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Driving to minimise wear...


The manner in which you drive your vehicle will have a powerful effect for good or bad on the condition of your vehicle and the amount of time and money it costs you to maintain it.  Here’s a collection of driving do’s and don’ts that will prevent wear and damage to your vehicle so that you don’t have to fork out for expensive repairs:


Don’t take off like a rocket…

It’s best not to make a habit of pushing the accelerator pedal quickly all the way to the floor from a standing start.  This jolts the motor and the automatic transmission from low idling revolutions per minute and from a dormant state respectively to intense activity.  This will greatly increase the rate of wear and tear on the engine and transmission.  It’s much better to accelerate gently from a standing start for a few metres before accelerating more rapidly if necessary, in order to avoid premature wear on the engine and on the transmission.


Don’t ‘lug’ the motor…

It’s best to never ‘lug’ the motor which increases the likelihood of blowing a cylinder head gasket or damaging the pistons.  Lugging the motor occurs when a gear has been selected, either manually in the case of a manual transmission or automatically in the case of an automatic transmission, that is too high for the speed that the vehicle is travelling at.  For example, somebody trying to driving a vehicle with a manual transmission up a steep hill in fourth gear is ‘lugging’ the engine.  Because this is a high gear, more force is going to have to be exerted on the pistons at the point of combustion through use of the accelerator to achieve the same speed up the hill as when the lower gear of third gear is selected which is associated with higher engine revolutions and less pressure on the pistons.

Lugging the motor occurs when the driver endeavours to achieve their target speed up the hill in fourth gear by pressing harder on the accelerator and exerting more force on the pistons at the point of combustion via an increase in the volume of the fuel/air mixture being delivered to the combustion chambers.  An increase in this volume results in a larger explosion of the fuel/air mixture and greater force exerted on the pistons.  This increased force on the pistons greatly increases the likelihood of blowing the cylinder head gasket (which is part of the walls of the combustion chambers) or burning holes in the tops of the pistons, given that as each piston rises to top of its stroke and the fuel/air mixture is ignited by the spark plug, the pressure in the combustion chamber increases dramatically.

If the driver shifts down to third gear instead, the engine revolutions to achieve the same speed will be higher and the force required to be exerted on the pistons at the point of combustion will be lower.  This lower force required means that a lower volume of fuel and air is required in each combustion chamber at the point of ignition which means that the pressure in each combustion chamber at the point of ignition will also be lower.  This lower pressure means that there will not be excessive stress placed on the cylinder head gasket or on the tops of the pistons, preventing these components from failing or being damaged.

Making sure that the vehicle (whether it has a manual transmission or automatic transmission) is in the correct gear for the slope of the road being driven on is the right way to ensure that the engine is not placed under excessive load which can lead to serious and expensive mechanical failure of the cylinder head gasket or the tops of the pistons.


Come to a complete stop before changing gears and direction with an automatic transmission…

Always make sure that a vehicle with an automatic transmission is at a complete stop before moving out of ‘Drive’ to select ‘Reverse’ or moving out of ‘Reverse’ to select ‘Drive’.  This applies to selecting ‘Reverse’ after previously moving forward in ‘Drive’ or selecting ‘Drive’ after previously moving backwards in ‘Reverse’.  Failure to do this can easily exacerbate wear inside the transmission and can lead to transmission damage which will be expensive and inconvenient to fix.  Similarly, it’s important not to put a vehicle with an automatic transmission into ‘Park’ before the vehicle has come to a complete stop.


Put the automatic transmission into ‘Neutral’ when you’re stationary…

When stopped at traffic lights, if your vehicle has an automatic transmission, putting it into ‘Neutral’ will take the pressure off it until the traffic lights turn green, when you can put it back into ‘Drive’.  When the automatic transmission is in ‘Drive’, it’s still driving the wheels even if you have your foot on the brake to keep the vehicle stationary at traffic lights, for example.  If you were to take your foot off the brake, the vehicle would drive forward under power without you even pushing the accelerator since the engine is running at idle speed and is therefore driving the automatic transmission.

Considering how much time the vehicle spends at traffic lights at a standstill, it’s best for the automatic transmission to be in ‘Neutral’ while stationary.  Automatic transmissions are highly complicated, sensitive pieces of machinery.  Relieving the tension in it by putting it into ‘Neutral’ when you’re stationary and waiting around will go a long way to keeping it in the best possible condition and avoiding unnecessary wear and tear.



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Copyright 2016 Andrew Mackinnon.  All rights reserved.