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Thread: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Things you should never do to a car (or truck)


    Car owner's manuals are like "Moby Dick" - we all have a copy someplace, but few of us ever made it through the whole thing. For those who didn't, here's a short list of things in the "don't do that!" section you may have missed:

    Never...

    * Tow (or haul) more than the maximum-rated capacity

    Ugly things can happen if you do. Examples include hitches/mounting points actually coming apart - and your load coming loose at 65 mph. Or overloaded brakes failing as you make your way down a steep grade. Beds/trunks weighed down by whatever you've crammed in there can compress the rear suspension dangerously - creating an evil-handling, ready-to-wreck ride that you'll regret ever having set in motion. And even if nothing immediately awful happens, you're still placing extreme stress on your vehicle that will result in rapid wear and tear of parts, which means they'll likely need to be replaced sooner than they otherwise might have. Burning up a clutch, ruining an automatic transmission or blowing out your shocks/struts can end up costing you a lot more than what you would have spent to rent/borrow a vehicle with the capacity you needed.

    Or just use yours - and make two trips with two smaller/lighter loads.

    * Keep your 4WD in 4WD on dry, paved roads

    If you have a truck or SUV with a part-time 4WD system, the majority of your on-street driving should be with the selector in 2WD. The other ranges - typically, 4WD High and 4WD Low - are not intended for use on dry pavement. Driving on smooth surfaces with 4WD engaged (and especially going around corners on dry, smooth surfaces with 4WD engaged ) can damage your 4WD system and leave you facing costly repairs. 4WD High range should only be engaged when there is snow on the road - or you've left paved roads entirely. 4WD Low should never be used on paved roads unless you are trying to make your way through very deep, unplowed snow. Otherwise, save it for driving off-road, at low speed, through deep mud, sand or on a very rugged dirt trail. 2WD should be re-engaged as soon as you're back on dry pavement/smooth roads. If your pick-up or SUV has a locking differential(s), be certain you only use it when the vehicle is moving forward or reversing - and not going around a corner. When cornering, the inside and outside wheels turn at different rates; the differential allows them do so without binding up. But when the differential's locked, the axles can bind - even break - if the stresses are severe enough. If that happens, you'll be stuck - and looking at a very big bill.

    * Use a different weight (or grade) of oil than specified by the manufacturer

    This is especially important with modern engines, because they are built with much closer tolerances than the engines of the past. Running a heavy oil (say, 20W-50) in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can increase friction inside the engine, reduce fuel efficiency - and possibly even lead to more serious problems that may not be covered by your new car warranty. The same also goes for American Petroleum Institute (API) ratings. If your vehicle's manufacturer says to only use oil with at least an SM rating (for improved oxidation resistance, protection against deposits and better low-temperature performance) and you cheap out by using a lower-performance SH/SG oil (for 1996 and older engines) you found on sale at Budget Auto Supply, you not only risk possible engine trouble - you risk losing warranty coverage for any oil-related failure that occurs. (See http://www.calsci.com/motorcycleinfo/API.html for detailed info on API oil service categories.)

    * Use your transmission (manual or automatic) to "park" the car

    The proper way to park your vehicle is to engage the parking brake before releasing the foot brake or putting the vehicle in "Park" (automatic-equipped vehicles) or releasing the clutch with the transmission in gear (manual-equipped cars). This way, the parking brake holds the weight of the car - not the transmission. If you don't do it this way, you risk breaking parts inside the transmission (expensive) or (less expensive, but annoying) finding it's hard to get the shift lever out of "Park" when you want to get going again. People have become stuck this way - and had to call AAA. Or had to arm-wrestle with the shift linkage for awhile before they were able to free the car. It's something that should never happen - because it's totally preventable.

    * Drive fast (or far) on a space-saver spare

    Many new cars come with temporary use only "mini-spares" designed for just that - temporary use only. They are not designed to let you continue driving as you were before the flat; they're designed only to let you keep on driving - at reduced speed and extra carefully - to the nearest service station. Most "minis" have warning labels that caution you not to exceed 55 mph or drive more than 100 miles (at the outside). The warning label will also usually tell you that your car may handle differently (read: less well) and that braking performance will be reduced (read: you will need more time to stop safely). The idea is to limp along to the tire store - grateful for any forward motion at all. Don't push your luck - or expect a temporary-use-only "mini" to do what a normal tire can do.

