When it comes to the safety of your vehicle, auto insurance is just one part of the equation. Have you ever wondered why some people can keep their vehicles on the road seemingly forever, while others trash theirs in record time? It’s not rocket science, but some drivers have an innate ability to make mistakes that ruin cars. The key words here may be “without trying” to maintain their vehicles so they run at their peak for a long time.
Needless to say, we’re all different. Some of us take the time to check fluids, tire pressure, headlights and tail lights for functionality, but a few of us take the beast we drive for granted. After all, cars are meant to be driven and trucks driven harder. Interesting point of view but, when you consider the price of a new car or truck these days…keeping it running should be a priority.
Those of you who unlock the doors, turn the ignition key and drive away on a regular basis, without so much as checking to see when you last had your vehicle serviced, are headed for a costly conversation with a mechanic.
Here are the five most common mistakes that drivers make that are sure to speed up the demise of their vehicle.
1. Ignoring Regular Maintenance Schedule
Neglect and mistreatment will turn your new vehicle into an unappreciative pile of junk in no time, especially if you make a habit of it. Your vehicle’s manufacturer sets maintenance guidelines for a reason. Regular service, including oil and filter replacement at the proper mileage intervals, as well as inspecting transmission fluid, air filter, and brake pads can keep the vehicle running and operating safely. Of course, you can always wait until the engine or transmission give out and drop some heavy cash to replace them.
How to Avoid Mistakes That Ruin Cars
Your engine is comprised of many elements and systems, all of which need proper ongoing care. This includes getting a regular oil change (according to your owner’s manual specifications) and using the proper motor oil. The oil change and the choice to use either a synthetic (the best for most modern cars) motor oil or a conventional oil are up to you – what’s important is doing this regularly.
Don’t neglect a hot engine, either. If your radiator needs water and doesn’t get it, your engine could seize – a major problem. Radiator coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze and this fluid is used throughout your engine to cool things down.
Although you cannot maintain a fuel pump in the same manner you can your radiator, there are some tips you can use to keep it working longer. Use only a good quality fuel, try to keep your fuel tank at least half full and don’t get gas if the tanker is there fueling the station. The average cost of a new fuel pump is around $800, so try to keep yours healthy as long as possible.
Your battery is also an important component. Although most modern batteries are maintenance free, you should have your battery load-tested during your annual service.
2. Ignoring the All-Important Dash Warning Lights
Those annoying flashing engine or other lights on your instrument panel are nothing more than a warning and can be ignored until something really bad happens, right? Well, actually, those annoying lights may be telling you something bad is about to happen to your engine or other vital component of your vehicle. If a dashboard light comes on while driving, address the problem immediately. Don’t wait! Ignoring these lights is at the top of the list for car mistakes that may end up costing you a lot of money.
You may have to look in your manual to find out what these little flashing or lit up icons mean but do that as quickly as possible.
How to Interpret Dashboard Lights
It’s really no work at all to look in your manual for the example of the lighted icon and what it means. Some lights are for information only (such as to let you know the temp has dropped below 40 degrees and you should stay alert for ice) to that dreaded engine light, which is an example of something that needs attention immediately.
Your manual has many parts to it, but the order is fairly clear cut. You should familiarize yourself with the parts you may need, such as recommendations for when you need an oil change, what kind of oil to use and so on.
3. Incorrect Shifting and Other Tranny Mistakes That Ruin Cars
Whether you have a manual or automatic transmission, there are things to do to make sure you don’t spend unnecessary funds trying to repair them. For your automatic tranny, experts say you should avoid shifting the transmission from drive into reverse or the other way around while the vehicle is still moving. The more often you do this the more money you’re going to spend in a short period of time. Transmissions are extremely costly to replace and this type of “jerky” practice can destroy an automatic transmission fairly quickly.
For the manual transmission, take your foot completely off the clutch every time you gear shift. “Riding the clutch” puts too much strain on the clutch and gearbox. Understand what gear you are supposed to be in when driving. If you drive in the wrong gear, you will wear your gear shift out faster and cause major problems.
Never try to pull more weight than your vehicle’s towing capacity.
How to Take Better Care of Your Transmission
Even though the manual transmission is getting more rare, there are things you can do to keep it – and the automatic transmission – healthy for longer.
- Remember when we talked about keeping the system cool? Your transmission will also thank you since cool fluids help your gearbox, too.
- Flush your transmission regularly. Typically, this is something a professional mechanic will do.
- Use the right type pf transmission fluid.
Your tranny, whether auto or manual, consists of gears. These gears need the correct fluid to mesh together and allow you – or your vehicle – to gear shift. Use the right fluids to avoid mistakes that ruin cars.
4. Erratic Driving
Peeling rubber at a stop light, only to brake hard at the next light – 200 yards away – isn’t doing your car any good. While driving like this won’t necessarily destroy your engine, transmission or braking system on the spot, over time it will. Repeatedly pushing your car this way can lead to premature fluid leaks and broken seals, as well as early brake pad and rotor replacement. Driving too fast over a speed bump can cause damage, as well. The speed bump is there for a reason and you may cause damage to your vehicle by disregarding it.
Remember, too, that erratic driving is a cause of accidents. An accident has ramifications that extend beyond regular maintenance. If you cause an accident due to excessive speed or other behavior, your insurance company will likely jack up your premium. You may end up paying out of pocket for property damage to your own vehicle, as well as any property damage and injuries over your policy limit for other people.
In today’s world, injuries can be a cause of financial ruin. If your driving behavior causes an accident, the injuries of other people will be your responsibility after your insurance has paid out. People who suffer injuries may hire a personal injury attorney, who may go after your assets, such as your house, as a way to provide compensation for ongoing injuries. Your insurance company will rely partly on the police report from the car accident case.
How to Drive Like a Pro
Since you aren’t a professional race car driver, there’s no good reason to drive like one. But there are things you can do to help you drive well and protect your investment on wheels.
- As we’ve discussed, keep your car in good condition.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Don’t tailgate.
- Start smoothly and brake smoothly.
- Take a defensive driving course. Bonus, some insurance companies give a discount for taking this type of course.
Having the right information in your hands will keep you – and your car – safe on the road. And don’t forget, insurance companies give some of their biggest discounts to those who have proven themselves to be safe drivers.
5. Delaying Tire Replacement
Tires are not cheap and sometimes you have to wait until the money is available to get some new rubber on your car. Understandable. However, you don’t want to put it off to the point that your life is at risk and your vehicle could cause a crash.
Bald tires are extremely dangerous in the rain, with the chance of hydroplaning a virtual reality. If one of the tires blow out, you could easily lose control and wind up causing more damage to your vehicle than a new set of tires would have cost.
How to Check Your Tires
Maybe you’ve already heard of the penny test. It’s an example of a simple test to check the tread on your tires. All you have to do is stick a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head in the groove. As long as Abe’s head is covered, you are good to go!
Taking Care of Your Investment Means Finding Affordable Auto Insurance Too
In the end, not adhering to routine maintenance can cost you in another way – by voiding your vehicle’s manufacturer’s warranty, which means whatever you blow up is on your dime. Your insurance probably won’t help you if you have been negligent or careless about taking care of your ride.
When it comes to car insurance, if you’re ignoring the fact that you may be paying too much and don’t do anything about it, you’re tossing your money away. The best way to find low cost auto insurance is by comparing rates. Get a fast and free quote online, call us at (800) 777-5620 or visit us at one of our convenient locations.