Car Mistakes

By Angela Monroe - May 19, 2021

Car Mistakes

Car problems often result from car mistakes. They’re easy to make too, but fortunately, just as avoidable.

We take a look at some common mistakes and the car problems they can cause.

Shifting into reverse or drive while rolling the other way


A classic mistake and so avoidable. This means shifting the transmission into drive while still moving backwards when reversing or vice versa. It often happens when motorists are in a rush or under pressure from other vehicles waiting.

Fortunately, most modern cars have reverse-inhibit features that prevent serious damage but all the weight and momentum of a vehicle on transmission isn’t healthy.

Car problems caused

Although newer cars can ‘ignore’ a driver’s transmission request if damage will occur, older vehicles can suffer. The synchroniser, which matches engine and transmission speeds, can generate a lot of heat and break at weak points.

Accelerating hard when the engine is cold

cold car

Or, driving at high RPM speeds. It means not letting your car warm up, especially in winter or cold weather.

Many people assume that new cars don’t need to warm up but modern engines simply add more fuel until the engine reaches optimum temperature. You’ll hear your engine revving a little louder upon a cold start. This is done using sophisticated temperature sensors.

Car problems caused

Driving a cold engine hard can result in the extra fuel seeping into the cylinder walls which strips away oil (lubricant). Furthermore, engine components changing from extreme cold to hot temperatures can cause fatigue, similar to putting an ice cube straight in a room-temperature glass of water – it’ll crack.

Not washing your car

wash car

Road dust, debris, tree sap and dirty water all can damage the paint. Modern auto paint is extremely tough and has many layers – a protective clear coat is an outer surface you actually touch. But these aren’t totally weatherproof.

Car problems caused

Road dust and other contaminants can eat away clear coats and expedite UV damage. If you’ve ever seen flaky, faded paint on a car (usually the bonnet or roof), it’s UV damage. This can greatly reduce the resale value of your car.

Washing your car regularly removes contaminants and helps prevent paint fade. Add a ceramic coating for even more protection.

Running your car on empty

empty car

Saving petrol is an excellent idea and there are many ways to reduce your car’s fuel consumption. One of those ways is not driving on empty. In Australia, fuel prices operate on cycles which means they fluctuate from high to low(er) prices over time.

Filling up when the cycle is at a low point is, of course, the way to go, but not at the expense of your car.

Car problems caused

Running a car on a (nearly) empty tank can cause a few problems. Other than getting stuck on the side of the road for an embarrassing reason, your fuel pump can suck up debris on the bottom of your fuel tank. After years of filling up and refilling up, cars inevitably accumulate sand, dust or debris in their tanks. Most experts advise keeping at least a quarter of a tank full at all times.

Furthermore, if a fuel pump sucks up the air, it can cause the car to stutter and the fuel pump may overheat.

Taking bumps too fast

speed bump

If you’re running late and get stuck in traffic, taking a backstreet only to find it laden with speed bumps can be frustrating. To your car that is.

Driving at high speeds over bumpy terrain can cause significant damage to a car, especially one that’s not designed for it. If you’ve been standing on the footpath near a car driving over a speedbump, you’ve probably heard the suspension.

Car problems caused

Taking bumps too quickly can cause shock absorbers to bottom out causing wear and tear on status and components. The hard and sudden jolts to the vehicle can also cause problems with steering, wheel alignment, engine mounts, the list goes on.

Using the wrong oil

car engine

Engine oil comes in a variety of grades. These grades refer to how ‘runny’ or the viscosity of the oil at different temperatures. The hotter it is, the runnier.

Too runny, and it won’t lubricate the engine properly. Too thick, and it won’t pump around the engine properly.

Different cars operating in different climates require different engine oil so making sure your car is using the correct oil is vital.

Car problems caused

The wrong oil can dramatically shorten the life of your engine. It can cause parts to wear out faster than if using the correct oil. Overheating can occur or the car might not start in cold weather. In extreme cases, the engine can seize meaning a new engine is required.

Riding the brakes

car brakes

This means lightly applying the brakes for extended and unnecessarily long periods. It often occurs when descending a steep hill, especially a long one.

Try to apply the brakes more firmly and for shorter periods of time if safe.

Car problems caused

Brakes in cars work by pinching a disc or rotor attached to the wheel. If applied for overly long periods of time, they can overheat and warp which can cause brake shudder.

Ignoring the cabin filter

car air

Typically located behind a car’s glove box, the cabin filter’s job is to… filter the cabin, no surprises there. When you use the fan or the A/C, the air is filtered to keep it free from dust, pollen and other contaminants.

These filters can become clogged with bacteria if not changed out at regular intervals. 

Car problems caused

Or, more accurately, health problems. Remember that unless you only have the windows open, you’ll be breathing air filtered by the cabin filter. Fortunately, these are easy to replace and generally no more than $50.

Avoid car problems

For most people, a car is their most or second-most valuable asset. Make sure to avoid car problems by driving carefully and not making any of the mistakes listed above.

If your vehicle is acting a little ‘shaky’ or has had a rough life, an upgrade to something in better condition is a safe idea. 

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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