5 Ways You Are Killing Your Car

The moment you drive your car off the dealer's lot, it starts to lose value. The good news is that you can partly control the speed of the plunge by taking care of your new ride. By spending a bit of time and changing a few habits, you can avoid killing your car.

Take a look at the following ways that you might be destroying your car.

1. Ignoring Warning Lights

The warning lights on your dashboard aren’t mere decoration. Each one means something, and none of them should be ignored. While a check engine light could indicate something as trivial as a loose gas cap, a brake or tire pressure monitoring system could mean a significant safety problem.

Best advice: Get it checked out as soon as possible to avoid having a small issue become a big problem. Whatever you do, don’t “solve” the problem by putting a piece of electrical tape over the light to cover it up.

Warning Lights

2. Hitting Potholes

Sometimes hitting a pothole is unavoidable, but if you can avoid them, you should. Potholes can not only damage your tires, but they can also bend your wheels, throw your car out of alignment, and break suspension components. Potholes cause millions of dollars in vehicle damage each year.

If you can avoid routes that look like the surface of the moon, you should. If they are unavoidable, slow down before you reach the crater and gently let each wheel drop into the hole and climb smoothly out.

Hitting Potholes

3. Not Regularly Changing the Oil

Engines can go longer between oil changes than they used to, but that's no excuse for not regularly having your oil changed. When your car's maintenance reminder light comes on, or you have reached the interval listed in your owners manual, it's time to get it done.

Failure to change your oil and oil filter puts your entire engine at risk of costly damage. Regularly changing it also helps to ensure that it is at the proper level. A skilled technician can also identify other issues with your engine by looking at the oil for traces of metal or water.

Regularly Changing the Oil

4. Not Paying Attention to the Maintenance Schedule

Some people believe that the maintenance schedule published in the owners manual is designed chiefly to ensure a steady income stream to the dealer’s service department. That’s not usually the case. Proper periodic maintenance is essential to replace worn parts and identify small issues before they become expensive.

An example is the timing belt that some manufacturers suggest replacing at around 60,000 miles. If that belt fails, your engine will likely self-destruct from the inside out, with bent and broken valves littering the inside of the engine block.

More and more automakers are including the first few years' service with the purchase of a vehicle, so the only investment you have to make is your time.

Paying Attention to the Maintenance Schedule

5. Not Driving It Enough

One of the worst things you can do to a car is not to drive it enough. If a car sits too long, its battery will likely be dead, its gas stale, and its tires out of round. Its paint will also probably be neglected, so you'll have to budget time and money to get it back into shape.

Parking a car for a long time also invites critters to turn it into their own condo. It's better to take an occasional drive to thoroughly warm it up, get its fluids flowing, and get its battery recharged.

If you plan on letting a car sit for several months, you should prepare it for the slumber.