6 driving habits that are bad for both your car and insurance

Rally Car and possible dangerous driving

Drive anywhere in Hong Kong and it is pretty much guaranteed that you will come across a variety of safe driving reminders. From signs to ads on bridges, and more we are exposed to near constant safety reminders which the vast majority of drivers try to follow to the best of their abilities. The thing is, no matter how safe we try to drive there is a good chance that we have developed some bad driving habits that could not only be bad for the car but could also have an impact on our insurance as well.

To that end, we have compiled a list of the top 6 common bad driving habits in Hong Kong that could not only result in expensive repair/maintenance bills but also have an impact on the motor insurance premiums you pay.


1. Not using a turn indicator

Let's just say that many drivers in Hong Kong are in little to no danger of ever burning their turn signal lights out anytime soon. In fact, not using your indicator while driving is arguably one of the most common complaints both drivers and pedestrians alike have about cars on the road in Hong Kong.

In an article we published earlier this year on the use of turn signals in Hong Kong, we noted that you are legally required to use a turn signal when changing lanes or turning off roads. According to new statistics released by the Transport Department there were 1,118  accidents attributed to careless lane changing and 3 accidents attributed to failure to signal movement correctly in 2015. Both of which likely could be avoided by using your turn indicator.

How is this dangerous to your vehicle? Well, in truth turn signal lights will usually last the life of the vehicle so there is little chance of them actually needing to be replaced. The danger here is in the fact the turn signals are designed to tell other drivers and pedestrians what you intend to do.

If you do not signal to other people you are increasing the chance of an accident and costly out-of-pocket repair bills as there is a possibility insurers will deny a claim, especially if you are found to be at fault for the accident.


2. Driving the car like you stole it

Hong Kong has arguably the highest concentration of sport, luxury, and supercars in the world, all with a ton of horses under the hood. When driving cars with a lot of power it can be tempting to slam your foot down on the accelerator when taking off at a green light almost like you have just stolen the car. The same goes for slowing down, it's not uncommon to see people fly up towards a red light and stomp on the brakes to slow the vehicle down.

While this style of driving can be thrilling (at least to the driver) it does put increased pressure on your car. For example fast starts, especially if the vehicle is cold (as in just turned on) can increase the wear and tear on parts because the oil that lubricates the engine has not had a chance to actually lubricate the parts. Not to mention the fact that quick starts and spinning your tires can dramatically reduce the life of your tires.

Similarly, slamming on your brakes or riding the brake while in traffic can increase the speed at which your brakes wear which means having to pay out to replace them sooner.

Beyond that, driving recklessly increases your chances of getting into an accident, so stomping on the gas pedal while yelling "punch it Chewie" when the light goes green could see your ability to react to situations that could lead to an accident drastically decreased.   


3.  Riding the clutch or shifting too soon

Riding the clutch is a common habit of people with manual cars who spend a large amount of time in traffic. In order to keep the car moving or ready to go at any time, people will often keep the clutch depressed even while sitting still. This makes it easier for you to move the car forward but it does increase stress on the clutch causing it to burn out quicker. Think of it this way: If you get the burning clutch smell, it's probably best to lay off it for a bit.

As to shifting too soon, this is a common habit seen by drivers with automatic cars. It is super easy to shift from reverse to drive before the car has stopped moving back and take off from there. The concern here is that this puts a lot of stress on your transmission and drivetrain which have to essentially reverse the backward motion and move the car forward.

Shifting from reverse to drive while still moving backward will likely result in a clunk or jerk of the car which, if strong enough, could do serious damage. Luckily, many modern cars are designed to allow for some reverse to forward shifting but keeping this habit can be quite harmful to your car. This is also not to mention the fact that the repair bill for a drivetrain or transmission can be quite high. Instead, it is recommended to stop the vehicle then shift from reverse into drive.

What's more, either riding the clutch or shifting too soon could result in a breakdown which increases your risk of an accident, especially if you are in traffic. Insurers might not look too favorably on claims for things like this.  


4. Leaving only a small amount of petrol in the tank

As you likely know, petrol you put into your vehicle is stored in a tank. From there it is pumped by the fuel pump to the engine. While in a perfect world gasoline and fuel tanks would have no sediment but this is simply not the case. Luckily, the sediment will usually settle at the bottom of your fuel tank leaving the fuel pump to pull clean gas from the top of the tank.

If you leave your tank with less gas in it e.g., less than ¼ full consistently you are leaving dirtier gas for the fuel pump to suck up. While most of the sediment will be caught by a filter, the more there is the higher the chance it can get into your engine and cause serious damage.

Therefore, most mechanics recommend keeping your fuel tank above ¼ full, as a breakdown in the middle of the road will not only be incredibly costly, can increase your chances of an accident.


5. Forgetting the parking brake

Did you know that when you’re on a hill and you shift your car into park without applying your parking brake, all that is keeping your car in park is a small piece of metal in the transmission called a parking pawl? Essentially, a piece of metal not much larger than your pointer finger is all that holds automatic vehicles in park.

Trusting your vehicle's whole weight to such a tiny sliver of metal is not the best of ideas, so it's a good idea to always engage the parking brake if you are going to be parked on a hill.

If you fail to engage your parking brake and the parking pawl on a hill and it fails, causing your car to roll away, you will likely be facing a costly repair bill. But, that's not all, it is also possible for an insurer to deny claims as it is usually explicitly stated that you need to engage the parking brake when parking on a hill. By not doing this, they could argue that you did not take sufficient steps to minimize the risk of an accident.


6. Ignoring the warning signs

Finally, with all of the tips above there are usually warning signs that something is about to fail, break, or go wrong. Sometimes it's a noise like a clunk or shimmy in the vehicle. Other times you'll get warning lights on your dashboard or even honks from other drivers. The key here is that these signs are important to heed as they do indicate something is wrong with your vehicle and in most cases it would be a good idea to take it into a mechanic as soon as possible. Or, in the case of not using turn indicators actually try to use them.

By being aware of these habits and acting to improve them, you will save money - be it on repairs or increased insurance premiums due to accidents caused by poor driving. The good news here is that those drivers with good habits who drive without accident or claim for multiple years are eligible for the No Claims Discount (NCD) which can see your premiums drop by as much as 60%. Visit our NCD page today to learn more about how good driving can help you save money.

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