car maintenance

12 Ways You Could Be Shortening the Life of Your Car

Other than buying a home, investing in a car is probably one of the most significant purchases you will ever make. Whether you opt to get a used vehicle or a model right off the show-room floor, it is definitely in your financial best interest to protect and preserve your purchase. You can go a long way toward achieving that goal if you take heed of the top mistakes drivers make that reduce the appearance as well as the lifespan of their rides.

Procrastinating On Washing

Regularly washing your car might seem like fun on the occasional hot summer day, but life can get busy and distracting. Plus, you probably fall into the mindset that the vehicle will just get dirty in a day or two anyway, so why go through the aggravation of washing it? The answer goes far beyond having a car that looks shiny and well-tended. Sporting a clean and waxed car also helps to protect your paint and reduce the likelihood of rust damage. Although those chilly winter months make it tough to get up the motivation to give your vehicle a regular bath, it’s especially important to clean the underside of your car at that time of the year. Doing so will do a lot to minimize the damage that corrosive salt and road grime can sustain to the bare metal of your chassis.

Maintaining a grime-free vehicle does not just apply to the outside. You should also take a few minutes to remove built-up sludge and dirt from the exterior of your engine. It’s a small thing, but this debris really can shorten the working career of your car’s motor. Therefore, it’s time well spent.

Not Addressing Minor Damage

If the surface of your car has gotten to the point where you can see small scratches, dents and dings, you will need to take your external maintenance routine to the next level. Fortunately, minor damage such as this does not require full-scale body work. At very little cost, you can purchase car touch up paint that can be perfectly matched to your vehicle’s make, model and color.

Failing to Watch For Potholes

Especially in climates where there are extremes in temperature that vary from blisteringly hot summers to frigid winters, roads take a beating. To make things worse, many communities lack the financial resources to be proactive about fixing problems with local thoroughfares. As a result, potholes are an everyday reality for most of us regardless of the season. While you cannot avoid them 100 percent of the time, do all you can to protect your struts and wheel rims by slowing to a crawl if you see one in front of you. It also can’t hurt to report the really bad ones to municipal authorities.

Too Frugal With Fuel

It’s fine to adhere to a budget, but you really can’t afford to cut corners in the long run when it comes to the kind of fuel you put in your car. If the manufacturer recommends premium and you regularly settle for a tankful of low octane, the efficiency of your engine will suffer. Sooner or later, you will also start to see those disturbing warning lights start to flash on your dashboard.

The same holds true of the oil you buy. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will specify the optimal viscosity of motor oil that you should use, and this information is provided for a good reason. Cutting corners on what goes into your vehicle will result in poorer performance and more frequent – and costly – trips to the mechanic.

Compromising on Parts

You also can’t afford to sacrifice performance by purchasing sub-standard or discount parts. Not all spark plugs are created equal, for instance. Be sure you choose plugs with the correct heat range for your car. When it comes to air and fuel filters, your best bet is to go with the ones you can get from your dealer or, at the very least, filters that are name-brand.


Relaxation might be a great way for us human beings to cut down on stress, but too much of it isn’t good for us. The same can be said for your vehicle. Leaving it for weeks or months in an outdoor or even covered indoor area without driving it can result in a variety of undesirable consequences that include reduction or total stoppage of battery function, misshapen tires and stale gasoline. What’s more, mice and other creepy critters can take up residence in your engine, creating all sorts of problems and even bad smells that can take months to remove. If you anticipate being away from your vehicle for a protracted length of time, take some preventive steps by over-filling the tires, connecting your battery to a trickle charger and placing mothballs soaked in peppermint oil in strategic locations to keep the little beasties away.

Driving Crooked

Many of the cars you see every day are operating with a serious deficit: their wheels are misaligned as a result of wearing or damage to suspension parts. Cars with this problem develop uneven wear on their tires as well as reduced fuel efficiency. If your vehicle pulls sharply or even slightly in a particular direction, your steering wheel vibrates or is crooked or you notice that one tire is more worn than the others, you may have a wheel misalignment and should have it checked out by a mechanic.

Cold Driving

On those blustery winter mornings, one of the worst things you can do to your car is to rev it up and immediately attempt to drive it at full throttle. An engine that is cold and has been sitting in a chilly environment requires a couple of minutes to get up to the appropriate driving temperature. Before you back out of your parking spot, check the temperature gauge, and don’t start driving until it says “normal.”

Being Lax About Brakes

This should go without saying, but your brakes are one of the most vital components of your car. Taking care of them needs to be one of your highest priorities. You might think you’re doing all you can to tend to your brakes because you get them checked regularly. That’s a great start, but also be aware of your daily driving behaviors. Specifically, excessively pumping the brakes or having an ultra-heavy foot causes faster wearing of pads and rotors and can lead to poorer performance.

Another mistake that people often make is to minimize the signs of brake problems, putting off doing anything about them until another day. This could literally cost you your life. If you notice a squealing, squeaking or whining noise when you brake, a difference in the performance of your brakes or a burning smell when you are driving, you should get your car checked right away. Other symptoms of brake problems include leaking brake fluid, activation of your car’s brake light and a soft or spongy-feeling brake pedal.

Pushing the Limits

These days, the price of fuel can fluctuate wildly from one day to the next. Even in the same town, the costs can vary starkly. For that reason, many people find themselves putting off filling their tank in hopes of finding a bargain a few miles down the road. For some, the consequence is running on empty even after the fuel light comes on. When you do this, you are placing yourself in danger of running out of gas altogether, perhaps in a deserted place far from help. What’s more, the debris and dirt that normally stays settled at the bottom of your tank starts to be moved throughout the entire engine. Eventually, corrosion, diminished efficiency and other damage can result.

Your pricey heat pump is another potential casualty of running on empty. This device that conveys the fuel from your tank into the engine is cooled and lubricated by the gas in your tank. If there isn’t enough of this fuel, your pump can overheat and fail. When that happens, you will be stuck with the hefty bill to replace it.


Especially if you have a snazzy sports car, it’s all too tempting to put the pedal to the metal more often than you might like to admit. You may even have received the pricey tickets to prove that hyper-acceleration isn’t necessarily the best idea in the world. If your engine could talk, it would agree. That’s because going at high speeds requires your engine to pump more fuel and move faster than it is optimally designed for. Your best bet is to stay within the posted limits since most vehicles perform best at speeds between 50 and 55 mph.

Blowing Off Tire Care

Anyone who has ever attempted to go for an extended walk with aching or blistered toes or heels knows just how important it is to consider the well-being of your feet before undertaking a journey. Your car’s tires are the equivalent of its feet and, just as is the case with yours, they should be taken care of on a regular basis. Driving around on worn or bald tires lowers your car’s fuel efficiency, increases your gas consumption, compromises the performance of your engine and shortens its lifespan. In addition, tires are what connect you to the road and give you traction. Failing to have them checked and replaced regularly can lead to lasting car damage while simultaneously putting you in danger.

It’s all too easy to take your car for granted. However, you probably rely on it every day to get you safely from place to place. If it could talk, it would probably beg you to take just a few minutes each day to ensure that it is looking, sounding and running well. In the end, doing so will be a gift you give back to yourself many times over.