Yesterday I was talking about customer service. I made mention of “topping off” your gas tank. I had a few folks ask what them means. So today we are talking about the common things that people do that can damage their car.

Not Doing Maintenance
This almost goes without saying, so I will keep it short and sweet. Skipping out on the proper maintenance can ruin your car. This also includes not checking your oil and tire pressure.

Not keeping your car clean.
Ok, I am really guilty of this one. Keeping a clean car will of course make your car hold up better. There is another side that most folks don’t consider. A clean car is awesome. When you keep your car clean, it feels like a newer car. This might not keep your car from breaking, but it will keep you happier in your car. I always love my Passat more when it’s clean, I just don’t like cleaning it.

Using your wiper blades to clear ice
I have to be honest, I am guilty of this one too. You know, that really cold morning where you have ice and snow built up on your windshield. You forgot to run out and start the car early. Now you have to make a mad dash to clean the windshield before your coffee gets cold. Most folks will jump in the car, jam the wipers on high.

This can do damage to your car in a few different ways. The extra wear on the wipers blades never a good thing. VW blades are about $20 each, you don’t want to put more stress on them than needed. There are more components that can be affected. Consider the wiper motor, and transmission. Yep, the wipers have a transmission. Anytime the wipers slow due to an outside influence, the motor and transmission are stressed. Extended stress can cause premature wear on both the motor and transmission. (The transmission is what the linkage for the wipers is called). To avoid the extra work done by the wiper system, just start your car early, or scrape your windshield.

Starting your car and “punching it”
Years ago, my dealer had a shuttle driver that would do this. He would start the shuttle van on a super cold morning. Then with out delay, slam it in drive and “punch it” As you can imagine, that is not a great thing for a car. I know that is an extreme example, but most of us are guilty.

The better way to get your car rolling is to let it run for a minute or so. Let the fluids circulate, and build pressure. You want to make sure that oil, coolant, and transmission fluid are flowing before you jam the gas and go

“Punching it” then shutting off your car
The flip side is letting your car cool down. This is much more critical for a turbo charged car. Letting your car idle for a minute before shutting it off, is a great habit to start. When your engine is running, all the fluids are moving. When they are moving, they are carrying heat away from the engine. When you just shut the car off, all that heat is trapped. This can cause the engine oil to break down faster and “coke”. When oil “cokes” it will harden. This is one of the big issues with the B5-B5.5 Passats. Not only will it speed up the break down of oil, it will clog the oil passages. Remember, no oil = sad engine!

“Topping up” your fuel tank
Ah yes, the worst one so far! Let us talk about what “topping up” really is. If you set the pump and it clicks off at $38.45. Then you turn the pump back on and put and even $40 in.Then you have successfully “Topped up” the tank. I guess now a days an extra dollar will get you no where, but you guys get the point. 😉

You are probably wondering why that is so bad. See, all modern cars have more emissions controls and you can imagine. One of the systems is designed to control fuel vapors. Whether it is a leak in the tank, while you are filling your car, or just normal driving. The vapors are managed by a system called the Evaporative Emissions system, or evap system for short.

The evap system will deal with fuel vapors by holding them in a canister. This is called a charcoal canister. The vapors are then pumped back in to the engine and burned. When you over fill your gas tank by “topping up”, you pump liquid fuel into the charcoal canister. This can cause the charcoal to break apart. When it starts to break apart it gets pumped into the engine. That part is usually not an issue. The issue comes in the damage to the canister and the control valve.

The control valve will get clogged with charcoal and cause the MIL to come on. 🙁 The end result will be replacing the charcoal canister, and control valve, and flushing all the tiny bits of charcoal out of the system. That can be a pretty costly repair. If you do it one time, fine, but don’t make a habit of it.

What do you guys think? Are you guilty of any ,or all, of these? I know that I am. If you enjoyed today’s post, please consider sharing it. I love getting new readers joining our community.

9 replies
  1. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Ever since I’ve had the a4 I haven’t been able to put gas in it with the pump all the way in the filler hole, the pump constantly shuts off. I pulled the canister this weekend and it weighed about 15 pounds, I’m guessing the previous owner was guilty of topping off. The a4 no longer has a canister 🙂

    Reply
  2. Alex@iHeartEuro
    Alex@iHeartEuro says:

    Actually I’ve done most of these things with my first cars 5-6 years ago but as I learned to appreciate cars I started taking better care of them.

    Now, as I am doing a mechanics school I am even more careful, mostly because I understand WHAT exactly and HOW exactly can cause damage to the car…

    Great post, Charles!

    Reply
    • Charles
      Charles says:

      @Nicholas, Thanks for stopping by!
      I am actually more guilty of doing that in the evening. I am always in a hurry to get home after a long day of work. 🙂

      Reply
      • Jeremy
        Jeremy says:

        Car starter 🙂
        Even in the summer I start my car 5 minutes before I leave so that the engine is at running temp

        Reply
  3. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

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    Reply

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