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15 Bad Habits That Are Slowly Killing Your Car’s Engine

Your car’s engine is the heart of your vehicle, powering you through daily commutes, road trips, and errands. You rely on it to start without hesitation and perform effortlessly. However, while you’re zipping down the highway or navigating city streets, you might be unknowingly subjecting your car’s engine to a series of bad habits that can have a detrimental impact on its health and longevity. These habits often go unnoticed until it’s too late, resulting in costly repairs and breakdowns.

Skipping Regular Oil Changes

Refueling and pouring oil quality into the engine motor car Transmission and Maintenance Gear .Energy fuel concept.
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Neglecting regular oil changes can be detrimental to your engine’s health. Engine oil serves as a crucial lubricant, reducing friction between moving parts and dissipating heat. When you skip oil changes, the oil becomes dirty and less effective at its job. This leads to increased friction, higher operating temperatures, and accelerated wear and tear on your engine components. Over time, this can result in serious engine damage, reduced performance, and costly repairs.

Ignoring Maintenance Schedules

Portrait of an Asian mechanic checking the safety of a car. Maintenance of damaged parts in the garage. Maintenance repairs. Repair service concept.
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Your car’s maintenance schedule is there for a reason, and ignoring it can put undue stress on your engine. Routine maintenance tasks like air filter replacements, spark plug changes, and belt inspections are designed to ensure your engine operates smoothly and efficiently. Neglecting these tasks can lead to reduced fuel efficiency, decreased power output, and even engine misfires. By ignoring your maintenance schedule, you risk compromising your engine’s performance and longevity.

Revving the Engine in Park

Auburn, WA, USA August 5, 2022 Blue Subaru BRZ revving the engine to make the tachometer move
Image Credit: Brandon Woyshnis /Shutterstock.

Revving the engine while your car is in neutral or park may seem harmless, but it can actually overheat and stress your engine. When you rev the engine without a load (like when your car is stationary), it can cause it to operate at higher RPMs, generating excess heat. This heat can, in turn, stress engine components and lead to potential damage over time. It’s best to avoid unnecessary revving to ensure your engine’s well-being.

Neglecting Coolant Levels

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Engine coolant plays a critical role in regulating your engine’s temperature. Neglecting coolant levels can result in low coolant, leading to overheating. Overheating is one of the most significant threats to your engine’s health, as it can cause warping of engine components, blown head gaskets, and even engine block damage. To protect your engine, regularly check and maintain proper coolant levels.

Driving on an Empty Gas Tank

Driving Empty
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Operating your vehicle on an empty gas tank is not only risky for being stranded but also detrimental to your engine. When you run out of fuel, the fuel pump may draw in air instead of gasoline, which can lead to damage and reduced pump efficiency. Additionally, sediment and debris often settle at the bottom of the gas tank, and running on low fuel levels can cause these contaminants to enter your engine, potentially causing damage and affecting its performance. To preserve your engine’s well-being, it’s best to keep your gas tank adequately filled.

Prolonged Idling

exhaust system
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Leaving your engine running unnecessarily can lead to increased wear and tear. When your engine idles for extended periods, it continues to consume fuel while generating heat and vibration. This prolonged idling can lead to reduced fuel efficiency, increased emissions, and accelerated wear on engine components like the piston rings and cylinder walls. It’s advisable to turn off your engine when parked for an extended duration to preserve its longevity.

Ignoring Warning Lights

Many different car dashboard lights with warning lamps illuminated.
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Ignoring dashboard warning lights can lead to engine issues going unaddressed. Modern vehicles are equipped with sophisticated monitoring systems that detect potential problems within the engine and other vital components. When warning lights illuminate, it’s your car’s way of alerting you to issues that require attention. Ignoring these warnings can result in unresolved engine problems, which may escalate and lead to costly repairs. Regularly checking and addressing warning lights is essential to protect your engine’s health.

Riding the Clutch

An image of a car pedal
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Resting your foot on the clutch pedal while driving can wear out the clutch prematurely. The clutch is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels. When you keep your foot on the clutch pedal, it creates unnecessary friction, leading to clutch plate wear and a reduced lifespan. To extend the life of your clutch and preserve your engine’s health, avoid riding the clutch and use it only when shifting gears.