    * Use tap water to top off your radiator (or battery)

    Tap water can have impurities in it that you may not be able to see with your naked eye but which are nonetheless bad news for your car's cooling system. Unwanted chemical reactions can take place inside expensive-to-replace radiators and alloy engine parts. If you need to top off your car's cooling system, you should use distilled water only. It should be mixed in a 50-50 ratio with the appropriate anti-freeze (standard "green" or long-life "orange"). Never exceed 70 percent anti-freeze in the system. Top off the overflow reservoir - not the radiator itself (unless the vehicle has been sitting for at least a few hours and had time to cool down). If you do remove the radiator cap, always use a large towel to avoid being scalded by escaping steam/coolant. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and distilled water's not available, look for bottled water - it's at least filtered and should be more pure than ordinary tap water. Don't ever use bubbly mineral water under any circumstances.

    Once you're back in civilization, you can have the entire system properly flushed and refilled with the correct ratio of anti-freeze and distilled water.


    END






  2. #2
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Use tap water to top off your radiator (or battery)
    In Honda circles, this is known as "Honda-cide". The aluminum block & head does not like tap water.


    Also - something you might want to look up is a story about how some tire company engineers (Goodyear? Michelin?) drove across the US on a set of four space-saver spares. It might have even been during one of the "One Lap of America" events. They made sure to keep the pressure at the recommended levels, something which most spares aren't at.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  3. #3
    mrblanche
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Consumer Reports some years ago found that the space-saver spares were actually pretty competent tires in their own right.

    I have seen them used as front tires on street rods.

  4. #4
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    My car actually came with a full-size spare.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    "Consumer Reports some years ago found that the space-saver spares were actually pretty competent tires in their own right."

    I guess that depends on the application/use!

    For example, imagine a current year sport sedan/coupe with 18 inch wheels and 45-series ultra-performance tires. One goes flat; you replace it with the temporary spare - which (in every case I've seen) is much smaller (skinny, with far less contact patch). So one corner of the car has much less traction/grip/load-bearing capacity than the other three.

    For gimping around a little bit, ok.

    But I'd abide by the cautions on the label to drive slowly and be advised that handling/braking performance are apt to be affected!

  6. #6
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Oh, there's no doubt that the handling will be different -- the contact patch will be much smaller, for one.

    But as long as they're inflated correctly, you shouldn't have any problems driving "normally" on one.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    Oh, there's no doubt that the handling will be different -- the contact patch will be much smaller, for one.

    But as long as they're inflated correctly, you shouldn't have any problems driving "normally" on one.

    Chip H.
    I'd add several caveats to "normally" - including no sustained high speed (70-plus) driving. The chance of a heat/load-induced failure as a result of high-speed driving shouldn't be taken lightly.

    Also, braking performance will be reduced, given the smaller contact patch. It's also more likely the car will react differently during abrupt braking/manuevering.

    I've driven on these things and done some informal "testing." Trust me; they do indeed have a very noiceable (and negative) effect on vehicle handling/performance!

  8. #8
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    *Never

    * Use tap water to top off your radiator (or battery)

    Tap water can have impurities in it that you may not be able to see with your naked eye but which are nonetheless bad news for your car's cooling system. Unwanted chemical reactions can take place inside expensive-to-replace radiators and alloy engine parts. If you need to top off your car's cooling system, you should use distilled water only. It should be mixed in a 50-50 ratio with the appropriate anti-freeze (standard "green" or long-life "orange"). Never exceed 70 percent anti-freeze in the system. Top off the overflow reservoir - not the radiator itself (unless the vehicle has been sitting for at least a few hours and had time to cool down). If you do remove the radiator cap, always use a large towel to avoid being scalded by escaping steam/coolant. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and distilled water's not available, look for bottled water - it's at least filtered and should be more pure than ordinary tap water. Don't ever use bubbly mineral water under any circumstances.

