There are some things you absolutely know will ruin your car (and/or its resale value): excessive smoking, major damage, starting a fire in the backseat. Then, there are the other more minute things that you probably don’t even think about. If you want to make the most out of your next trade-in, pay very close attention to this handy list. And stop starting fires in the backseat.
1. You’re shifting into drive while the car’s still rolling backwards.
You may be thinking that going from reverse to drive before the car has fully stopped isn’t horrible, but think about this: at just 4 mph, today’s average car exerts more force than a bullet fired out of a rifle, and you’re asking small pieces of metal to stop it instantly. When you think about how expensive transmission repair can be, you’ll realize why this is shooting yourself in the foot. Which is also extremely costly to repair.
2. You’re filling your radiator with nothing but water
If you’re driving hard or stuck in traffic during the extreme heat of summer, untreated water can approach its boiling point given the pressure of most cooling systems. Then, if that water freezes in the winter, it will wreak some serious havoc as it expands, like cracking your engine block. Use a 50/50 mix of water and coolant, just like the book says.
3. You’re cleaning your tinted windows with Windex
Windex has ammonia in it, and if it comes in contact with the tint film on your car’s windows, it will discolor it. Use a dedicated automotive window cleaner instead. If you’ve ever seen someone driving down the road with purple tinted windows, it’s fair to assume they sprayed some Windex on it.
4. You’re using the wrong oil
The thickness—or viscosity—of an oil is hugely important to how effectively it does its job, and your engine was designed around a specific viscosity. With very few exceptions, you won’t see any benefit from changing your viscosity. Always stick with the manufacturer recommendation, conveniently found in your owner’s manual.
5. You’re not giving your car enough time to warm up
Your oil doesn’t lubricate nearly as well when it’s cold, and all those parts in your engine are designed to operate within a certain temperature range. What happens when you start your car and drive away? You’re stressing everything under the hood when it’s at its most vulnerable moments.
New cars warm up much faster, thanks to environmental legislation, but you should still wait at least a minute before starting up and driving off.
6. You’re driving with your ASS
Your car’s automatic start/stop system (ASS) is designed to make your car more environmentally friendly, and save you a few bucks at the fuel pump. Make no mistake: using it will cause premature wear on parts. Today’s cars have beefier starters to compensate for this, but if you take two brand new cars and disable the start/stop function of one and not the other, the one without the function will lead a longer and much happier life. However, your car will put out more greenhouse gas, so the choice is yours.
7. You’re not slowing down for speed bumps or potholes
This will absolutely destroy the life of your shocks and can lead to other damage to the car’s undercarriage.
8. You’re not fixing the small things
A small mechanical issue can—and will—inevitably lead to a much larger one. For example, a worn shock absorber stresses things like bushings. When suspension bushings go, you’re looking at excess movement in the tires, which increases wear and decreases stability. When engine and transmission bushings go, you have extra movement in your drive train. This butterfly effect will cause serious damage to your car and bank account.
9. You’re ignoring the Check Engine light
One of the most common misconceptions about cars is that a Check Engine light isn’t serious, and can therefore be ignored. Sure, it doesn’t always signal immediate doom, but it does mean something is off with your engine. It could be something minor, but if left untreated, it could snowball into something very costly.
If any of your other dashboard warning lights come on (Check Oil, Water Temp), pull into a parking lot and shut the car off ASAP.
10. You’re defrosting an icy windshield with hot water
If you don’t know what happens when you pour hot water on ice cold glass, allow me to inform you: it breaks. Actually, it shatters. This can and will happen to your windshield, probably in front of every neighbor on your block. Park the car facing the sun, and let nature do its work in the morning. Combine that with turning the defroster on at full blast and pulling out the ‘ole ice scraper is still the safest way to get your windshield clean.