10 dopey driving habits that are costing you money

11 August 2017
 by 
, CarsGuide

It’s a strange quirk of human nature that many people treat cheaper, less valuable things they own - like clothes, or our beloved phones, or pets - far more carefully than the second most expensive item most of us will ever buy.

Now, while it’s true that 'Depreciation' rates right up there on the list of Least Interesting Words, not looking after your vehicle can end up costing you a lot of money, if you don’t keep that dullish D-word in mind. 

You can multiply that depreciation cost by other often under-considered outgoings like 'Maintenance', 'Brakes', 'Fluids', 'Fuels' and 'Tyres'. Suddenly, it’s easy to see why it makes sense to cut back on doing the kind of things to your car that are costing you money. 

You might think expensive driving behaviours are obvious - going too fast and racking up speeding fines, parking without paying for it, or taking your time before opening your road-toll notices.

But what we’re talking about are the dumb and disrespectful ways you treat your car, and how you should cut them out.

After all, you wouldn’t use your favourite jumper to blow your nose on, or pick up a dog turd. Not unless you’re a child, anyway. Which is exactly why children aren’t allowed to own cars.

Top 10 Ways Your Driving Behaviours Are Costing You Money

1. Not warming up your car

Not even diesels require as much of a warm-up anymore. Not even diesels require as much of a warm-up anymore.

Yes, there was a time, back in what will come to be known as the 'Pre-Netflixean Era', or the even more ancient 'Pre-WWW Age', when you really did have to sit there on cold mornings, shivering in your 'Pre-Heated Seats Era' car as its engine slowly struggled its way to life.

Everyone knew that it was a bad idea to attempt to drive your car without warming it up, and that your dad would be well angry with you when he had to go out to the shed with his spanners to fix it himself.

Modern cars, of course, don’t need nearly as much tender care, not even diesels, which used to really require some foreplay before setting off. 

This does not mean, however, that you should jump into your vehicle on a cold morning and immediately explore the redline. 

Your car needs at least some warming up, to let the oil pump circulate the important black stuff to all corners of the engine. Think of it as like going skiing; you don’t jump off a cliff on your very first run.

2. Braking the limit

We've all been here before... We've all been here before...

There are many reasons that you shouldn’t drive around riding your brakes, and yet many people, and taxi drivers in particular, seem to think the middle pedal is the footrest. It’s a miracle they ever get anywhere, frankly.

Trailing your brakes all the time is not only annoying to people behind you, and in the car with you, but it’s constantly wearing down your pads and discs. 

The only thing worse is being one of those people who is constantly jumping on their brakes in a panic, often because they’ve been driving too close to the car in front of them. 

Constant brake stamping is going to be really expensive for brake pads and discs. Cease and desist. Or just stop.

3. Driving with the window down

Fuel efficiency is surprisingly dependent on having the windows up. Fuel efficiency is surprisingly dependent on having the windows up.

Fresh air? Overrated. Cars weren’t designed to be their most slippery and efficient with their windows down. It plays havoc with their co-efficient of drag figures and is thus a bad idea for your fuel economy. Plus, we have air conditioning now.

4. Choosing the wrong gear

Modern cars even tell you what gear to be in. Modern cars even tell you what gear to be in.

One way to avoid over-revving your car in the morning, or at any time, is to give first gear a rest, and select second quickly. Younger drivers, in particular, seem to think first gear should be stretched to breaking point as often as possible, but you can imagine how this causes unnecessary stress and strain on mechanical points.

The other extreme is also a bad idea, however, and you’ll see older drivers doing it a lot. Unlike whipper snappers, they seem to be in a terrific hurry to get their cars into the top cog, even skipping from second to fourth or third to fifth. And then they like to stay there, as if the effort of changing gears has exhausted them.

This leads to what’s called 'lugging', or driving around at too low a speed in too high a gear. This is bad for your engine and your cylinder heads in particular, and if things go wrong there, it’s going to cost you.

