Do you remember when you were learning to drive and that feeling of elation when you finally passed your test? Well you may have found that your driving style has changed quite a bit since then. We are all guilty of becoming lazy and falling into bad habits as we adapt to our own preferred way of driving. Whilst this is not always a bad thing and you’re not likely to have to sit in front of a driving examiner again, the important question to ask is whether your driving habits are damaging your car?
With the next May bank holiday, just around the corner you’re probably looking to plan a day out, so it’s a good time to highlight what driving habits cause damage and how to avoid them.
Let go of the clutch
Your clutch is an important part of the car and when it wears down, it can end up costing a small fortune. A big cause of wear and tear is riding the clutch. Riding the clutch or slipping the clutch are technically the same however slipping the clutch is intentional. When you move off or travel slowly in heavy traffic, slipping the clutch is the process where the clutch causes friction reducing the engine power.
Slipping the clutch is essential for driving a car, however the key point to remember is that riding the clutch is different. This is where a driver keeps their foot on the pedal but the clutch is not fully engaged. This occurs when waiting in traffic and you’ll see this if the car in front of you is moving forwards and backwards slightly. If you notice someone riding the clutch, its best to keep a safe distance so that the chances of a collision are reduced. The driver of the vehicle will be keeping the car as still as possible by riding the clutch. This can be avoided by simply applying the handbrake. Riding the clutch also occurs by drivers simply resting their foot on the clutch while driving. This may be a habit of yours that you haven’t noticed and it could be causing your clutch to wear. To avoid this, remove your foot and rest it on the floor.
Ignoring the signs
Nowadays car dashboards are filled with different lights, from your standard ABS (Automatic braking system) to your seat belt sign. All of these signs are important and some can wait until you’ve got home to investigate, however there are some signs you shouldn’t ignore and require an instant check. Different car models will present warnings in different ways so it may therefore be worth checking your car’s manual to understand what your own car warning lights mean and understand the more serious alerts. Here are some example of warning lights that shouldn’t be ignored.
Cars are filled with many sensors to ensure everything is running as it should be. When there’s a problem, a sensor will send a signal to the engine control unit (ECU) which triggers the engine warning light.
What to do: If you notice this warning light you should try to get your car to a garage as soon as possible to avoid further damage from occurring.
ABS warning light
Automatic breaking system is technology within most modern cars that automatically activates the breaks. If the ‘ABS’ warning light is showing on your dashboard it means the ABS is not working properly.
What to do: Get your ABS checked by a professional as soon as possible.
Brake warning light
A warning can be given if you have a fluid leak in your breaks or if the brake pads need replacing.
What to do: Get to a garage or call a mechanic as soon as possible as there may be a serious problem. It may not be safe to drive the car if the light is displayed.
Brake system and ABS warning light
If you see these warnings lights on together, you should stop immediately as this could indicate major problems with your brakes.
What to do: Call a garage or your breakdown provider as soon as possible.
These are just a few of the major warning lights to be aware of, however there are many different warnings that could come up. If you notice a light on your dashboard, its best to check your manual, ask a friend or search online for car warning lights. It’s always worth looking into the problems that may have occurred rather than ignoring the signs as this could end up costing you more in the long run.
Avoiding the potholes
Britain’s roads are becoming a haven for potholes and you’ve probably seen them appearing in your local town or city. They are formed by moisture that gets into road cracks. When the weather is cold, it freezes and causes the area to weaken. When cars drive over these areas, the cracks increase and cause holes to form. Reports from ATS Euromaster, a car service centre, suggest that a third of all recorded vehicle damage is caused by potholes. When a vehicle hits a pothole, it can cause wheels, tyres and alloys to crack, buckle and damage the overall alignment. Luckily the weather is now warming up so hopefully less potholes will appear. Here are some top tips to avoid potholes:
1. Give yourself room – keeping a safe distance from the car in front can give you more time to spot potholes as your approach them. You may notice other cars in front steering away from them.
2. Slow down - sometimes you have no choice but to drive over a pothole, especially if there’s no room to manoeuvre around the hole. Slow right down and allow the car to gently move over the hole.
3. Control your steering – deeper potholes can affect the direction of your car. Keep both hands on the wheel and ensure you are alert.
4. Consider your surroundings – as a driver it is your responsibility to be aware of what’s around you. When approaching a pothole, ensure you look around you before attempting to avoid it.
Loading your car
Now summer is nearly here you may be planning some trips away. You may be off to the airport or having a staycation. Wherever it is you’re going, it’s worth considering the weight that you will be putting in your car. Your car manual will tell you exactly what your car’s maximum loads is and this shouldn’t be exceeded when going away. You may be thinking ‘is a couple of bikes really going to make that much difference?’ But the more weight your car has to take, the more likely your suspension and brakes are to wear. Not only does an increased load affect the wear on car parts but it also affects your fuel consumption. The heavier your car is, the more it is having to work, especially when climbing hills. Every 50kg of weight increases fuel consumption by 2% so this is worth remembering.
If you drive an automatic car it is important to let your car come to a stop before changing between a gear and reverse. The automatic cars have the technology to change gears itself however, if you change gear before the car comes to a stop, it can damage your transmission band, which would cost you! If you drive a manual car, you won’t have this problem but if you change gear before the car has stopped it could cause a crunching sound, which isn’t a good sign!
If you do have a manual car, you may have picked up a habit of keeping your hand rested on the gearstick. Despite being told to keep both hands on the wheel at all times while learning to drive, this rule can be forgotten. Not only does this reduce your control of the car but it too can cause wear and tear. The gearstick is connected to other parts of the car such as the selector folk. If your hand is resting on this mechanism, it may create pressure and cause wear to occur.
Need for speed
Looking back to when we learnt to drive, we were always told to move up the gears, but sometimes we can find ourselves getting to 5th gear very quickly and all of a sudden, your accelerator is playing catch up. When you are accelerating in a high gear, it causes the engine to work harder and this can cause the engine extra strain when really, it’s not necessary. If you notice your car is struggling to accelerate quickly, change down a gear and this will improve the revs per minute (rpm) and then you can change back up.