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News Room

Bad Driving Habits Which Are Damaging Your Car

Jason Snyman
Most drivers will develop several bad driving habits over time. In this article, we look at some of the seemingly innocent things you could be doing that will actually damage your car, and cost you money.

Every driver develops bad driving habits over time. Some of us basically throw K53 out of the window the moment we leave the licensing department. These could include the obvious, danger-to-society type habits, such as:

  • Using your phone while driving; 
  • Eating while driving; 
  • Driving too fast, driving too slow, or completely failing to maintain a consistent speed; 
  • Dive-bomb braking;
  • Taking up two parking spaces, or parking halfway onto the sidewalk;
  • Tailgating; 
  • Rubbernecking along accident sites;
  • Increasing your speed when somebody is trying to overtake you;
  • Not moving out of an emergency vehicle’s way;
  • Shooting gaps, or not giving other drivers a chance to merge;
  • Not using your indicator, or putting your indicator on after you’ve already started to change lanes.

You get the picture. Some of you may have had to stave off a stroke just reading that list, because we’ve all encountered these infuriating people, and worse yet, some of you may have recognised these habits in your own behaviour. 

Many of these habits are incredibly dangerous and harmful, both to ourselves and everybody around us, but they're not the type of bad driving habits that we'll be focusing on today. Instead, we're going to be focusing on some of the many, many bad driving habits that could be damaging your vehicle itself.

Your car doesn't deserve that. It's only trying to be the best car that it can be. Let's take a look!

Running Your Fuel Tank Down To Empty

We've had a rough ride. Last year saw many motorists, for the first time, become acquainted with the feeling of having to fill their tank one R20 at a time. With constant fuel price increases, reaching a record high, and additional taxes forcing many to tighten their belts, it's proven tough to keep that needle anywhere near the halfway mark. 

What many people don’t know, though, is that by running your tank down to empty, you’re damaging your car’s fuel system. Commonly, especially in older cars, fuel pumps that are located in the tank stay cool by staying emerged in the fuel. 

Depending on your car, if you’re running your tank at less than a quarter, there is a very real risk of this fuel pump overheating and wearing out. 

Older cars may also have rust or dirt drifting around at the bottom of the tank, which gets sucked into the combustion chamber, and may block your fuel injectors or carburettor.

Gears And Bad Driving Habits

Gears offer their own set of problems. Sometimes, for instance, we make a mistake, and try to shift into second gear instead of fourth while cruising down a highway. This never ends well. 

Another is not really knowing which gear to use, and when. Picture trying to pull away in fourth gear. Imagine trying to tackle a steep hill and coming in at a not-so-hot in fifth. 

Many of us can’t even conceive of it. It may even reduce you to tears. But these things happen. Daily. It’s tough out there. 

So, not selecting the right gear for the job, such as accelerating in too high a gear, as suggested above, means that your engine has to work way harder than it should. It places unnecessary strain on the motor. The revs need to rise before changing up, particularly when carrying heavy loads or climbing a steep hill. 

Luckily, many modern cars now feature a gearshift indicator light. This nifty little function advises you when to shift up or down a gear. 

Speaking of shifting. You may find that you've formed a habit of reversing out of the driveway, and before the car has come to a halt you’ve crunched the gears into first to pull away in a hurry. 

Don’t do this. In fact, many modern cars won’t even allow you to. An exercise in patience may save you a ton of money on repairing the transmission, engine or axles later on.

Lastly, unless you’re actively changing gears, there’s just no reason to be touching the gear lever. Many drivers have a bad habit of resting their hand on the this lever, which places extra weight on the selector fork, bushings or synchronizers, and leads to internal wear. 

Most owners’ manuals quite specifically advise against this. So, it’s just better to keep both hands on the steering wheel.

Vin Diesel Syndrome

There are so many bad habits which could fall into this category. 

First, and most obvious – do not floor your accelerator. It may seem like a lot of fun to drive this way, but it uses significantly more fuel than when gradually applying the accelerator. Peeling away at the first flicker of green light looks cool in the movies, but in reality, it puts a lot of strain onto key engine components.

High speeds also often come hand in hand with sudden stops, which wear brake pads and rotors. Neither the flooring of the accelerator nor the flooring of the brake is good for your car. 

Resist the urge, Randfonteiners. Resist it.

Riding The Clutch

Ah yes, clutch control. That mythical abilty so elusive to so many drivers. The yardstick by which all other motorists will measure your competence. 

Most drivers, especially those who have no choice but to endure soul-destroying traffic, abuse the clutch without knowing it. It’s a lot easier to ride the clutch as you crawl along a busy road, for instance, than attempting to do the full, proper pull-away over and over again. 

But, it’s bad for the car. The clutch is known to be somewhat of a wear-and-tear item, and as such, it’s usually not covered by any warranty. Spending so much time kangaroo-hopping the clutch leads to damaging the pressure plate, release bearing and release arm. 

Also, sooner or later the cable could snap. In peak traffic. And then the problems really begin. 

It’s much better for the vehicle to only use the clutch when operating the gears. At a stop, keep the clutch out of it, gears in neutral and the handbrake up. 

Many people also tend to rest their foot on the clutch pedal when driving – without even knowing it. It’s important to be mindful of this.

Revving A Cold Engine

All vehicles start from cold. Old men who still own and run the cars they bought back in the 50s will all agree on one simple thing; don’t rev a cold engine. 

What you really want to do on a frigid winter morning is to start your car and leave it running for a while. Let it idle for a minute or two. Give it time to warm up, for the oil to circulate around the engine. 

Revving the engine does not warm it up, contrary to popular belief. 

What it does, instead, is cause abrupt temperature changes which can damage engine components. You want to avoid this undue wear-and-tear.

These are just some of the many bad driving habits that people pick up as they go along, growing more and more comfortable in their driving. Many of them can be attributed to negligence, but some are just down to convenience. Being able to pull away faster, to get to our destinations quicker, to make the ride a little more comfortable. 

Owning a car is a huge responsibility, though, and with fuel prices so high and car insurance and maintenance and upkeep, it can get a little pricey. These days, it certainly doesn’t hurt to save money where you can. 

Use your handbrake when you’re standing still. Don’t ride your brakes downhill. These small changes make a difference. 

Be mindful, and your car will last for a long, long time.

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