How to Maintain your Car in Top Shape-2
On the Road:
Be gentle to your car when it's cold. Maintain a low rpm level (below 2,000) until the engine has reached operating temperature. This warm-up period isn’t just good for the engine & turbo-charger; gradual warm-up is also beneficial to other components (e.g. transmission, brakes, tyres etc.). If you drive a turbo-charged car (pretty much any diesel today)
Develop a smooth driving style and don't be hard on the car. Your steering, accelerator, clutch, brake & gear inputs should be polished. In traffic, avoid tail-gating the car in front. Maintaining a healthy gap will allow your braking & deceleration to be a lot smoother. And yes, contrary to popular perception, you can indeed maintain a smooth driving style even when driving fast. On the other hand, if you drive in a rough manner, your car's mechanical bits will suffer additional stress and begin to wear prematurely. A well-driven 100,000 kms car will drive better than an abused 50,000 kms example.
Take it easy and go slow on rough roads. It doesn't matter if everyone else is just flying through potholes. Your car takes a massive beating on broken tarmac. The suspension wears out faster and rattles will seep into your cabin too. At a recent Pawna meet, I babied my ride on the poor approach roads (much to the impatience of the passengers). I was happy at the end of it as my car didn't scrape her underbelly even once, and returned home in the exact same condition she left it in.
Respect your car. Know when to high-revv and know when to take it easy. At the end of the day, we're car enthusiasts who enjoy our redlining experiences. You should redline only when the conditions permit it. The ideal time to stretch her legs is on smooth roads with scarce traffic. Preserve your car by saving the best for favorable conditions. It's just more fun that way.
Don’t lug the engine, don’t be lazy; shift down if your rpm is too low for the current speed. As an example, you'd move down to 1st gear if your car struggles to cross the speed breaker in 2nd. And yes, please don't ride or slip the clutch.
Slow down on speed breakers. They are there for a purpose. Cross speed breakers in as gentle a manner as you possibly can. Here is an excellent thread on tackling speed bumps.
Try to combine the short trips. Your engine never really hits the ideal operating temperature in local 1 - 2 km journeys. If you use your car for short trips only, the component wear & tear rate will be relatively higher. On a related note, you must WALK up the short distances. It's good for your health and that of your car.
Beat the traffic and drive at the right time. My previous workplace entailed a 14 km drive to downtown. To avoid rush-hour traffic, I started leaving home at 0800 hours and used to reach the office in 20 minutes (as opposed to 60 minutes if I left at 0900 hours). Not only did I save time, but my car also returned higher fuel economy, was able to maintain consistent speeds, had fewer gearshifts and spent lesser time idling away in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Equally, hitting the highway early in the morning usually results in lesser traffic and a more pleasurable drive (for you and your car). Keep that in mind for the holiday road-trips.
If you encounter a mechanical problem that could further damage your car, don’t just drive on. Spend some time trying to diagnose the problem, or call a tow truck!