No matter how long you’ve been on the road, we all pick up bad habits or ignore vehicle warning signs from time to time. Here are a few of the most common mistakes car owners and drivers tend to make:
- Topping up the Fuel Tank
Although a petrol attendant will fill your tank to the brim (you said, “Fill her up!”), it’s not a good idea. An overfull tank can build up pressure and damage the engine via the carbon filter vapor system. Many petrol stations are equipped to pull back fuel into their tanks if overfull anyway, leading to wastage. Instead, ask your attendant to stop when the pump stops by itself, and not to squeeze out a few more drops.
- Driving through puddles
Aside from the risk of hydrolock (when water is sucked into your engine), the problem with puddles are that they are deceptive. It’s hard to gauge how deep they are – and there could be sharp debris inside. Avoid doing damage to car by avoiding puddles. If you can’t avoid crossing a deep puddle or flooded street, drive slow and steady. Speeding up will send a wave of liquid under your car that can wreak havoc.
- Ignoring Little Dings
It happens to all of us – a rock hits the side of the car, the paint chips away…and you might find a little rust spot popping up. It might not seem like a big deal, but even cosmetic damage can weaken the paint and lead to corrosion and rust. This may lower the value of your car – especially as it spreads. Luckily, surface rust is fairly easy to fix – you may even be able to repaint and repair it yourself. But it’s best to do it early. If corrosion is visible on the seams of the body panels, though, or has rusted through, you should proceed with caution though – exhaust fumes could enter the body of the car as you drive, which is a significant hazard.
- Not replacing the windshield wipers often enough
In hot climates like South Africa, it’s important to replace your windshield wipers at least once a year. The rubber on the wipers gets worn down over time, and if not fully functional can lead to poor visibility. If you live in a dusty region, such as parts of the Northern Cape, or regularly drive off-road, you should replace the wipers at least once every six months. Grit and sand accumulates around the blades, accelerating the wear.
- Not maintaining a safe following distance
You may have the latest in ABS technology and lightning quick reflexes on your side…but does the other guy? The truth is that people are unpredictable and there may be hazards up ahead that you can’t see. Maintaining a safe following distance gives you time to brake or swerve if necessary, so leave a little room where possible.
- Using your phone
Any form of distraction is bad, but phones are particularly bad. Ever notice how you log on and “quickly check Facebook” and then suddenly it’s four hours later than you thought? Keep your phone in your pocket and check it when you alight. And bear in mind if you do get spotted having a chat while behind the wheel, the traffic department is going to put your phone in a little white cellphone jail box…with bail money of up to R1000 required to get it back.
- Hitting the sidewalk
You would never dream about scraping your door against the wall of the garage, but your wheels don’t always get the same treatment. Sure, scratches on the wheels hardly seem as bad as a scratch on your door but hitting the pavement can actually cause damage and throw off the alignment of your car. Practice your parallel parking skills!
- Not adjusting the seat
Cars are not one size fit all and it’s important to make adjustments. Make sure that your seat belt crosses over the middle of your shoulders and chest, and that the top of your headrest is level with the top of your head. This can avoid neck injuries in the event of a crash. And even if you are short, try to leave about 20 cm between yourself and the steering wheel at all times. This will allow the air bag to inflate properly.