You know, if you ask someone “hey, are you a good driver?” then they will often scream and demand to know why you are in their house. If you ask someone without breaking into their house, they will often simply say “yes, I am a good driver.”
Because we all think we’re good drivers, don’t we? The thing is though, around 90% of drivers think they are better than average. If you have the math ability to count to 10 without using your fingers, you can see the issue with the sentence above.
Please note, we’re not calling you a bad driver so don’t send packages of white powder to Car Bibles Towers. But what many people, including ourselves, don’t realize is that over time we can pick up certain driving habits that can be damaging to our cars. In this article we’re going to highlight a few of the more frequently seen ones. Keep any eye out for anything that sounds familiar…
You’re Not on the Formula 1 Starting Grid
You’re sat at the lights, ready to go. Some old lady pulls up next to you in her lime green Chevy Gremlin. She gives you the eye as she revs the mighty 135hp engine under the Gremlin’s rust pocked hood. You turn slowly back to the front. Your white knuckles grip the wheel as sweat beads your forehead.
The light flicks to green, you slam the car forward and you zoom off in 1st gear, with the engine whining like it’s ingested a wasps nest.
This is a bad idea. Ignore the provocation of racing Grandmas and don’t pull away from a standing start entirely in 1st gear. 1st gear is just to get the car rolling, and you need to start shifting up before the RPM needle starts to go vertical.
Get Your Paw off the Shifter
Whilst we’re rapping about gears, lets take a moment to look at the big stick that controls them. If you’ve got into the habit of driving with one hand on top of the shifter then we get it, it looks cool. One hand on the shifter, one hand hanging out the window, one hand… wait we’ve run out of hands. Out one hand on the steering wheel for God sake!
And get the other one off the shifter. The shifter is connected to a selector fork. The fork makes contact with the rotating collar that forms part of the gear shifting mechanism. If you put your hand on the sifter, that pressure can actually transfer down the shifter system, causing the shifter fork to rub against the rotating collar. That causes wear and tear, which is bad.
Running on Fumes
Sometimes we can’t be bothered to go the gas station. It’s late, you want to go home, you don’t want to have to fight the temptation to picking up a 64 Oz bucket of Coke and knock another week of your life expectancy.
What you’re doing instead is damaging the life expectancy of your car – or more specifically it’s fuel pump. You may not know this, but the majority of fuel pump systems keep cool by remaining submerged in the gas tank. If you’re driving around with the bare minimum fuel then the gas pump can’t keep cool, and it’s going to need replacing that bit faster.
Say no to the Coke and yes to the Gas to protect your pump and your cars pump.
Don’t Break the Brakes
Car brakes are an important part of the vehicle, or at least they are if you plan on stopping it anytime soon. They are also a part of the car that can take an incredible amount of wear and tear, especially if they aren’t treated with the love and care that they need.
The best way to be nice to your brakes is to stop standing up on them – i.e. stop making sudden, sharp stops. Sometimes it can’t be helped, like when that Grandma in the Lime Green Gremlin swerves across three lanes of highway to flip you off.
Other times though you’re just being lazy. Pay attention, especially during urban driving. Look ahead for obstructions or traffic signals that may need slowing down for and apply the brakes gently and early. Downshift for gradual speed loss instead of always using the brakes.
Don’t Drag Your Ass
Of course the opposite to the people who don’t use their brakes enough are the people who use them too much. The Nervous Nellie’s who tap the brakes when a brake light 2 miles away goes red, or ride the brakes during any kind of descent.
They may feel like they are playing it safe, but really they are just lining up new order for brake pads. Same as above, look forward for hazards but don’t overreact, and cycle down through the gears to lower speed gently without gouging holes in your poor brake pads.
Cars can take a lot of weight, that’s why stuff like roof racks exist because sometimes you can’t literally squeeze in everything you need. At the same time, remember it’s a car and not a Hercules aircraft – it has its limits, so respect them.
Every vehicle will have its upper load limits. They should be clearly displayed inside the owner’s manual (or you can look them up online easy enough, Google is (sometimes) your friend). Just bear them in mind when you are loading up for a long drive, as too much weight can damage the suspension, the braking system, the drive train and the engine. So basically everything apart from the radio.
Slow Your Shifts
This bad habit is most likely to kick in when you are trying to maneuver the car into a small parking spot, which can be stressful enough by itself. Even so, that’s no excuse to make your car suffer which is what you’ll do if you don’t slow those gearshifts down.
Specifically, we’re talking about shifting between forward and reverse without letting the car come to a complete stop. In Automatics, you are placing all the strain of stopping the vehicle on the transmission band. That is really not a good thing to do, as that can be a nightmare to replace.
In manual cars, you will hear that horrible Crunch noise as you move the car between forward and reverse gears. Anything that sounds that bad is, spoiler alert, really, really bad for the car. So stop doing it!
A Gentle Warm Up
Hey, what would happen if you were in bed, minding your own business, only for someone to suddenly wake you up, hop on your back and make you run down the street? For one thing you would be the latest participant in our new Friday night game Neighborhood Surprise Horseracing Challenge. Another thing is you would snap a hamstring halfway down the road.
Your car is the same. If you are in the habit of firing the ignition, especially on cold mornings, slipping it into drive and taking off you are doing serious damage to the engine. Let the car idle for a few minutes before you start to drive. That gives the engine oil time to warm up and start doing its job – protecting your engine.
Read the Signs
All those displays on your dashboard are not just pretty little lights for you to stare at when you’re stuck in heavy traffic. They are there to help you to keep the car healthy, and ignoring them (or not even noticing them) is a real bad habit to get into.
Seriously, we don’t want to sound like nags here because we are well too cool for that. But all of these things are designed to keep your car running smoothly – even the windshield washer. So when lights start firing up on the dash don’t ignore them.
Hitting the Open Road (Literally)
Your car needs a road to drive on, that’s obvious. But the road itself can often be it’s biggest challenge, especially poorly maintained ones. Potholes are apparently costing us drivers around $3 billion in repair bills every year.
$3 billion, that’s insane!
Of course, a lot of the time you won’t be able to do much but it’s a bad habit to happily smash through potholes or other things like that when you can avoid them. This goes back to the points above about breaking, where we mentioned looking ahead for hazards and reacting early. You can put potholes under the heading of “Hazard,” and you should definitely avoid them if you can.
That’s it. Oh we’re sure there are other bad habits you have – racing with the cops, handbrake turns in the company parking lot, normal stiff like that. But the list above perfectly highlights the kind of habits that are easy to pick up over time, but which can do serious damage to your car.
The good thing about bad habits though is that you can easily get out of them with just a little effort. Now, where did that old bitch in the Gremlin go?