Do You Know If These Habits Are Actually Good or Bad for Your Car?

Zoe Samuel

Image: Fuse / Corbis / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Driving is one of those things that almost anybody can pick up. There are really silly people out there who, when it comes to literature or math, have the attention span of a fruit fly, but manage to be perfectly competent at driving. That's mostly because modern cars are simply very easy to use. 

They don't have a lot of extra switches and complicated settings; they pretty much maintain themselves in small ways, and whenever they need help requiring the eye of a professional, they tell you. They can put up with some really terrible driving habit that would have punched right through half the engine only a few decades ago. Indeed, modern cars are quite literally lifesavers. Buy one new, and you can reasonably assume it'll be functional for 15 or more years.

However, it's still possible to ruin modern cars by mistreating them. Some of the bad habits that hurt your vehicle are things you do behind the wheel, while others relate to how you park or how often - or rarely - you take your car in for a tune-up. Let's find out whether your habits are helping or hindering you in getting the best mileage and lifespan out of your beloved jalopy!

Does it really matter if you rotate your tires?

Rotating the tires increases their lifespan and maximizes grip on the road. Just make sure you have someone tighten them up with a machine afterward; doing it by hand may not be as tight as is ideal.

Does it matter if you do a lot of quick stops?

Whiplash is bad for everyone, including your car. Constantly slamming your brakes wears them out faster and rattles the car. It's also really annoying to other drivers, and potentially dangerous.

You're about to halt and then into reverse. You put the car into reverse before coming to a full stop. Is that bad?

Let the car stop completely. Then put it in reverse. Otherwise it will wear out pretty much all its parts a bit quicker.

Does it really matter if you hit a lot of speed bumps at speed?

Speed bumps, or bumps generally, are bad for your car. They can knock things loose on the undercarriage or simply jostle the inner workings of the car. Plus, they hurt!

Is it OK to wash the car in winter?

This excuse didn't work with your mom, and it doesn't work with your car. Of course, you have to wash in winter. Indeed, when the snow is dropping all sorts of grit and ice onto your car, it's doubly important to clean it.

What effect does paint have on the life of the car?

Paint is good for your car because it stops rust getting in. It doesn't matter what color it is, but it does matter that it's not chipped.

What effect does cleaning your car's interior have on its lifespan?

Dirt can be corrosive. That's why keeping it out of your car is good for the car. Plus, food particles attract critters, and they're REALLY bad for your car!

Does parking in the shade actually do anything for your car?

Your car doesn't like ultra-violet exposure any more than you, or excessive heat. Put it in the shade when you can!

Why does the number of keys on your key chain matter?

It's actually true that this can cause wear and tear on the tumblers of your ignition! It sounds counter-intuitive, but it does matter. Either use fewer keys or get a keyless car.

What can you do to help your car stay in good shape during periods in storage?

Your car has four jack points for a reason! Jacking it up is a great way to avoid slowly flattening the tires or letting the suspension get out of alignment.

Which is better for your car: one long trip or lots of short ones?

The majority of the strain on your car is during the first few minutes of getting moving. Thus, one long trip is better for the car than many short ones, even if the distance is the same.

Keeping the clutch at the bite point on an incline: good, bad, or terrible?

This is pretty bad. It wears out the clutch and it also means you're not driving efficiently, which wastes fuel.

Does it matter if you rest your hand on the gear-shifter?

The gearbox will not thank you for this. The gear-shifter needs to be able to move smoothly, and resting your hand on it can slowly wear out its ability to do so.

Is it OK if you never use the parking brake?

Always use the parking brake when parked. With a manual transmission, it protects the gearbox from the damage of always being in gear. With an automatic transmission, it protects the car from rolling off.

How often should you kick your tires?

Kicking the tires is a way to check pressure without a gauge. You don't even need to know what low pressure feels like; you just need to know that one tire feels different.

Should you carry a lot of unnecessary stuff in your car?

Carrying a lot all the time isn't good for your back, so why would it be good for your car? Don't make your suspension work harder than it has to.

Is it good or bad to drive right down to an empty tank?

When the tank is over 1/4 full, gas moves along the pumps such that it cools the copper windings in the engine. When the level is under 1/4, air does this instead. This is less effective and causes additional wear and tear. The other option is to go electric!

Should you rev the engine when the car is cold?

If your car is cold, give it a moment to idle before you rev it. This helps the metal of its components warm up before they're under strain, which reduces brittleness.

Going downhill, is there any reason you shouldn't drag the brakes?

We're really here to talk car maintenance, but dragging your brakes as you go down a hill is bad for the car AND lousy etiquette. It wears the brake pads, too - and failed brakes are the worst manners of all.

What should you do to the roof before putting a heavy load on it?

This will protect your roof from scratches caused by your heavy load. Generally speaking, don't carry such a load if you can avoid it.

A warning light has come on and you don't recognize it. How long can you ignore it?

If a warning light comes on and you don't know whether it's a big deal or not, assume that it is. Pull over and check your manual to figure out whether you can get home or need to call help.

It's super fun to floor it. Is it bad?

Flooring is fun but it's not the best way to drive. Often, it's not even the best way to accelerate really fast either.

What gear is best to be in at red lights?

You'd think neutral would be best as it doesn't create a forward force that the brake has to fight. However, moving in and out from drive to neutral creates more wear and tear than just sitting in drive!

Is it OK to turn your wheel all the way to the right or left?

This is hard on the steering pump, as it puts more stress on it. This wears components more than turning a little less.

Where should the gas you buy be filtered?

A reputable gas station will have filters on the pumps that are checked and changed regularly. This keeps sediment out of the gas.

Why should you open the driver's door with your right hand when you get out?

This is called the "Dutch reach," and you can fail your driving test in Holland if you don't do it. It's a much safer way to get out of the car as it turns your field of vision to automatically see any bike or child coming up alongside the car - BEFORE you door them in the face!

If the fuel tanks have been recently refilled at the gas station, what problem might this cause?

Sediment can get into big tankers, and when they tank off into the tanks at the gas station, that sediment can get into the pump. That's a short distance from your car! Try not to buy gas right after you see them filling up and you can avoid this problem.

Which of these is a really bad idea when you're stuck in snow or mud?

Revving doesn't really help in this situation. It's just going to wear out your car and not solve your problem. Rocking is actually fine, if you're careful.

If you're not planning to use your car for a while, how much gas should you leave in it?

Lots of gas is better than a little. It prevents moisture gathering in the tank, which leads to rust and all sorts of nightmares.

Does it matter if you curb your wheels when parked?

Technically, failing to curb your wheels will not destroy your car. However, rolling off down the hill and smashing into something will.

What will happen if you use WD-40 on your rubber window seals?

WD-40 will take off grease, sure, but it'll also take the rubber off. That's bad news when the rubber is the thing stopping the rain coming into your car.

What's a good temporary fix for a cracked light fixture?

Duct tape. Where would we be without it? It's not a permanent solution but it's shockingly good in a pinch! Just remember it's blocking the actual light, so you do need to take further action.

How often should you check tire pressure?

If you check the pressure once a month, that's fine. If you want to do this at home you can buy your own gauge, or do it when you fill up at the gas station.

Where on the outside of the car might you use a little anti-seize lubricant?

People argue about this one but it's definitely good for the car's lifespan to grease those lug nuts up to protect your wheels. It might not improve performance, though.

When should you ever put a rag in your tailpipe?

This stops moisture getting into your car while you are away and not using it. However, if you do it, please remember to remove the rag before you drive the car!

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