Overloading Your Vehicle

Excess Weight
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Exceeding your car’s weight limit can strain the engine and suspension. Every vehicle has a specified weight capacity, including passengers and cargo. Overloading your vehicle puts excessive stress on the engine, suspension, and brakes. This additional strain can lead to reduced fuel efficiency, decreased handling performance, and potential damage to engine components. To prevent undue wear on your engine, adhere to your vehicle’s weight limits.

Abrupt Acceleration and Braking

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Aggressive driving, characterized by abrupt acceleration and braking, can cause unnecessary stress on the engine and brakes. Rapid acceleration generates higher engine RPMs and increased heat, which can lead to accelerated wear on engine components. Sudden braking can strain the braking system, potentially causing brake fade and reduced stopping power. To extend the life of your engine and maintain optimal braking performance, adopt a smoother driving style with gradual acceleration and braking.

Neglecting Air Filter Replacements

Car air filter with new and old placed on car chassis in engine room of a car
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A clogged air filter restricts airflow, affecting engine performance. The air filter plays a crucial role in maintaining clean and oxygen-rich air intake for your engine. When it becomes clogged with dirt and debris, it hampers the engine’s ability to breathe efficiently. This can lead to reduced power output, decreased fuel efficiency, and increased strain on engine components. Regularly replacing your air filter is essential to ensure optimal engine performance.

Using the Wrong Fuel

Refuel cars at the fuel pump. The driver hands, refuel and pump the car's gasoline with fuel at the petrol station. Car refueling at a gas station Gas station
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Putting the incorrect type of fuel in your vehicle can lead to engine damage. Engines are designed to run on specific fuel types, whether it’s gasoline, diesel, or alternative fuels. Using the wrong fuel can lead to combustion issues, reduced engine efficiency, and potential damage to engine components. To protect your engine, always use the fuel type recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Neglecting Transmission Maintenance

hand fill up in a car engine with transmission oil
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Ignoring transmission fluid changes and inspections can harm the engine. The transmission and engine are interconnected systems, and transmission fluid plays a vital role in ensuring smooth gear shifts and cooling the transmission. Neglecting transmission maintenance can lead to overheating, increased friction, and potential damage to engine components. Regular transmission fluid changes and inspections are crucial to maintain your engine’s health.

Ignoring Strange Noises

Young man sitting inside car is very upset and stressed
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Unusual sounds like knocking or pinging should be investigated promptly to prevent engine damage. Strange noises often indicate underlying issues within the engine, such as detonation, valve problems, or bearing wear. Ignoring these sounds can lead to engine damage, reduced performance, and costly repairs. It’s essential to address any unusual noises promptly through a professional inspection to safeguard your engine’s well-being.

Towing Beyond Capacity

Tesla towing
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Towing loads heavier than your vehicle’s capacity can lead to engine strain and overheating. Every vehicle has a specified towing capacity, and exceeding this limit can put excessive stress on the engine, transmission, and braking system. Towing beyond capacity can lead to overheating, reduced engine efficiency, and potential damage to engine components. To protect your engine, always adhere to your vehicle’s towing capacity and avoid overloading it during towing tasks.

Author: Madison Cates

Title: Managing Editor


Research journalist, Freelance writer, Managing editor

  • Expertise: automotive content, trending topics.
  • Education: LeTourneau University, Bachelors of Science in Business Administration.
  • Over 400 articles and short news pieces published across the web.

Experience: Madison Cates is a journalist located in the great state of Texas. She began writing over eight years ago. Her first major research piece was published by the Journal of Business and Economics in 2018. After growing up in a household of eight brothers and a dad who was always restoring old Camaros, she naturally pivoted her freelance career into the automotive industry. There, she found her passion. Her experience paved the way for her to work with multiple large corporations in automotive news and trending topics. Now, she now finds her home at Wealth of Geeks where she proudly serves as Managing Editor of Autos. Madison is always down to geek out over the latest beautiful cars on the market, and she enjoys providing her readers with tips to make car ownership easier and more enjoyable.

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