Owning a vehicle is a little like owning a house, except when it isn’t. Like a house, you get to choose the vehicle you want with the features you like, and even have a say in the paint and interior colours. You’re now responsible for less fun stuff like making payments, scheduling the upkeep and keeping on top of the expenses of ownership.
With a house, however, there’s no limit (aside from your budget) to the modifications you can make, from adding a fresh coat of paint and new curtains to putting in a pool in the backyard. Your vehicle is a very different scenario. Unlike a house, a car or truck is very much a machine designed to perform safely and reliably under specific conditions, and any alterations you make could have serious consequences.
Heads up! There are also things you shouldn't keep in your car. If you live in Toronto, auto theft is a concern and it could impact your car insurance.
With that said, here are a few important things you should never do to a vehicle.
Raising or lowering the suspension
Your vehicle’s suspension height is determined by a host of factors, and the engineers who designed it have put a lot of thought and effort into deciding what that the ideal height should be. While you may have different ideas about this and can in theory make changes on your own, doing so could seriously compromise your vehicle’s safety. By raising or lowering your suspension you are also raising or lowering your vehicle’s centre of gravity, which could make it more susceptible to rolling over in the event of an accident, or impede its ability to handle speed bumps and other common obstacles.
Changing the headlights
Among the many finely-tuned elements on your vehicle, your headlights are calibrated to light up just enough of the road in front of you without shining into the eyes of oncoming drivers. Different lights have different specs, so adding headlights that weren’t specifically designed for your vehicle – specifically brighter ones – may not line up in the same way as your old ones, and could blind oncoming traffic. If you’re finding your stock headlights aren’t bright enough, try a headlight restoration kit that can make a cloudy, dull headlight look brand new.
Rev a cold engine
The colder the temperature outside, the longer it’ll take your car to warm up (which can seem like an eternity in sub-zero conditions). If you’re in a hurry to get on the road, however, or just want to get the cabin temp above zero, revving the engine isn’t the solution. Not only will it not make the car warm up faster, revving a cold engine can strain its components and cause unnecessary wear. Aside from idling for a minute or two before you hit the road, the best way to warm up an engine is simply to let it do what it was designed for: driving.
Some people like the look of tinted windows, and some use them to help keep their vehicles cool in the summer months, but there are a couple of good reasons why you should never opt for an aftermarket tint. For one thing, they make it difficult to see into your vehicle, which can be a problem for other drivers at a four-way stop, or pedestrians and cyclists who need to know that you can see them. For another thing, any kind of film on a car window can affect the way the glass shatters in the event of an accident, creating a potentially dangerous situation. If you want to keep the sun off your backseat passengers, try a pull-down window shade instead.
Floor it between stoplights
Flooring it from a standstill can be tempting, but there are good reasons not to accelerate hard when the light turns green. For one thing, it’s incredibly inefficient (and that’s true of internal combustion-powered vehicles as much as electric ones) and for another, it puts unnecessary strain on the engine. Likewise, slamming on the brakes when you get to the next red light will cause excessive wear on your brake pads and rotors, shortening the life of these parts and bumping up the date of your next repair bill. Keep your acceleration and deceleration gentle, both for the sake of your vehicle and for the safety of other drivers.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.
Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.