Driving is a daily task for most of us, and staying safe on the road is important. Your car is also likely one of your largest investments, so taking care of it should just be common sense.
However, when you spend so much time in your car, it can be easy to overlook even the most basic safety and maintenance issues. These are great habits to get into so that your car will serve you well for years to come, and yet overlooking these simple tasks are some of the most common mistakes drivers make.
Check Your Oil Frequently
Everybody who drives knows that cars need an oil change from time to time. However, many drivers really neglect this fact. They know what needs to be done, but they don't do it. Why?
While you might read that motor oil needs to be changed every 5,000 miles or so, the truth is that the only way to know how often you should be changing your oil is to follow the intervals recommended in the owner’s manual that came with your vehicle - and use the dipstick to see if the oil's color has darkened. Every car is different, but that's why owner's manuals exist.
Not changing your car’s oil frequently enough can harm your. If you have a leak, just topping it up will work for a while, but you should really get it fixed if you want your car to work for any length of time. Engine repairs are among the most costly, so changing your oil on time just makes sense for your pocketbook. You can even keep an eye out for coupons to save money on car maintenance.
Replace Your Air Filter
Most people simply don’t think about the air filter in their cars unless they’re very interested in how a car works. In fact, some people don’t even realize that their car needs a filter. It does, and if your air filter is dirty and needs replacing, your car won’t perform at its best.
Over time, running your car with a dirty air filter can cause the engine to overheat, damaging other parts of your car and keeping it from running efficiently. The worst part is that replacing your air filter is an inexpensive repair, usually below $40, so having a dirty one damage your car for expensive repairs doesn't make sense at all.
Don’t Drive With Worn-Down Brake Pads
Brake pads don’t really break, but they can easily become worn down over a period of time, making it more and more difficult to stop your vehicle. Eventually, that quick stop that keeps you from going past that red light or bumping into a car ahead of you just won’t be possible.
While there really is no ideal amount of time you need to wait between changing brake pads, many mechanics and car manufacturers recommend somewhere in the 20,000- to 25,000-mile range. The best time to have your brake pads checked is when you’re having your tires rotated or replaced since they will be exposed and easily accessible. If the pads need replacing, do it on the spot if you can afford it to avoid any unnecessary risk.
There’s also a few warning signs of worn-down breaks to look for between checkups. You should head to a mechanic if you start hearing squealing when breaking, or if it starts taking longer than usual to break.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Beyond maintenance, you should practice good habits while on the road as well. For a lot of people, the biggest driving distraction is using a smartphone to send text messages or make voice calls. There's also applying make-up, changing the radio or iPod playlist, and eating and drinking food. Regardless of what your distraction is, stop it.
You might think you’re saving time, but doing too much while your eyes should be focused on the road can lead to catastrophe.
If you absolutely have to multitask on the road and make calls, you should consider investing in a vehicle with hands-free technology that allows you to dial, talk and answer calls with voice commands. Texting is something that you shouldn’t be doing in your vehicle.