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The 12 Worst Car Tips Mechanics Have Ever Heard

Auto repair experts share hilariously bad—and downright dangerous—money and time-saving secrets that will end up costing you big time.

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car's windshield rain wiper.selective focus.WUTTISAK PROMCHOO/Shutterstock

Using Water Instead of Windshield Wiper Fluid

Windshield washer fluid is a mixture of solvent, detergent, and antifreeze agents. If it’s replaced with water, you risk clogging the reservoir and associated hoses. In addition, in low-temperature climates, the reservoirs will crack when the water freezes and expands,”  said Kevin Coyle, General Manager of Carvana’s inspection center near Philadelphia.

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A technician in the workshop exchanges oilajlatan/Shutterstock

You Don’t Need Routine Oil Changes

Change your oil per the owner’s manual service schedule—it’s always based on miles driven and not time. And always use a synthetic motor oil, it’s better for the life of the engine and it’s better for the environment,” said Lauren Fix from The Car Coach. So, even if you’re not driving long distances, don’t skip the oil change.

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Hundred dollar billsOlena Bloshchynska/Shutterstock

Treat You Car Like a Collector’s Item

“I have this one client who is so in love with her 1992 Saab, and I keep begging her to stop getting it repaired. She’s spent thousands and thousands on it—the parts keep getting more expensive because the company no longer exists. But she’s convinced it’ll be worth a ton if she holds onto it long enough because it is ‘rare.’ It’s not rare, and she could probably trade it in for a couple hundred bucks at most,” said one auto repair technician who requested anonymity

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Closeup of car mechanic repairing brake padsbaranq/Shutterstock

Ignore Those Squealing Sounds

“When you hear a squeal when braking, don’t just turn up the radio! This is a sign you need new brake pads. Average cost $200. If you wait until they are really bad, you’ll need more brake repairs and it becomes a $2,000 brake job. Be smart don’t wait. It’s the only thing that stops your 4,000-pound car,” said Fix.

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Professional mechanic checking car engineYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock

Clean Out Your Engine with Soap and Water

A post on car blog Jalopnik details how someone had problems with knocking in their engine and decided to “clean it out” by pumping soapy water into the gas tank. Hard to tell if it was a joke or someone purposely trolling an advice board, but either way—do not do that! You’ll have the most sparkling frozen engine in the junkyard.

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Woman removing ice from car windshield with glass scraper. Frosty morningplantic/Shutterstock

Use Hot Water to Defrost a Windshield

“The hot water will cut through the frost, but the extreme temperature change will cause the glass to expand and contract very quickly, which can result in a chipped or cracked windshield,” said Coyle.

It’s best to let your car’s defroster do the work. Build those extra minutes into your schedule, so you don’t find yourself in a hurry to defrost your windshield.

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Close-Up Of Man Checking Car Tyre Pressure With GaugeSpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Get the Tire Pressure Number from Your Tire

“Use the tire pressures on the sticker inside your driver-side door as a guide. Never ever use the number on your tire. That tire could fit over a dozen different cars that use different pressures. Use a digital pressure gauge and check the tires when they are cold to get an accurate reading. This extends tire life, increases fuel economy, improves handling and safety too,” said Fix.

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Car air conditioning. The air flow inside the car. Detail interior of carmingazitdinov/Shutterstock

Don’t Sweat an Overheating Engine

Hilarious Twitter account @badcaradvice offers this terrible fix: “When your engine is overheating, turn up your AC to chill that sucker down!” That’s actually the opposite of what your car needs. Turning on your heater may help tame the engine temperature, but the safest thing to do is pull over and contact roadside assistance.

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German sports coupe seen in a showroom after a heavy rain shower.Nick Beer/Shutterstock

Wait for Rain to Wash Your Car

“When you let your vehicle go long periods between washes, you not only doom yourself to driving around in a dingy car, but your neglect can dramatically reduce your car’s value. Built-up dirt can diminish paint, encourage rust, and allow pollutants to become embedded, which can enhance scratches and dings,” said Fix.

The good news is that washing your car at home is relatively easy and cheap, so there’s not really an excuse for letting your go that long between washes.

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a silver car is washing in soap sudsOlga Kuzyk/Shutterstock

Use Dish Soap for DIY Car Washes

“Dish soap takes all the waxes and protectorates off the paint, dulls the finish, and requires a visit to a detail shop to fix. Use car soap only,” said Fix.   

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Car exhaust pipe comes out strongly of smoke, air pollution concept.Ody_Stocker/Shutterstock

Busted Tailpipe? Improvise

In a list of terrible automobile DIY projects, Boredom Therapy posted a photo of someone’s homemade fix for a rusted tailpipe. They patched it with a Coke can and string. Remember how hot exhaust pipes get—that’s a fire waiting to happen.

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Many different car dashboard lights in closeupDaniel Krason/Shutterstock

Ignore Those Dashboard Warning Lights

“Ignoring dashboard lights and putting tape over them, hoping they will go away—that’s terrible advice. They won’t go away, and the resulting damage to your emissions system and engine could be very expensive,” said Fix.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Joe McKinley
Dan Bova is the digital editorial director of He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim and Spy magazine. He currently writes a weekly humor column for The Journal News and USA Today.