is an integral part of life in many countries around the world. We use it for
sport, for travel, and for work. In the United States for example, with the average household having 1.9 personal
vehicles, and both small and large businesses utilising varying fleets of
vehicles, there are generally a LOT of wheels – and drivers – on the road. The
same has become increasingly true here in the UK over recent decades.
The sheer amount of vehicles on the road at any given time underscores how important cars have become to our lives. It is therefore important that people understand the effects that poor driving habits can have on everything from fuel efficiency, vehicle lifespans, to safety.
When it comes to the reliability and life expectancy of a vehicle, one thing that owners and drivers have complete control over is maintenance. However, maintenance is one thing that many drivers tend to neglect, put off until some vague future point, or even simply ignore. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when taking care of your own vehicle(s) and how they can affect both performance and your long term costs.
1. Park Brake (the ‘hand brake’)
While this one may be surprising, not using your park brake (aka the hand brake) can actually have a larger impact on your vehicle than you might expect. By not using your hand brake after stopping you are putting all the vehicles weight on the regular brakes and rotors. Parking brakes are installed for a good reason, and should be considered for use at most times, but especially on any sort of incline.
2. Driving with small amounts of fuel in the tank
Another interesting maintenance-related fact is the effect low fuel levels can have on the fuel pump. By consistently running a vehicle on low fuel, increased stress is placed on the fuel pump, which could lead to you needing to prematurely replace another integral part of your vehicle. Of course, that isn’t something that would happen overnight, but this is certainly something to consider when thinking about vehicle maintenance.
3. Hard starts and stops
While this is potentially already common knowledge to many, stopping and starting quickly can impact both your fuel consumption, your brake pads and rotors, but also even your own safety. Excessive braking puts undue and unnecessary wear on the pads and rotors, leading to a shortened change interval. When starting and stopping quickly, your vehicle’s engine consumes more fuel, which of course is wasteful, whilst this habit rarely gets you any further ahead on your journey.
Finally, trying to race off from a stop sign or green light, or braking suddenly at any given stop, can create the uncertain circumstances that make the road more dangerous for all road users. When someone suddenly stops in front of you, you can only hope that your reaction time is fast enough to stop short of an accident.
4. Switching from Reverse to Forward Drive while still moving
This is an unfortunately common habit. While it seems simple and easy enough when going at a slower pace, it still isn’t clever move. When you think about how your engine works (what direction all the pieces are moving in), suddenly forcing them to move or turn in the opposite direction will inevitably cause problems. Again, because this is often done at slow speeds, it won’t be something that immediately destroys your engine, but could have long term effects on the drivetrain and transmission, both of which are quite expensive to replace.
5. Changing the oil, air filters, and spark plugs
While there can be many reasons to change your oil, one thing that can be left up to personal choice is how often it should generally be done. The myth has been it should be done every 3,000 miles, but this has been rebuked. The reason oil should be changed though has a lot to do with not only lengthening your vehicle’s lifespan, but how it can reduce costs with regard to part replacements.
As oil gets older, or is put under extreme circumstances (for example driving in/around dirt roads, prolonged time spent in cold environments, or when frequently hauling large/heavy loads) it begins to break down and get less viscous, becoming ‘sludgier’ and thicker. The issue which arises from this goes directly against what oil is used for; making sure all the moving parts in your engine face the least amount of resistance. Most of the moving parts in a vehicle tend to be in difficult-to-access places, which makes replacing them both laborious and expensive.
Air filters are another part of an engine that, whilst not necessarily impacting hugely on your mileage, can affect acceleration. Though it may not seem of vital importance, acceleration can be a huge benefit when travelling on the motorway and it becomes necessary to pass someone.
Spark plugs are a vital part of the combustion engine and as such can have a huge impact on your vehicle’s fuel economy. Spark plug issues can lead to other parts of your engine needing to be replaced, such as your catalytic converter, as a result of excess fuel creating higher temperatures during the motor’s combustion process.
A few other factors that can affect fuel waste include tire pressure, idling, and unnecessary weight. Be aware that even the small things can have incremental effects on your fuel consumption – and the longevity or your vehicle!