8 ways you might be damaging your car
When it comes to our cars, we’ve all cut a few corners here and there – whether it’s for convenience, cost or a seemingly new ‘life hack’. We take a look at eight shortcuts that could actually be damaging your car.
1. Mixing coolants
These days, you can buy coolant just about anywhere, so it’s easy to assume they’re all the same. However, while they’re all made to cool down the engine and prevent corrosion and erosion, different products are manufactured with various chemical compounds and ratios.
This means mixing different varieties and brands dilutes their effectiveness and throws out the balance of chemicals pumping through the engine.
What’s more, while you can top up the level with just water if you get stuck, this is only a quick fix – usually a 50/50 mixture of water and coolant should be used in the long term. If you’re not sure what’s best for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual.
2. Choosing the wrong engine oil
Much like coolant, not all engine oil is created equal; and it’s your car that dictates what works and what doesn’t. Engine oil is a lubricant that reduces wear on moving parts, so using one that’s not right for your car can lead to excessive friction and premature engine failure.
The thickness of the oil when it’s cold and hot is what matters to ensure parts keep moving freely, and your owner’s manual will outline the requirements for your car. Make sure you always check the bottle and use the one recommended.
3. Using household cleaning products
There’s no doubt kitchen detergent, soap and household cleaning agents are excellent at removing dirt, grime and oil. But when it comes to your car, they’re also great at stripping the protective finishes on your paint, making it more susceptible to peeling, bubbling and fading.
Automotive cleaners are specifically designed to be mild and non-abrasive, while removing common dirt and build-up. For stubborn areas – like wheels, under the hood or beneath the vehicle – automotive retailers stock cleaning agents that should do the trick. Just make sure you use a nonabrasive rag to prevent scratches.
4. Driving a dirty car
Bugs on the windscreen, bird droppings, tree sap, dust and chemicals are an inevitability of driving a car, and doesn’t it feel as though a spec of dirt appears mere minutes after you’ve washed it?
All the same, keeping your car clean is important to maintain the quality of the paint – in fact, leaving it for too long could cause damage to the extent that it requires the paintwork to be sanded back and resprayed. And that means lots of dollars!
Our tip? Spot-clean as soon as possible, and give your vehicle a good once-over regularly. This is even more important if your car is parked in an industrial area where acidic properties may be in the air and land on your car, also stripping the paint.
5. Incorrect tyre inflation
Your tyres are all that’s keeping you from the road and that makes them an important safety feature. Therefore, you should always make sure they’re in good nick.
An under-inflated tyre can cause the car to pull to one side, affecting
your steering, stability and drag. This means it’ll take the car longer to stop and also increase fuel consumption.
Over-inflated tyres can equally lead to uneven tread, a blow-out or reduced traction. Check the specification for your car and keep the tyre pressure to your manufacturer’s recommendation.
6. Stretching servicing intervals
When life gets in the way, it’s easy to push recommended servicing intervals out a bit – what’s a few months here or a couple thousand kilometres there, right?
In reality, manufacturer-recommended intervals are already set at the outer limits, so stretching them out could end up being costly.
Over time, engine oil becomes less efficient at protecting components, brakes wear down and filters degenerate. And while they seem like small pieces of the puzzle, they can cause engine failure, diminish safety and reduce fuel efficiency.
Plus, if your car’s still under warranty and you’ve skipped or delayed services that end up causing problems, you may not be eligible to claim on the warranty.
7. Riding the clutch
In a manual, it can be tempting to ‘ride the clutch’ while driving or stationary in traffic – that is, keeping slight continual pressure on the clutch while still in gear.
Although this technique helps control speed when in reverse, and aids smoother transitions in stop-start traffic, it causes significant wear.
When engaging the clutch, a whole host of parts come into play, and keeping it engaged unnecessarily means they get more use than intended. Similarly, holding the car on a slope allowing the clutch to
slip to stop rolling back will certainly wear out the clutch prematurely too.
8. Parking on damp lawn
As well as not being too good for the lawn in your garden, continually parking a car on damp grass can cause moisture to get into electrical components in the vehicle, leading to corrosion and damaging
Harmful condensation can also occur when the vehicle has just been
used, as the warm engine moisture comes to rise and condense on the underside of the bonnet.
Looking for more motoring advice? Our Technical Advisory Service is here to help. Just email TechAdvisory@raa.com.au or call 8202 4689.
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