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7 driving habits that are damaging your car

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Updated 11 Oct 2019

Michael Jacobson

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I know a guy who once changed gear 26 times – count them, 26 – when exiting our workplace car park.

We’re talking a distance of about 200 metres tops, dead flat all the way, and those 26 times included gears that barely had time to do anything before a new one was engaged.

It also included one occasion of going back through the gears – fourth to first and scrupulously one by one – after he accidentally engaged reverse.

Needless to say, my colleague wasn’t doing his car, or his jolting, juddering passenger, any favours.

Yet rather than single him out, the fact is that lots of us have developed bad driving habits that can ultimately damage our vehicles.

In the interests of smoother driving and reduced pressure on your car and wallet, here’s a rundown of some of the most common bad driving habits.


Driving downhill, many drivers are prone to touching the brake and leaving their foot on the pedal.

This can create considerable wear and tear on pads and discs, as well as overheating.

A better option when heading downhill is to engage a low gear and brake lightly.

In general driving, late braking – screeching to a halt – similarly affects pads and discs, but also creates the risk that when you actually need to hit the anchors suddenly, your brakes have become too worn to obey.


Moving from the brakes to the accelerator, you place unnecessary strain on the engine when you accelerate at low RPM.

Shift through your gears and give the revs time to ‘rev up’ – a particularly worthwhile lesson when towing or climbing.


Speaking of towing, be sure that the weight you’re lugging isn’t overloading your vehicle’s capacity.

Check your manual for weight specifications and remember that the more you carry, the more you demand of your brakes, suspension, engine and more.


We’ve already discussed my colleague's propensity for changing gears, but let’s go a tad deeper.

For example, in the case of an automatic transmission, a prevalent bad habit is the act of changing from reverse to drive, or drive to reverse, before the car has actually stopped.

This places undue strain on the transmission which, in turn, can place undue strain on your wallet.

With a manual transmission, drivers who "crunch" through the gears will eventually be crunched themselves – at least financially.

Oh, one more thing about the gears: try not to drive with one hand constantly resting on the gearstick.


Winter can be a tough time for cars, especially when the bulk of your driving is the home-work-home commute; the kind of short trip that works against your car fully warming up.

A bad habit is revving the car when it’s cold or in the process of warming up, so give it a little time, let the oil warm up at its own pace and make its way around the car, thus reducing the chance of damage via driver impatience.


Modern cars are lit up like Las Vegas and every light is there to give you information, assurance . . . and warnings.

A flashing light means a problem has been identified and, as much as some flashing lights are clearly more urgent than others, no warning should be ignored.

Again, check your manual about the warning lights in your vehicle, and don’t make ignoring them a bad and potentially expensive habit.


Most drivers who had to do the "uphill start" section of their practical driving test are probably guilty of riding the clutch.

Keeping your left foot planted on the clutch is a bad habit that will prematurely wear out your clutch plate.

Become accustomed to removing your foot from the clutch, and thus replace a bad habit with a good one.

Here at AutoGuru, we’re here to help you get the best out of your driving experience.

But when bad habits reach their inevitable outcome, we can also give you access to our network of 1600+ qualified workshops or fully certified mobile mechanics, mechanics and service centres.

That’s a great habit to develop.

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Written By

Michael Jacobson

Michael Jacobson is an award-winning Queensland-based writer.

His appreciation for motoring began as a young journalist covering racing from Simmons Plains in Tasmania.

Over the years he has interviewed many Australian and international motoring greats.

He has also been driven around Lakeside Raceway at ferocious speed, circumnavigated the Gold Coast Indy circuit at more than 200kmh and managed to squeeze 365,000 kilometres out of a Toyota Starlet.