How to avoid upsetting your car

Car care and maintenance that can prevent repairs

Cars are sensitive machines that depend on a number of interconnected parts to function properly, but these parts can become damaged or worn out as a result of the way you drive.

Nobody is a perfect driver and we all make mistakes – but there are some things you can do to avoid damage to your car.

Road bumps

Not many things beat driving on a brand new road – unfortunately, not all roads are as flat as we might like. Some roads will have bumps and cracks that, if you aren’t careful, can cause serious damage to your car.

Potholes are formed by the effect thawing ice has on the cracks in road surfaces. Going fast over potholes can result in buckled or unbalanced wheels, cracked or lumpy tyres, or damaged suspension. Keep an eye out for potholes and other signs of road damage as it might just save you a tidy sum in car repairs.

Pothole in road

Speed bumps are designed to be an obstacle, so not slowing down for them can cause damage to your suspension, tyres, exhaust and other parts underneath your car. As their intention is generally to slow traffic – normally to 20mph – keeping to this speed or slower should reduce the risk of damage to your car.

Kerbs are often climbed to get out of the way of emergency vehicles or simply to manoeuvre out of a parking space or road. But, if you misjudge the grip on your tyres, or generate too much over or understeer while driving, you can also end up knocking into the kerb. This can wreck tyres and hub caps as well as your steering column and wheel position. Finding reference points for how close the kerb is from different positions can help you avoid this. And you could also ask your passengers to help you judge the distances between the kerb and the wheel.

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Bad driving habits

Many of us feel we are good drivers, but even the best of us can make mistakes. Some bad driving habits can cause damage to your car without you even realising it.

Sudden Braking over a short distance and especially at high speeds can cause your brake discs to become warped from overheating and can wear your brake pads away. While this is often difficult to avoid when driving in a city, it can help to take a less congested route to avoid sudden stops and starts. If you find you have to brake hard a lot, you may be following the car in front too closely.

Riding the clutch or brake is a common gripe with mechanics. The build-up of kinetic energy that happens when you ride the brake can cause the pads and rotor or drum to wear out. This means it’ll take a lot longer for the car to stop when you brake. Riding the clutch can lead to the plates and the pressure pads not engaging properly, so the friction wears away the clutch.

Heating the engine incorrectly is a common issue in the winter. If your car has problems starting in cold weather, often because the engine oil has thickened and can’t fully lubricate the engine. Keeping your car running may feel like the way to warm it up, but a mixture of fuel and air entering the engine can be a waste of fuel and over time cause damage. Driving slowly at the start of your journey can help warm the oil and lubricate the engine parts without wasting too much fuel.

Overloading your car with extra weight – whether you’ve packed the car for a camping trip, moving house or taking stuff to the tip, carrying excess weight can damage the clutch, brakes, tyres and suspension. Make sure you check the maximum authorised mass or maximum permitted weight recommended for your car before driving with a heavy load.

Car boot full

Bad care and maintenance

Cars are sensitive machines that almost always need a little maintenance to keep them road-worthy, so it's important to give them proper care. Neglecting the smaller stuff could leave you without a car.

Ignoring your car fluids or not checking them regularly can lead to them becoming contaminated and ineffective, shortening the life of your car. There are a number of fluids used to keep it running smoothly, such as engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid. Check how often your car’s fluids need to be replaced in the manual and make sure these are kept topped-up and are regularly serviced.

Driving with low fuel is equally as dangerous to your car. When running out of fuel, the car takes it from the bottom of the tank where fuel contaminants often collect. A build-up of these can block your fuel filter and get into the engine, where they may cause more damage. Keeping the fuel tank half-full at all times can stop this from happening.

Rain and moisture can cause serious damage to newer cars which depend heavily on microchips, computers, and other electronic technology. Check that your windows and sunroof are closed, especially in the rainy seasons.

Tyre maintenance is often overlooked but very important as driving with worn, incorrectly inflated, or old tyres have an increased risk of blowing out or, if the road is wet, hydroplaning, which can be a major hazard. Your car manual should have instructions on when and how to check the condition of your tyres as well as the correct pressure.

Stress on window wipers from ice, snow and slush can make it difficult for wipers to work, putting stress on the motor and the wiper blades themselves. Using a scraper on windscreens without heating elements is a good way to remove ice, using de-icer and adding it to your windscreen wash fluid can also help.

Ignoring the engine light is an invitation for any problem to develop into something more expensive and time-consuming to fix. The engine light is the car’s own way of telling you there’s something wrong, so keep an eye on the dashboard and pay attention to any lights.

Learn more about looking after your car:

Keeping your car happy

Cars can be temperamental at times and when driving conditions aren’t perfect, you might find it’s taking a bit of a beating. Keep your eyes open for bumps on the road and give your car a regular once-over to stop too much damage from being done, while having breakdown cover can give you peace of mind should things go wrong.

Published: 8 February 2017 | Updated: 30 October 2018 | Author: The AA