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4 bad driving habits you can fix

Hasn't your car been good to you? Then don't punish it. Give it a break by avoiding these 4 bad driving habits. Your ride will thank you — by costing you less and lasting a little longer.

It's one thing to know what you're doing isn't good for your car (like spinning donuts in a parking lot). It's entirely another (and way more frustrating) thing, though, to damage your car unknowingly.

Whether it's due to complacency behind the wheel, a lack of information, myths regarding driving techniques, or a combination of all 3, many of us aren't getting the full life out of our cars. That's why we're shining a light on 4 of the sneakiest ways you could be wearing out your ride — plus easy ways to remedy all of them.


Riding the brakes downhill

Why you might do it

Riding the brakes makes you feel safer heading down an incline.

Why it's harmful

brakes

You're risking total brake failure. After all, when you cling to them coming down a steep mountain or hill, you could be grinding the brake pads for minutes at a time. This makes them very hot, which can literally boil the brake fluid and rob your car of its stopping power.

What to do instead

Use the engine, not the brakes, to control your speed. Downshift when you want to go slower — even in an automatic (usually "L" or "2" on the shift panel will work). This raises your rpm and reduces your mph. Plus, contrary to popular belief, it typically saves more gas than going downhill in neutral.


Warming up your car by idling

Why you might do it

For drivers in cold-weather locales, this is a common habit. You know the drill: 10 minutes before you want to drive somewhere, start the car a-idling, sprint back into the house to wait, and desperately refresh those flight rates to Hawaii.

Why it's harmful

An idling engine goes through a tremendous amount of wear and tear. And it actually warms up rather slowly while wasting a bunch of fuel in the process.

What to do instead

Drive right away — just take it easy (and double up on mittens). Your car hits its peak quickly by doing normal car things, and idling in Park isn't one of them.


Letting the gas gauge drop to "E"

Why you might do it

Have you seen gas prices lately?

Why it's harmful

You risk burning out your fuel pump and collecting sediment in your gas tank. This sludge can clog the fuel injector and hamper the performance of the engine.

What to do instead

There's no hidden fix — just get gas before you're running on fumes.


Accelerating (too) slowly

Why you might do it

Because you've been told by every parent, driving instructor, and car insurer that it's bad to "jackrabbit" start.

Why it's harmful

speedometer

Yes, going pedal-to-the-metal right away hurts your fuel economy. But so does easing off the gas too much. Cars perform at their greenest in higher gears. If you take too long getting to your cruising speed, your gear-shifting drags and you end up wasting fuel.

What to do instead

A good way to improve gas mileage is to find a happy middle ground: not too fast or too slow. Taking roughly 15 seconds to go from 0 to 50 mph allows for efficient upshifting.


Attentive driving and your car

Watching out for subtle driving mistakes like these will help keep your car running smoothly, save you money, and keep you happy and on time.

Craving even more sagely advice? Check out our other driving tips and let the education (and break from the auto mechanic) continue.

Related links

What to do if your car breaks down
No matter how good you are to your car, it might still fail you someday.

Fuel economy myths
Want better mpg? Our blog busts some key fuel-economy misconceptions.

7 tips for proper car maintenance
Take care of your ride to help make sure it takes care of you.