Is your driving secretly damaging your car?

Resting your hand on the gear stick, ignoring the handbrake, and revving the engine before it's warm - these are the bad driving habits secretly damaging your car.

Friday, 28th July 2017, 4:21 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:44 pm
Do you ignore dash lights?
Do you ignore dash lights?

Experts from a leading Lancashire auto breakdown firm, 24|7 Home Rescue, say thousands of UK motorists are blissfully ignorant of how road routines are harming their vehicle.

And even seemingly innocuous acts could be doing unseen destruction.

Resident expert Ranjen Gohri, who’s gearing up for a busy school holiday season as Brits take to the highways with their families in tow, outlines the following tips that could make the difference between a roadside breakdown and your car passing its MOT with flying colours.

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He says: “We all have driving habits - some good, and some bad.

“And most Brit car owners realise that neglecting maintenance and ignoring dash warning lights are a bad thing.

“But in our experience very few understand that the actual way they drive their vehicle can also have a massive impact on its health.

“And we’re not just talking about driving it like you’ve just stolen it every time you turn the ignition key - even simple things like resting your foot on the clutch can have an adverse effect on performance and reliability."

Here’s 24|7 Home Rescue’s guide to the motoring habits damaging your car:

Running the tank low on fuel:

“It might be close to pay day, or you might be curious to see just how far your car can coast on fumes, but running your vehicle low on fuel allows the dirt, rust and grime that sits at the bottom of your fuel tank to get sucked in to the system.

"This detritus then attacks the fuel pump and filters. Your fuel also acts as a lubricant and coolant for the fuel pump. Letting the fuel run dry causes increased wear and tear to the pump, leading to failure, a stop by the side of the road, and eventually an expensive replacement.”

Resting your hand on the gear stick:

“It sounds insignificant but resting your hand on the gear stick could be affecting your transmission. Your gearstick is attached to a control rod in the gearbox that has selector forks. And this selector fork is designed to only make contact with the whirring gears for a short amount of time.

"Plonk your hand on the gear stick with a certain force and you will end up forcing the selector fork against the rotating collar, resulting in unnecessary wear. Fit an armrest instead!”

Resting foot on the clutch pedal:

“You might not realise it, but your foot is heavy and resting it on the clutch pedal while driving could mean you are engaging your clutch ever so gently while driving.

"This causes the release bearing to ride against the pressure plate, which presses ever so slightly onto the clutch itself. This causes the clutch disc to heat and ultimately wear. And if you need a new clutch, you’re going to have to put your hand in your pocket.”

Revving the engine before it’s warm:

“An athlete wouldn’t think of going for a sprint without warming up first - they’d be asking for an injury. Yet some drivers don’t apply that theory to their engines. When you start the engine, the oil pump pushes oil around the system and this oil takes time to fully circulate.

"So, starting up the car and driving straight away is like waking up from a deep sleep, opening your eyes and then immediately trying to do a 100m hurdle race! Leave the engine to run for 10 seconds before setting off.”

Delaying regular maintenance:

“When our rescue drivers pick up stranded motorists, they’ll often notice that the ‘service’ light is lit up on the dash of the broken-down car. Yes, it’s a pain keeping up with the services, and expensive, too, but if you don’t you’ll suffer a build up of horrible sludge and burnt oil in your engine.

"This muck can block oil galleries and stop the oil protecting your engine, which can result in catastrophic failure. And when you change the car’s oil, make sure you change the filter, too.”

Ignoring dash warning lights:

“A recent British survey found that a whopping 98 per cent of drivers didn’t really understand the most common dashboard warning lights, such as tire pressure, engine emission and fog-light indicators. It’s not all that surprising, considering some cars have around 40 different warning lights.

"You might, wrongly, ignore a message telling you that a bulb had blown. But ignore one that says ‘DPF’ - aka ‘diesel particulate filter’ - and you might not even get home. Don’t ignore the dash warnings - because your car’s clever computer knows what its doing.”

Ignoring your handbrake:

“If you’ve got an automatic car, it might be tempting to simply always leave it in ‘Park’ mode rather than engaging the handbrake. But doing this puts lots of pressure on one part - a little metal pin called the ‘pawl’, which engages a notched ring that’s attached to the transmission output shaft.

"Over a long period of time, abusing the pawl can dislodge or damaged it, meaning you might one day leave your house, look frantically for your missing car, only to find it ‘parked’ at the bottom of a hill…”

Stamping on the brakes:

“We all need to perform emergency stops sometimes. But if you’re always on the brakes because you’re driving too close to the car in front, you need to have a word with yourself and back off. Sudden stops cause faster wear to the brake pads and rotors and damage them, too.”

Being in too high a gear:

“You might think you’re saving fuel by keeping the engine revs low, but ‘lugging’ - aka being in too high a gear at too low a speed - actually creates unnecessary strain on the engine and can damage your cylinder heads, leading to expensive repairs. Similarly, using a low gear that has the engine screaming is going to cause unnecessary wear and tear, too.”

Not letting your ‘turbo’ cool down:

“Has your car got a ‘turbocharger’? This is a contraption that forces extra air into the combustion chamber and increases power. And it takes longer to cool down, compared to your engine, when you come to halt. If you’ve been driving in a suitably ‘enthusiastic’ manner, It’s important you idle the engine for around a minute before switching off in order to make your turbocharger last longer and make sure the bearings don’t go kaput.”