    Once you're back in civilization, you can have the entire system properly flushed and refilled with the correct ratio of anti-freeze and distilled water.


    END

    Hey, I've always used tap water with my Prestone AntiFreeze all these years. Nothing bad went wrong. Did you know Prestone sells ready-mixed (50-50) coolant. Handy for topping off low level of coolant.

  9. #9
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    Car owner's manuals are like "Moby Dick" - we all have a copy someplace, but few of us ever made it through the whole thing. For those who didn't, here's a short list of things in the "don't do that!" section you may have missed:

    Never...

    * Tow (or haul) more than the maximum-rated capacity

    Ugly things can happen if you do. Examples include hitches/mounting points actually coming apart - and your load coming loose at 65 mph. Or overloaded brakes failing as you make your way down a steep grade. Beds/trunks weighed down by whatever you've crammed in there can compress the rear suspension dangerously - creating an evil-handling, ready-to-wreck ride that you'll regret ever having set in motion. And even if nothing immediately awful happens, you're still placing extreme stress on your vehicle that will result in rapid wear and tear of parts, which means they'll likely need to be replaced sooner than they otherwise might have. Burning up a clutch, ruining an automatic transmission or blowing out your shocks/struts can end up costing you a lot more than what you would have spent to rent/borrow a vehicle with the capacity you needed.

    Or just use yours - and make two trips with two smaller/lighter loads.

    * Keep your 4WD in 4WD on dry, paved roads

    If you have a truck or SUV with a part-time 4WD system, the majority of your on-street driving should be with the selector in 2WD. The other ranges - typically, 4WD High and 4WD Low - are not intended for use on dry pavement. Driving on smooth surfaces with 4WD engaged (and especially going around corners on dry, smooth surfaces with 4WD engaged ) can damage your 4WD system and leave you facing costly repairs. 4WD High range should only be engaged when there is snow on the road - or you've left paved roads entirely. 4WD Low should never be used on paved roads unless you are trying to make your way through very deep, unplowed snow. Otherwise, save it for driving off-road, at low speed, through deep mud, sand or on a very rugged dirt trail. 2WD should be re-engaged as soon as you're back on dry pavement/smooth roads. If your pick-up or SUV has a locking differential(s), be certain you only use it when the vehicle is moving forward or reversing - and not going around a corner. When cornering, the inside and outside wheels turn at different rates; the differential allows them do so without binding up. But when the differential's locked, the axles can bind - even break - if the stresses are severe enough. If that happens, you'll be stuck - and looking at a very big bill.

    * Use a different weight (or grade) of oil than specified by the manufacturer

    This is especially important with modern engines, because they are built with much closer tolerances than the engines of the past. Running a heavy oil (say, 20W-50) in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can increase friction inside the engine, reduce fuel efficiency - and possibly even lead to more serious problems that may not be covered by your new car warranty. The same also goes for American Petroleum Institute (API) ratings. If your vehicle's manufacturer says to only use oil with at least an SM rating (for improved oxidation resistance, protection against deposits and better low-temperature performance) and you cheap out by using a lower-performance SH/SG oil (for 1996 and older engines) you found on sale at Budget Auto Supply, you not only risk possible engine trouble - you risk losing warranty coverage for any oil-related failure that occurs. (See http://www.calsci.com/motorcycleinfo/API.html for detailed info on API oil service categories.)

    * Use your transmission (manual or automatic) to "park" the car

    The proper way to park your vehicle is to engage the parking brake before releasing the foot brake or putting the vehicle in "Park" (automatic-equipped vehicles) or releasing the clutch with the transmission in gear (manual-equipped cars). This way, the parking brake holds the weight of the car - not the transmission. If you don't do it this way, you risk breaking parts inside the transmission (expensive) or (less expensive, but annoying) finding it's hard to get the shift lever out of "Park" when you want to get going again. People have become stuck this way - and had to call AAA. Or had to arm-wrestle with the shift linkage for awhile before they were able to free the car. It's something that should never happen - because it's totally preventable.

