Cars, whether new or old, are fickle things. They’re made up of lots of components, some of which are pretty delicate, some of which require massively bad luck to break. You may think that as long as you’re not driving into things, then there’s no reason for anything in your car to go haywire. You’re a careful driver, you’re no more aggressive than anyone else, you’re doing everything you can to keep it running smoothly right?
Don’t worry though! Spares Box is here to help. There are a bunch of ways that you could increase the life of your car (or simply just take better care of it), and they’re all pretty simple. Thanks to our resident mechanic, we’ve highlighted some of the things that Australian drivers do/neglect every day, that could potentially lead to a rather hefty mechanic bill. They could be things you’ve never even realised or even heard of, in which case you can thank us later, or they could be things you’ve been meaning to do for a while. Either way, it’s definitely an idea to start following these rules, and your car will thank you.
1. Warm your car up
We’ve probably all had that friend who has a slightly more expensive, slightly more powerful car that they adore. As such, they always force everyone to wait around for 5 minutes before you all go out because it’s absolutely imperative that they warm their car up. Unfortunately, he’s probably right, and not just about his own car. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a Corvette or a Camry, you should do the same as well.
Allowing your engine to run for a few minutes (especially on particularly cold mornings) will allow all those lovely lubricants to warm up and run throughout your engine, which is kind of crucial in making sure things don’t, well, break. Starting her up on a cold morning and driving off is a big no-no. Your engine just isn’t ready.
2. Been driving for a while? Don’t leave it on too long
If you’ve been driving for any longer than about half an hour, it means your engine is going to be running pretty hot. You may think then, that it’s fine to leave it idling over for a little while afterwards. In one sense, this is true. Particularly for turbocharged cars, it’s beneficial to let things cool down gradually over a period of 5 or 10 minutes, to let everything normalise and avoid heatsoaking.
Except, not really. Granted, the the engine may stay at a good temperature, but you could be causing some other damage you hadn’t even considered. Good engine cylinders have cross hatching bored into them, creating a microscopically rough surface which lets the oil stick to the cylinders. Leaving the engine idling can glaze the cylinders, essentially honing them smooth. These leaves the engine oil with nothing to cling on to, and everything inside the cylinder is left without proper lubrication. I’m sure we don’t have to tell you how costly that could turn out to be.
3. Wash your Car
No one, apart from maybe men in specially designed garages, members of car clubs and James May, actually enjoys washing their car. It’s just going to get dirty anyway, and it doesn’t really add anything to the car apart from a nice shine. However, there are more benefits to it than you might think.
Automotive paint, while designed to withstand more than most paints, can still be quite delicate, and it WILL scar permanently if you don’t look after it. That means washing to get rid of any dirt and grit that’s going to scratch up your shiny paint job, polishing to remove any existing scratches or scuffs, and waxing it to create a protective barrier. Being the most exposed area of your vehicle, the bodywork is also most susceptible to rust, which as we’re sure you know, has the potential to mess your day up in all sorts of ways. A regular wash will remove any contaminants and moisture build up on your body work, preventing rust from spreading.
This is especially important if you live in the city, where there are more pollutants that can get into the finish of your car, potentially corroding it away. Bird poo is also a massive threat to the integrity of your paintwork.
4. Don’t ride the Clutch
Lift your hill-start game. This might mean a little bit of practice to getting it back to the traditional way of letting up the clutch as you release the handbrake, but we can hardly express the amount this is going to extend the life of your clutch. Leaving your clutch half-engaged in order to keep you on a hill is a surefire way to make sure your clutch wears out way before its time, so be kind to your, and do things properly. You probably had to do it to get your license in the first place, so don’t pretend you don’t know how.
Side note: This really extends to all driving. Leaving your clutch half engaged for any longer than a second or two is a bad idea. Either leave the pedal be, or press it down fully when you need to. Heed our warning, lest your wallet take the punishment later on.
5. Make a complete stop between 1st and Reverse
We’ve all been stuck in that position where you might have to make a quick three-point turn to get out of someone’s way, or need to make a swift exit from the car park. As such, you probably know about that horrible noise you get upon engaging the reverse gear while you’re still moving forward. As with most things in your car’s internals, you probably figured that it wasn’t very good to hear that noise, and you would be dead right.
What you’re hearing is the grinding of the synchros, which are small plates in your gearbox designed to ensure that two gears are spinning at the same rate to stop their teeth from biting into eachother. It might take an extra second or two of awkward stillness, but when you put it into perspective, whoever’s waiting can deal with the extra wait if it saves you some coin on a gearbox repair.
6. Service your Car Regularly
We’re not here to tell you what to do with your money, but this is the sort of stuff credit cards were made for! Getting a service when your vehicle needs it, especially for the basics like oil, fluids and brakes, is not only going to keep you the safest on the road, but it’s going to save you an incredible amount in the long run.
Granted, some things will go wrong with your vehicle that might be completely out of your control, but a regular service is the bread and butter of keeping those nasties at bay.
7. Check your Fluids
There’s a good reason you have a bunch of different fluids and oils dancing around your engine (and the rest of your vehicle for that matter). Naturally, when it comes to these fluids, the cost of checking them regularly and replacing them when need be is far less than the damage you could potentially do to your vehicle if you don’t.
Many cars, particularly European cars that run on thinner fluids, go through oil like we do water. This means that often before the time your next service rolls around, you can find yourself completely out of oil, and running an engine without any oil is a very easy way of rendering it useless. Be on the safe side, check your dip stick at least once a month, and if your oil is running a little low, don’t be afraid to swap it out or top it up.
8. Don’t skimp on the Safety Essentials
When driving, Safety really should come before all else. This doesn’t just stretch to your seat belts and airbags. Every part of your vehicle designed to keep you safe and secure should be looked after with the care and respect it deserves. This applies to your wheels, suspension and brakes, all of which are critical to make sure you have the utmost grip and control when you’re driving at any speed.
A regular wheel alignment will not only keep you safe, but extend the range of your tyres and improve your handling. It’s also far cheaper to make sure your brakes and suspension are in tip-top order than it is to pay for the damages that can occur if one of these systems fails on you.
The beauty about all these tips and tricks we’ve given is that they’re simple, and can be carried out by just about anyone. Sticking to these rules will not only improve your safety on the road, but enhance your motoring experience and make sure you’re getting the best value for money out of every inch of your car. Take care of your ride, and the rest will look after itself. Enjoy!