Most of us don’t think twice about driving. Your car is there, waiting in your driveway or parking spot; why not take it every time you have to run an errand?
We’ve become a nation obsessed with short trip driving.
- We take the car to the grocery store … three blocks away.
- We drive to a friend’s house … just down the street.
- We need to get to class at the local gym. We’re late. We drive.
According to the EPA, car trips under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year.
From an economic standpoint, walking or taking a bike for these short trips could save over a half-billion in fuel costs alone, while saving around 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.
It would be better for your health, better for the climate. But what about your car?
Short trips within the community
When we move into a home, we want to be part of the community. We work there. Send the kids to school there. Join the local recreation center, and eat at local restaurants.
That automatically shortens the drive time and shortens how far you drive each day.
We like being close by. You can be at your favorite store, run in, and be back home in minutes. It’s perfect.
While it works for your lifestyle, your vehicle may be more impacted by those quick trips than you realize. If you see yourself in this article, it’s time to pay attention to your car and give it a little TLC to ensure it’s there and waiting for you whenever you need it.
Short trips may impact your motor oil
Most drivers are aware that motor oil plays a big part in keeping your car running smoothly. We’re conditioned to change it every 3,000 miles or so.
Motor oil is a thick, slow moving fluid. But when you start your engine, motor oil heats up, becomes less dense, and starts flowing freely through the various internal engine components. This process can take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, depending on the outside ambient temperatures.
If you run to the store five minutes away, the motor may not reach its optimal operating temperature before you turn the engine off once again. This lack of heat prevents the motor oil from reaching the ideal viscosity level, meaning it won’t properly lubricate the internal engine parts as designed.
That can add to the wear and tear of all internal parts, speeding up the process, and requiring more repair work for you down the road.
In addition, when motor oil heats to the proper temperature, the heat helps remove contaminants such as moisture and other combustion byproducts. Without proper heating, these contaminants won’t effectively evaporate, remaining in the motor oil and continuing to impact both the integrity of the engine, and performance of the vehicle.
Changing out your motor oil regularly is important no matter how much you drive your car. That’s why many experts suggest changing your oil based on manufacturer’s guidelines, and doing so either based on mileage or time. If it takes you a year to drive a few thousand miles, you should still be changing your motor oil regularly.
Short trips may impact your battery
One of the biggest power surges comes when you start your car. When you turn the key or press the button, a lot of demand is placed on your battery to ensure your car starts and runs properly.
Once running, the battery goes into recovery mode. The alternator recharges the battery as you drive, so it’s ready the next time you start your car.
With short trips, you may be starting your car more than driving it. This gives your vehicle’s battery very little chance of recovery.
Today’s batteries give you anywhere from three to seven years of battery life. That’s under normal use.
When the battery is subjected to quick turnaround, it shortens the battery life. In the same way it takes up to fifteen minutes for your engine to warm up, the battery needs time to fully recharge to maintain its operational levels. Without this, it may face rapid depletion of battery power.
If short trip driving is a way of life for you, count on the fact that you’ll be replacing your battery more often. You’ll notice it weakens – it’ll take longer for your engine to crank, your headlights will be duller, and you might notice other accessories not working well.
Short trips may impact your battery
Starting up your engine when it’s cold makes it work at its hardest. That’s because the oil hasn’t circulated yet, and the engine hasn’t warmed up to working at its optimal rate. Other parts are cold, and aren’t contributing to a well running car.
When you first start your car, it’s important to give it a chance to warm up and be fully functioning before you add stress. This can take a few miles to break everything in. Your car may be under strain until it reaches that point. With short distance driving, it never has a chance to get to that point. If you accelerate quickly, or push your car to the limits, over time, it will impact the engine’s condition.
Any stress on the engine will start to show by an increase in emissions, and possibly impact your gas mileage. Long term, it may show up as repair bills as you wind up taking your car into the shop more often.
How long are your daily drives?
Your car is meant to give you reliable service every day you own your car.
Be aware of how you drive each day. The first few miles, be easy on how much you push your vehicle. Drive it further occasionally to give the systems a chance to operate fully. And be aware of your maintenance schedule. Regular oil changes will ensure the motor oil stays fresh and working well, and it gives your mechanic a chance to inspect each system and ensure they’re working well.
Are you a short trip driver?