Car Maintenance Mistakes

Updated: February 16, 2011

Some guys are tough on cars. Businessmen in rentals and kids in their parents’ minivans are understood, but what about the rest of us? Too many men make common car maintenance mistakes. These guys aren’t really trying to bring harm upon their rides, but they do.
Whether by accident, ignorance or intent, the car maintenance mistakes below are bad habits and oversights to correct if you’re guilty of these in your everyday driving. Between them, you’ll realize better gas mileage in the short term and more miles from your car in the long run.

No.10 Only Paying Attention To Oil Levels

Don’t get us wrong, your oil level is critical and should never be ignored (besides, some cars make it too easy — they display readings from their multifunction displays). Too often, though, it takes a driver’s limited attention away from other fluids. You can get away with not checking your brake fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, and washer fluid every time you fuel up — just don’t press your luck much beyond that.

No.9 Driving On Nonseasonal Tires

Any self-respecting man owns more than one pair of shoes (no one style or type is appropriate for every occasion). Yet, a common car maintenance mistake is expecting such a compromise from a vehicle by driving on a single set of all-season tires. If you live in a climate with marked seasonal changes in temperature and weather, you really need winter and summer sets. Your traction and control will noticeably improve and it will be easier on your vehicle to perform as designed.

No.8 Driving With Burnt-Out Bulbs

Please, don’t be the dimmest light in your car. We’ll concede that driving with both headlights burning bright endangers the future of Padiddle rounds, but that’s a chance you’ll have to take. For that matter, it’s no good to ignore any burnt-out bulb — front, flanks, rear, or inside. If the aesthetics don’t bother you, consider the safety issues and eliminate this common car maintenance mistake.

No.7 Using Oil With The Wrong Viscosity

Some very intelligent men and women designed your car’s engine. In the process, they tested and confirmed the ideal engine oil viscosity to keep it from becoming an external combustion unit. They even went to the trouble of making their recommendations known in your owner’s manual. The least you can do is read it and heed it.  Using the wrong oil weight can lead to excess wear and premature failure from insufficient lubrication.

No.6 Driving With Excess Weight

This common car maintenance mistake shouldn’t serve as a revelation, but more like a reminder. So many of us lug around things in and outside our cars that hurt mileage from the added weight and drag. However tempting it is to keep driving with your clubs, bowling ball and scuba tanks rolling around in the trunk, remove the excess gear. The day you need all three at once, then you can say you told us so. Until then, lighten the load and remove bike and ski racks when not in use.

No.5 Driving On Soft Tires

There’s no excuse for making this too-common car maintenance mistake, so make it less common and do your part.  Check your tire pressure often, preferably when the tires are cold (less than a mile or so from start-up). Rather than following the pressure stamped on the sidewall or defaulting to the old 32psi adage, check the sticker on your driver’s door jamb — it tells you exactly what front and rear inflation should be. By avoiding underinflation (and overinflation for that matter), you maintain ideal control and avoid blowouts.

No.4 Using Defunct Oil And Air Filters

If you’re trying to be a better man in general, you probably resist the “good-enough” mentality. A common car maintenance mistake is using defunct oil and air filters. Some guys cheap out and think they can clean and reuse them. Unless the filter is specifically designed to be reused, as you’ll find with some aftermarket applications, it doesn’t work.  Between auto parts stores, dealers and online resources, there’s no excuse not to do it correct — even for hard-to-find sizes.

No.3 Slamming Brakes

It isn’t easy to go from sprint to dead-stop instantly; your car would agree, and that brings us to our common car maintenance mistake where brakes are concerned. When you make every stop a “panic” stop, you put incredible added stress on brake system components. Calipers, fluid, pads, and rotors will all go bad a lot sooner if you slam your brakes (possibly with little or no warning).

No.2 Not Changing Your Oil

Oil is so obvious, so fundamental to keeping your engine alive. So why is failing to change oil one of the biggest offenses here? We have no idea. As far as we can tell, there’s no single reason. We’ve heard the flawed logic that oil doesn’t need changing as long as the level is OK or that a car needing a quart added every few hundred miles has a constant fresh supply. The misunderstanding that synthetic oil only needs infrequent — say, annual — changing doesn’t help, either.

No.1 Avoiding The Mechanic

The most common car maintenance mistake we’ve heard comes from mechanics and how people avoid them. We assume the dodgers do understand the whole thing about mechanics existing to maintain and repair vehicles. Apparently, they fail to grasp how skipping seeing mechanics for reasons of cost savings, denial or pride doesn’t just make problems go away, it virtually guarantees any issue will only get uglier and much more expensive in time. Our advice: Suck it up and see a mechanic.