    * Drive fast (or far) on a space-saver spare

    Many new cars come with temporary use only "mini-spares" designed for just that - temporary use only. They are not designed to let you continue driving as you were before the flat; they're designed only to let you keep on driving - at reduced speed and extra carefully - to the nearest service station. Most "minis" have warning labels that caution you not to exceed 55 mph or drive more than 100 miles (at the outside). The warning label will also usually tell you that your car may handle differently (read: less well) and that braking performance will be reduced (read: you will need more time to stop safely). The idea is to limp along to the tire store - grateful for any forward motion at all. Don't push your luck - or expect a temporary-use-only "mini" to do what a normal tire can do.

    * Use tap water to top off your radiator (or battery)

    Tap water can have impurities in it that you may not be able to see with your naked eye but which are nonetheless bad news for your car's cooling system. Unwanted chemical reactions can take place inside expensive-to-replace radiators and alloy engine parts. If you need to top off your car's cooling system, you should use distilled water only. It should be mixed in a 50-50 ratio with the appropriate anti-freeze (standard "green" or long-life "orange"). Never exceed 70 percent anti-freeze in the system. Top off the overflow reservoir - not the radiator itself (unless the vehicle has been sitting for at least a few hours and had time to cool down). If you do remove the radiator cap, always use a large towel to avoid being scalded by escaping steam/coolant. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and distilled water's not available, look for bottled water - it's at least filtered and should be more pure than ordinary tap water. Don't ever use bubbly mineral water under any circumstances.

    Once you're back in civilization, you can have the entire system properly flushed and refilled with the correct ratio of anti-freeze and distilled water.


    END

    >>The proper way to park your vehicle is to engage the parking brake before releasing the foot brake or putting the vehicle in "park"......<<

    That may be the proper way, ONLY and IF you park your vehicle on sloping incline, but I think shifting into "park" before engaging the parking brake will
    do no "harm" if the vehicle is on a level surface . I always, when I park my car in my garage, shift into "park", apply the parking brake and then releasing my foot brake.







  10. #10
    mrblanche
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    I virtually never use the parking brake in my cars, and I've never replace or repaired a transmission yet, in 40 years of owning them.

    And the T doesn't have a parking brake.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    "Hey, I've always used tap water with my Prestone AntiFreeze all these years. Nothing bad went wrong. Did you know Prestone sells ready-mixed (50-50) coolant. Handy for topping off low level of coolant."

    Those old iron block/heads American cars are less vulnerable; modern cars with aluminum engines are a different story... see Chip's comments in re Hondas.

  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I virtually never use the parking brake in my cars, and I've never replace or repaired a transmission yet, in 40 years of owning them.

    And the T doesn't have a parking brake.
    I've had the experience of a steering wheel (or consolelshifter) binding; some vehicles seem to be more prone to it than others. In any case, most automakers do recommend applying the parking brake before putting the tranny in Park (or loading the gearbox, if it's a manual car).....

  13. #13
    mrblanche
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I've had the experience of a steering wheel (or consolelshifter) binding; some vehicles seem to be more prone to it than others. In any case, most automakers do recommend applying the parking brake before putting the tranny in Park (or loading the gearbox, if it's a manual car).....
    And the reason has little to do with actual operation of the car. There are two reasons:

    1. Liability. If you use your parking brake, you're a lot less likely to experience the "uncontrolled acceleration" problem, which is really "uncontrolled foot position."

    2. In many cars with rear disc brakes, the parking brake adjusts the brakes.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I've had the experience of a steering wheel (or consolelshifter) binding; some vehicles seem to be more prone to it than others. In any case, most automakers do recommend applying the parking brake before putting the tranny in Park (or loading the gearbox, if it's a manual car).....
    And the reason has little to do with actual operation of the car. There are two reasons:

    1. Liability. If you use your parking brake, you're a lot less likely to experience the "uncontrolled acceleration" problem, which is really "uncontrolled foot position."

