7 easy driving mistakes that can shorten the lifespan of your van

We all have our own personal driving style. Sometimes this is shaped by the kinds of roads we tend to regularly drive, or it might be influenced by the type of vehicles we’re used to driving; whether they’re common Light Commercial Vehicles from the likes of Peugeot or Citroen, or heavier boxer Luton vans.

Whatever your style of driving, though, there are certain things you should always avoid doing. Vans are a significant investment, so it’s in your best interests to make sure yours lasts as long as possible before you next start looking for the best new van deals! So, what should you avoid if you want to maximise the lifespan of your van?

1. Sudden acceleration and braking

You probably don’t need to be told this, but frequent stop-start acceleration and braking can really start to put a strain on your van after a surprisingly short period of time; not to mention it makes for a needlessly unpleasant journey for anyone riding in the van with you. One of the reasons it’s such a problem is because you’re basically straining key components such as your brake pads and rotors, as well as the engine itself. (For similar reasons, it’s also not great for your fuel efficiency.)

Now admittedly, it’s harder to avoid in built-up urban areas, but it’s certainly something to avoid doing if you can. If you find yourself accelerating and braking hard quite a lot, it’s possible that you’re too close to the vehicle in front.

2. Riding the clutch or brakes

A common bugbear for mechanics, this can become an unfortunate habit for even the most seasoned of van drivers. Riding the clutch is basically the practice of failing to take your foot fully off the clutch when you change gear, so that it’s not fully engaged with the flywheel. Some people find this method helpful when trying to pull away uphill, but again it’s really something to avoid if you can at all help it. The friction causes premature damage to the disc and flywheel, ultimately wearing away the clutch.

Similarly, riding the brakes causes a buildup of kinetic energy, which can severely affect the brake pads and the rotor. This can mean it takes a lot longer for your van to stop when you brake, which is inconvenient at best, and dangerous at worst.

3. Overloading your van

As we’ve covered recently, overloading your van is a particularly common habit of van drivers, whether they necessarily realise it or not. Tradesmen often need heavy and bulky equipment such as ladders and mobile scaffold towers. To a point, vans are designed to hold this extra weight. Once a van reaches its payload capacity, though, loading it further can damage the clutch, brakes, tyres and suspension. Bear in mind how much your van can hold, and listen out for any signs of stress!

4. Resting your hand on the gearstick

This one’s another easy habit to slip into when pausing at lights, or when getting ready to set off. What’s more, it seems harmless enough at first glance. However, your gearstick is connected to the selector fork, which makes contact with a rotating cuff in order to successfully change gears. Pressing down on that connection creates premature wear and tear on the fork, which can leave you with an expensive repair later on down the line.

5. Ignoring the warning lights on your dashboard

Under the bonnet, your van is a meticulously designed harmony of electrical and mechanical systems, all working in tandem to get you where you need to go. What’s more, these systems are designed with a canny ability to self-diagnose themselves, and warning lights on your dashboard are your van’s most crucial way of telling you there’s something wrong.

These lights might signal problems of varying severity, and the seriousness of the issue is not always immediately obvious. Some drivers have found that they’re able to get away with ignoring these lights for weeks or even months – but that’s a big gamble, especially if you’re using your van for work. A Check Engine light is especially urgent, and it’s important not to sideline them if you want business to continue running smoothly, without any costly delays or repairs.

6. Running on the bare minimum of fuel

Like dashboard warning lights, drivers react with varying levels of anxiousness when they see that their fuel is almost depleted; some will reroute themselves to a fuelling station immediately, whereas others are often confident enough to finish their current journey, and fill up again at their destination. However, this second approach carries inherent risks. When your van’s fuel tank is almost empty, it takes it from the bottom of the tank where contaminants usually collect. A build-up of these can end up blocking your fuel filter, and even get into your engine (which mechanics universally consider to be very bad news). Don’t take the risk!

7. Heating the engine incorrectly

This is more common in the winter than summer, but it still bears saying now (especially since British summer weather can be so infamously variable). It’s true that some vans and other vehicles have difficulty starting in warm weather; this is usually because the engine oil has thickened, and can’t fully lubricate the engine.

Most drivers’ first reaction to this is to ‘run’ the engine for a little bit on idle, the same as you’d run a bath or a shower as it warms up. But running the engine is actually really not a good idea, as the mixture of fuel and air entering the engine doesn’t do it any favours, and can even be actively harmful (especially if you rev it a few times, as some people do). Instead, starting out the journey by simply driving a little bit more slowly and carefully is a much better idea, and naturally gives your engine a little bit more time to get up to speed.

By following these tips, you might be surprised at how much they can end up lengthening the lifespan of your van, so you get maximum value for money from it. And when you eventually need a replacement, you can rely on us right here at Van Discount for the best cheap van deals, from the likes of leading manufacturers such as Vauxhall, Volkswagen or Renault. Feel free to browse our inventory right here on our website, or alternatively give us a call on 01282 872 530, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help!