. If you refuel your car's gas tank too frequently, the EVAP system, which is designed to process excess gasoline vapor, can be compromised. This can hinder engine performance and lead to potentially costly damage.

Overfilling Gas Tank unsplash.com

Parking for too long

Parking a car for a long time can lead to many unwanted problems. Your car's battery is likely powered or kept charged by the engine, a system that only works when the car is in use. So, if the car isn't started for a long period of time, the battery can drain and lose some level of efficiency, even after being jump-started. Sunshine and bird droppings are some of the main things that ruin car paint. If left for too long, this acidic buildup can do more than just damage the paint, and may even corrode the sheet metal. Read more about secure vehicle storage for long periods of time here.

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Dangerous Driving Habits

There are so many driving tips for beginners, but here are some dangerous driving habits that are more of a risk to your life than to your car:

Can driving fast damage your car?

The act of driving fast may not be overly damaging to your car, especially if you're behind the wheel of a performance car with an engine designed to be pushed a little, but it certainly isn't great on your fuel budget or the potential speeding fines you may be liable for. It's also worth noting that driving fast and driving recklessly are not the same thing - and if you're doing the latter with no mechanical sympathy for your car, you can expect higher autoshop bills in the long run. This will speed up the wear and tear rate on parts such as the engine, suspension, and brakes. And, naturally, the risk of accident damage increases with speed and recklessness too. Remember to always drive the legal speed limit and keep your fast driving escapades to the track.

Why smoking in your car is harmful

Studies have shown that smoking in the car is as dangerous as using one's phone whilst driving. On top of being a distraction, the lowered levels of oxygen in the car and increased levels of carbon monoxide hinder the driver's ability to concentrate fully.

Smoking in the Car unsplash.com
Dangerous Driving Habits unsplash.com

Why you shouldn’t eat in the car

Multitasking whilst driving is a bad idea in general, so eat and drink before driving so you don't have to eat in your car. You also won't want to be having to deal with hot coffee spilled in your car or over your lap while driving at high speed.

Using your phone while driving

This is one of the most important bad driving habits to avoid as using your cell phone while driving removes your attention from the road and surroundings, which drastically increases the chances of an accident and costly mistakes.

Overloading your car

Overloading your vehicle increases the strain on the powertrain, suspension, and brakes, any of which can break or fail at any time, even while in operation on the road.

Can speed bumps and potholes cause damage to your car?

Hitting potholes or driving over a speed bump at a high speed without slowing down can cause your car's wheels to buckle or result in the tires bursting or being severely damaged and can affect wheel alignment and balance. All of these outcomes can increase the risks of an accident.

FAQs

Does driving fast mess up your car?

Driving fast every now and again may be more detrimental to your wallet than your actual car as it aggravates fuel consumption significantly. However, driving hard does damage your car if done constantly, as the powertrain components, suspension setup, and braking system all take continuous strain.

What is the most unsafe driving behavior?

Driving while intoxicated on any substance that affects the nervous system is the most unsafe driving behavior. This is why it's illegal to drive under the influence.

How do I know when to shift gears on a car?

This really depends on the engine and transmission of the car and the driving circumstances one is in. A general rule of thumb is if the engine is revving incessantly at a high rpm in order to maintain a certain speed, shift up to the next gear. If you're having to keep the gas pedal to the floor and you still can't find enough accelerating power, shift down to a lower gear.

Is driving on a near-empty gas tank bad?

Regularly driving on a near-empty tank isn't ideal as the fuel at the bottom of a car's gas tank is usually full of impurities such as sediment and debris. Over time, these impurities can start to clog the fuel filter and lines and subsequently lead to repairs that could have been avoided.

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