So choose the appropriate gear. Many modern manual cars even have a handy dash display telling you what gear to be in. It’s not annoying at all.

5. Pretending that 'E' stands for Enough

It's tempting, but don't try seeing how far you can go on empty. It's tempting, but don't try seeing how far you can go on empty.

Incredibly, I’ve seen even so-called professional motoring journalists do this, so don’t feel bad if you’ve let your car run out of fuel, or close to it, before, just because you couldn’t quite get around to filling up. Well, do feel bad actually, because it’s really not good for your car. 

Modern cars with fuel injectors particularly don’t enjoy running low, and an almost empty tank allows the crap sitting at the bottom of the system to get sucked into the innards of the engine, causing expensive damage.

Your fuel itself is also acting as a lubricant, so letting it get too low is just not good for anything under the bonnet.

6. Ignoring your dashboard

Don't ignore your dash, even the more complex ones. Don't ignore your dash, even the more complex ones.

Some people claim they run out of fuel occasionally because they just forget to check the gauge. The idea that you can drive around without ever really noticing your dash makes me very glad these people don’t work as pilots.

It’s not hard to have a glance at your car’s dashboard now and then, surely, because it’s right in front of you, and not overly complex, unless you own a new 'Virtual Cockpit' Audi (in which case you’ll stare at it because it’s so beautiful).

Checking the state of play, just as you do with your Facebook or email, constantly, can alert you to all-important warning lights about system failures, service reminders or very important warnings.

Ignoring something like the oil warning light can pretty much boil your engine, so if you see any of these lights, and you don’t understand them, don’t ignore them. They’re not just pretty baubles. 

Seek help. Immediately. Before it gets more expensive.

7. Avoiding your mechanic

Avoiding the mechanic will cause problems to build up and cost a lot more. Avoiding the mechanic will cause problems to build up and cost a lot more.

No one likes spending money on servicing their car, and indeed, in terms of enjoyable expenditures it’s right up there with dental visits, and almost as expensive.

But if you’re putting off a scheduled service you’re just over-stressing your car's moving parts, which need lubrication and checking. 

Avoiding a service is quite likely going to cost you more in the long run. It’s a lot like visiting the dentist, actually.

8. Forgetting the hand brake

Automatic parking brakes will largely solve this one. Automatic parking brakes will largely solve this one.

Depending when you learned to drive, the idea of parking your car and leaving the handbrake off feels like simply an invitation to witness a comical yet expensive scene, as your vehicle slips away slowly down a hill into something solid.

Sadly, though, a surprising number of people now think it’s okay to just leave their automatic-transmission car in Park and walk away. This causes problems for your ‘pawl’, a small but vital metal pin that can eventually let go if you abuse it long enough. Creating a comical and expensive scene.

Thankfully, many modern vehicles now have automatic parking brakes. 

9. Being a knob holder

There's a lot of knob-holding in movies, but that doesn't mean it's cool. (Image from: 2Fast 2Furious) There's a lot of knob-holding in movies, but that doesn't mean it's cool. (Image from: 2Fast 2Furious)

Driving instructors love to point out that you’re being a 'knob holder' if you cruise along with one hand on the gearstick all the time, but is it actually bad for your car? Sadly yes, and yet it’s a habit so many people can’t break.

Leaving your hand on the gearstick, if you do it with enough pressure, starts to engage the selector forks, which think you’re going for another gear, and this can lead to completely unnecessary, and eventually expensive, wear and tear.

10. Riding the clutch

Use that third pedal as little as possible. (Image from: 2Fast 2Furious) Use that third pedal as little as possible. (Image from: 2Fast 2Furious)

It’s clear from this list that driving a manual car comes with more risks of bad driving habits leading to unforeseen costs, so it’s possibly a good thing that they’re dying out in Australia.

If you’ve still got one, try not to leave your foot on the clutch pedal while driving. It’s not a foot rest either, and if you keep it ever so slightly engaged, you’re going to heat up your clutch and eventually burn it out. 

What's your worst driving habit? Tell us in the comments below.

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