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13 Ways You’re Shortening the Life of Your Car

Put the brakes on these all-too-common mistakes to help keep your car on the road and out of the shop.

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Banging Through Potholes

"Your car's suspension is great at soaking up imperfections in the road, but it has a breaking point. Sometimes it's impossible to avoid potholes, but driving through them at any speed faster than a crawl can bend wheel rims and brake struts." — Matt Smith, senior editor at Car Gurus.

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Using Cheap Gas

"Penny-pinching by using less than top-tier-rated fuels can result in expensive engine damage down the road. Filling with regular grade when the engine requires premium can create drivability problems and warning lights." — Richard Reina, product-training director at CARiD. Plus: Are you doing these dangerous things while pumping gas?

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Not Driving It Enough

"Too much time without exercise will kill your car's battery, misshape its tires, and can leave it with a tank full of stale gasoline. If you want to store a car for a long period of time, be sure to find a suitable (and preferably indoor) location. Then give it a good wash to protect the paint, overfill its tires to help keep them round, use some peppermint-oil-soaked mothballs to protect it from rodents, and hook the battery up to a trickle charger to keep it alive." — Matt Smith.

Be sure you never do these 10 things to your car.

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Driving On Improper Alignment

"This commonly neglected issue can wear down your tires, increase your chances of an accident, and hurt your car's fuel economy." — David Ambrogio, a consultant with Superior Honda in New Orleans, Louisiana. Next, take on a more advanced DIY car project. Learn how to replace your own struts here.

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Not Washing It

"It's easy to wonder why you should keep your car's exterior clean. After all, it's just going to get dirty again, right? Well, washing your car regularly will protect its paint and reduce the likelihood of rust. Giving your car's underside a good spray is particularly important in the winter, when salt can quickly eat away at your chassis's bare metal." — Matt Smith. Try these 46 DIY car detailing tips.

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Not Cleaning Under the Hood

"We tend to focus on keeping our car's exterior clean, but not under the hood. This is a mistake. Periodic cleaning of your car engine's exterior can remove built-up sludge and debris that is shortening the life of your engine." — David Ambrogio. Find out how to clean you car's engine yourself with this step-by-step guide.

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Holding the Shifter

"This one's for those few remaining manual-transmission drivers: Don't rest your hand on the gear shifter! While it may feel natural to keep your hand on the stick shift, doing so will result in premature wear to the transmission's components." — Matt Smith.

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Using Incorrect or Discount Parts and Fluids

"You might be keeping up with maintenance, but going cheap by using substandard or incorrect parts and fluids is bad. Regular oil changes require the use of the correct-viscosity oil, not just the least expensive stuff you can find in a big-box store. Spark plugs should have the correct heat range. Fuel and air filters should be name-brand, original-equipment-equivalent or better, not just the lowest-priced item you can find." — Richard Reina. Find out how to replace spark plugs here.

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Not Changing the Oil Often Enough

"Changing your oil more often than recommended keeps corrosive materials out of the engine and helps you keep your car on the road longer. This is especially true if you mainly do city driving." — David Ambrogio. Take a look at the wackiest cars ever built.

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Driving Your Car Cold

"A cold engine needs time to get up to temperature. Avoid full-throttle acceleration until the temperature gauge reads 'normal.'" — Richard Reina

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Slamming the Brakes Too Often

"A heavy foot on the brake pedal creates abnormal wear to pads and rotors, resulting in more-frequent replacements." — Richard Reina.

Have a chuckle over the strangest things mechanics have found in cars.

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Running on Empty

"Running your car until the fuel light comes on—and then driving another 10 miles—moves debris and dirt that has settled to the bottom of your tank through your engine." — Valerie Coleman, sales director at 5miles.

Check out 100 super-simple car repairs you don't need to go to the shop for..

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Putting the Pedal to the Metal

"Repeated brisk acceleration and braking is hard on suspensions and tires." — Richard Reina.

Now, check out the 9 most reliable cars that rarely need maintenance.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest