Your car suffers a lot without complaining. It doesn’t whinge when you don’t clean it for months. It stays quiet when you chuck your Twix wrapper in the footwell. It doesn’t even protest when you sing along to S Club 7.
In return, the least you can do is show your car a bit of mechanical kindness.
Reducing unnecessary wear on your car’s key components will keep your repair and maintenance costs down and extends its useful life. You can make a start by following our five straightforward tips.
1. Use a Low Gear for Descending Long Hills
Many long downhill stretches have a sign instructing you to ‘Use Low Gear.’ The idea is that putting your car into a low gear and using ‘engine braking’ reduces the need for using your brake pedal. And why should the Highways Agency care about that? Simply because it reduces the risk of accidents. Prolonged braking heats up the brakes, which drastically decreases their performance. In extreme cases, there’s even the chance of complete brake failure.
Engine braking also reduces wear on your brakes from prolonged downhill runs. Although the high revving doesn’t sound pleasant, engine braking actually causes minimal stress to other components. The same can’t be said of excessive periods of standing on the brake pedal.
One tip: when you’re ready to downshift for your descent, do it quickly and decisively. Letting the revs drop right down before you shift into a lower gear is pretty tough on your clutch.
2. Take Care with Potholes and Speedbumps
It’s difficult to avoid all of the UK’s 500,000 potholes, but you should do your best. They really speed up wear on your suspension, tyres and other components (not to mention your spinal column and dental fillings). Some indication of this is that around a third of all damage to cars is pothole-related. So if it’s safe and practical to avoid them, your car will thank you for it.
By contrast, speed bumps are often unavoidable. If you don’t really slow down, the most severe ones can be quite taxing on the car — which admittedly is the point.
Just take ’em steady and try to ignore the silent pressure from the bloke driving 2 mm from your rear bumper in a low-speed pursuit.
3. Watch Out For Overloading
One idea that’s been around for years is that you should minimise wear by emptying the unnecessary weight out of the car, such as extra tools or accumulated rubbish.
We’re not so sure. Even a hefty 10kg of rubbish is only about 0.7% of a typical family car’s weight…that’s hardly enough to cause more wear and tear (or even affect your fuel economy).
However, really loading the car down can cause excessive wear. Just beware when you’re taking your old paving slabs to the tip, or collecting boxes of floor tiles. Check that the load doesn’t exceed that of a full complement of passengers. Personally, we keep a pet scientist to help us with trickier estimates.
When you do carry big loads, try to place weight evenly and keep the heaviest parts close to the rear axle.
4. Be Kind to Your Clutch
Being kinder to your clutch is dead easy. Just keep your foot off the pedal unless you actually need it — in other words, when you’re pulling away or changing gear. Depressing the clutch unnecessarily causes extra wear, which will in turn depress you when you have to pay for a replacement.
Examples of unecessary clutch shenanigans include:
- Letting your foot rest on the clutch (“riding the clutch”)
- Sitting at the lights or in traffic with the clutch pushed down
We’ve even come up with a little mnemonic to remind you:
If you’re not changing gear
Then keep your foot clear
5. Don’t Ignore Your Warning Lights
Well, durrr. Yes, we know it’s obvious, but it’s surprising how many people put off taking any action. It’s tempting to think you can manage for a bit longer, especially if the warning is intermittent. But ignoring oil pressure warnings, for example, can cause excessive wear really quickly. Others may have serious safety implications – we recommend that you check the RAC’s guide. Of course, warning systems can go wrong, but that itself is a problem that needs investigating.
We’ll have more tips for reducing wear in a future blog post.
The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.