    2. In many cars with rear disc brakes, the parking brake adjusts the brakes.
    Both those reasons are absolutely valid; but it's still true that failing to engage the parking brake before putting the vehicle into Park can make it harder to get the vehcle out of Park when you come back. Sometimes, it binds sufficiently that women/people without lots of arm strength, etc. have difficulty moving it out of Park at all. And having to "force" the shifter/linkage is probably not a good idea in any case.

    I've experienced the above several times over the years, incidentally.

    It's not a phantom problem.

  15. #15
    DonTom
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    IMAO, it's not a big deal to use tap water to top off a radiator's recovery tank once in a while, say a few cups or so once in a great while. I've done it countless times when I had no coolant or distilled water. I figure most of it won't make it into the radiator anyway.

    My 1996 Saturn gives a low coolant warning when the recovery tank is just a little low. I have gotten the warning many times on cold mornings. As soon as the engine gets warm enough, the warning lamp goes out. But to avoid the warning lamp from coming on on cold mornings, I have added tap water several times. I don't think it's a big deal unless too much is used.

    I once did an experiment using ocean water, tap water and distilled water. I was curious how much each would conduct electricity, to give a rough idea of the impurities in the water. While I realize not everything conducts electricity that could be in the water, I made the nonscientific assumption that the ratio would be about the same.

    To my surprise, sea water only conducted twice as well as tap water and tap water only connected twice as well as distilled water.

    IOW, if sea water was 5,000 ohms per inch, the tap water was 10,000 ohms and the distilled water was 20,000 ohms per inch. I don't recall the exact readings, but that's not relevant for such a comparison anyway.

    But I concluded that probably sea water is twice as bad as tap water and tap water is twice as bad as distilled water when it comes to causing things to corrode. And when you have several gallons of coolant and distilled water already, adding a few cups of tap water once in a while probably won't make a noticeable difference.

    Nevertheless, the distilled water is better, but I would not hesitate to add a few cups of tap water once in a while while when more convenient to add to a radiator's recovery tank. I've done it enough times and I don't have any more cooling problems than do most others.

    -Don-



  16. #16
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    "I once did an experiment using ocean water, tap water and distilled water. I was curious how much each would conduct electricity, to give a rough idea of the impurities in the water. While I realize not everything conducts electricity that could be in the water, I made the nonscientific assumption that the ratio would be about the same.

    To my surprise, sea water only conducted twice as well as tap water and tap water only connected twice as well as distilled water.

    IOW, if sea water was 5,000 ohms per inch, the tap water was 10,000 ohms and the distilled water was 20,000 ohms per inch. I don't recall the exact readings, but that's not relevant for such a comparison anyway.

    But I concluded that probably sea water is twice as bad as tap water and tap water is twice as bad as distilled water when it comes to causing things to corrode. And when you have several gallons of coolant and distilled water already, adding a few cups of tap water once in a while probably won't make a noticeable difference.

    Nevertheless, the distilled water is better, but I would not hesitate to add a few cups of tap water once in a while while when more convenient to add to a radiator's recovery tank. I've done it enough times and I don't have any more cooling problems than do most others."

    Interesting experiment!

    I agree with your "rule of thumb," too - but I'd definitely be more careful/hesitant if dealing with a late-model car with aluminum block/heads, etc. See Chip's comments in re Hondas....





  17. #17
    mrblanche
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Most experts say not to use distilled water in your battery or radiator, but rather de-ionized water. That is what is used in the recommended "pre-mix" coolants.

  18. #18
    DonTom
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    "Most experts say not to use distilled water in your battery or radiator, but rather de-ionized water. That is what is used in the recommended "pre-mix" coolants."

    But isn't distilled water deionized? I thought "distilled" is simply the method used (evaporation) to deionize.

    -Don-





  19. #19
    mrblanche
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom

    But isn't distilled water deionized? I thought "distilled" is simply the method used (evaporation) to deionize.

    -Don-




    Nope, not the same thing at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deionized_water

  20. #20
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    Re: Things you should never do to a car (or truck)

    Deionized water shouldn't conduct electricity at all. Distilled may conduct some.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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