Took a Wrong Turn? 7 Common Mistakes Car Owners Make

Took a wrong turn down Door-Dent Lane? Do you need to make a U-turn out of Worn Tire Tread Boulevard? If your driving record is far from mishap-free, it may be time to reverse your way out of questionable car maintenance habits. 

While modern vehicles are more accessible than ever to maintain, they’re not 100% maintenance-free. Fortunately, a few simple strategies can keep your car working safely and efficiently.

Not sure what to do – and what not to do? Here are the seven mistakes many car owners make regularly:

Mistake #1: Exclusively buying brand-new car parts

You can save big by buying used instead of new car parts. Used parts can be just as safe and effective as the originals. Plus, not only do you save, but they’re usually easy to find, as many auto part retailers and repair shops sell them.

Only choose used parts that adhere to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) standards. OEM parts have the exact specifications as the official components, so they’ll fit and function without an issue. If you’re interested in cashing in on the benefits of used car parts, visit All Truck and Car, a reputable auto salvage yard. 

Mistake #2: Start driving too soon

Do you start the engine and immediately begin driving? Try not to, because you can end up damaging your car over time. Allowing some time between starting the engine and driving gives the oil a chance to circulate through several of the car’s critical components.

For cars older than five years, let it run for at least 15 seconds before driving. If you have a classic car, or any other vehicle more than 20 years old, wait an entire minute.

Watch your RPMs, too. They might start higher (around 1200) and then drop (to 1,000 or so), which indicates the car is ready to drive.

Mistake #3: Not changing the oil regularly

Routine oil changes may slip your mind or rank low on your priority list, but you should regularly change your car’s oil. Sticking to the manufacturer’s recommendations helps protect the engine, improves gas mileage, lengthens your car’s life, and more.

Each vehicle includes specific recommendations on the frequency of changes. Many manufacturers recommend changing the oil either every 5,000, 7,000, or even 10,000 miles.    

How you drive also plays a role. You’ll need to change the oil more often if you routinely drive in stop-and-go traffic, sweltering weather, freezing weather, or if you tow heavy material.

Mistake #4: Not maintaining the correct tire pressure

Tire pressure is a bit of a balancing act, as both over and under-inflating your tires can result in a host of problems such as impaired stopping, increased wear, reduced gas mileage, and other issues.

The pressure required for your car’s tires is listed on a plate found on the jamb of the driver’s side door and is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. Note that you’ll need to inflate or deflate each tire as necessary and that the PSI required for each tire might not necessarily be the same.

Mistake #5: Ignoring dashboard warning lights

While they’re easy to ignore, dashboard lights don’t illuminate for no reason. You’ll want to pay careful attention to every message your car sends you.

Your owner’s manual will help you identify what each dash symbol means. Pay special attention to the Check Engine light. It covers many potential issues, including damage to the oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, airflow sensor, or even a missing gas cap.

Mistake #5: Driving with low fuel levels

Are you the type who only stops at the gas station when the needle on the gas gauge is pushing deep into E territory? Fueling up more frequently is far better for your engine than regularly running on near-fumes.

Older cars have carburetors, which work without an issue when the tank is low. However, modern vehicles have fuel-injected engines, which require frequent use of the in-tank fuel pump. If you drive on empty, the fuel pump can become damaged. With this reality in mind, try to keep the tank at least one-quarter full at all times.

Mistake #6: Ignoring the spare tire

Tucked away in the trunk, it’s easy to forget about your vehicle’s spare tire. However, if you need it, and it’s in bad shape, you could be in big trouble.

Every time you check the tire pressure, pop the trunk and inspect your spare. Make sure it has the appropriate tire pressure and doesn’t show signs of wear or damage. Also, check the tire’s manufacturing date to ensure your tires aren’t driving beyond their means. 

Mistake #7: Not checking the tire tread

As the only part of the car that directly connects with the road, your tires play an outsized role in keeping you safe behind the wheel. Before every trip, take a quick walk around your car and check your tires. You want to watch out for cracks, slashes, and flatness.

Every month or so, test the tread with the Lincoln test. Place a penny upside down into the grooves on each tire. If you can see Lincoln’s head, the tire tread is too low. In that case, replacing your tires will be an inevitable next step. 

Wrap Up

Fortunately, keeping your car in great shape is easy and affordable. Simple, minor maintenance and check-ups can help you spot potential problems before they turn into significant issues. Follow the tips above to keep you and your family safe and comfortable when on the road. 

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