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5 Surprising Ways You May Be Hurting Your Car

You’re driving down the highway when you notice the gas needle creeping toward empty. Do you pull off at the next rest stop, or do you push your luck and see how far you can go?

If you’re a fan of “gas-gauge chicken,” consider this: It may actually be damaging your car.

True, modern cars are more dependable than their predecessors, but some common behaviors can put unnecessary wear and tear on a vehicle. “A car is an investment,” says Richard Reina, product training director at So not only should you perform regular maintenance, he says, but you should also avoid the following.

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Forgetting The Parking Brake

Female driver with black manual handheld“With automatic transmission cars,” says Reina, “people presume that they don’t need the parking brake.” But that isn’t so. Putting the car in park engages the parking pawl, a small metal pin that disengages the transmission’s output. This can put (literally) tons of weight on that little metal pin, especially on an incline—an unintended distribution of pressure that can cause premature wear on the pawl. The job of the parking brake is to immobilize the wheels, easing the burden while also providing a measure of protection for the pawl.

Letting Your Tires Get Low

Tire Pressure GaugeEach new vehicle today must, by law, have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which alerts the driver when one of the tires gets low. Some drivers assume they don’t have to check their tires unless the TPMS light goes on. But this is a mistake, says Reina. Before the threshold for the TPMS is even reached, driving with an underinflated tire can affect your vehicle’s performance. “Even being a few pounds off,” says Reina, “can affect your fuel economy, as well as how the car handles and brakes.”

Keeping The Tank Near Empty

Close-up car dash board petrol meter, fuel gauge, with over full gasoline in car. Clip. Gasoline sensorReina says he used to run his fuel tank down near empty before he learned how much it was damaging his fuel pump, an electric tool designed to remain immersed in the car’s fuel. When gas runs very low, the fuel pump can be exposed and begin to overheat. It cools again when the tank is full, but over time, that cycle of cooling and heating can cause damage. “I try to refill my tank when I get to one quarter or one eighth of a tank, to extend the fuel pump’s life,” he says.

Ignoring Your Windshield Wipers

windshield wiperFailing to change your wiper blades can result in diminished performance and even in scratched windshields, which in inclement weather can pose serious safety risks due to distorted visibility. “I recommend changing your wiper blades once a year,” says Reina. “Just before winter, when you want the blades to really clean the windshield well.” Consider changing them sooner if your car usually sits outside, or if you live in a warm climate.

Shifting Abruptly From Reverse To Drive

Man switching gear of automatic transmission, on the roadHave you ever noticed the way your car lurches when you shift from reverse to drive without coming to a complete stop? This abrupt change in direction puts unnecessary strain on your transmission and driveline components, and it can cause that uncomfortable shudder. If you’re not in the habit of coming to a complete stop before changing gears, give it a try—your transmission will thank you.

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Read More: What’s it sound like when a car cries for help? See if you recognize any of these 7 Car Noises You Should Never Ignore.

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    Leave a comment

  1. Paul Myers says,

    When do you slow down, or speed up when you see a speed limit signs?

    The following examples will help you from getting a speeding ticket.

    Example, : Increase in speed limit.
    Speed is 55mph you see a sign that says 70. You don’t speed up as soon as you see the sign, you speed up after the sign, because before the sign it is still 55 and you could get a ticket.

    Example: Decrease in speed limit.
    Speed is 70mph and you see a sign that says 55mph. You slow down as soon as you see the sign because after the sign it is 55mph.

  2. Paul Myers says,

    The light just turned green.
    Do you:
    A. Gun it to be first.
    B. Take off fast.
    C. Go with the crowd.
    D. Slowly easy forward.
    The answer is D.
    Taking off fast, or going with the crowd will cut your fuel millage and will effect the life of you engine, transmission, and tires. I’ve even seen some people with one foot on the brake and one on the gas and pushing down on the gas peddle to speed the engine up for a fast take off. This will really harm your engine and transmission!

    • Hermina says,

      I do the same in reverse, as soon as I see a traffic light change to yellow or red I take my foot of the gas. I also drive at a smooth pace, keeping withing speed limits. Unless I have to make a left turn I keep driving in the right/slow lane. I usually meet up at the traffic light with the speeders. This habit provides for excellent gas mileage.

  3. Paul Myers says,

    For those of you who needs to take a right turn and turn left before turning right. This causes excessive wear on your on your steering components, your tires, and as well as scaring the driver who is next to you. Unless your an 18 wheeler or are towing a long trailer there is no need to turn left before turning right.

  4. Bill Gimbrede says,

    When starting a cold engine, put your seatbelt on before you shift to drive or reverse. This allows the engine oil to get up to the top of the engine to lubricate valves and other parts which are distant from the oil pan

  5. Kevin Carbone, PhD says,

    As both a motorsports photographer and having the good fortune to have been on two different race car teams, I have had the pleasure of driving a Ferrari BB512 at speed on the track, also a Chevron B19 Vintage sports race, and an Indy Light. Thus have no need to race on the street. Hope one of the new features in “automated cars” is car separation. I am not amazed by the number of incompetent drivers. We have spell checkers for filling out forms such as this…wake up Detroit.

  6. Randi Bowen says,

    Why when you’re putting gas in and the gas thing keep clicking and stop fueling, and it makes you almost restart over???

  7. Richard B says,

    All good advice. Especially regarding low fuel tank. I had a truck that fuel pump failed within 3 years of replacement at a cost of $800. I didn’t let tank go below 1/4 after that . $ always get my attention. Lessons learned.

  8. Francis says,

    I’m sure you gave good advice and I try to do all of them.Some people don’t know and they have problems for repairs.thank you for your help.!!

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