Back to school – are short journeys affecting your vehicle?

car commuter driver

It’s that time of year when schools have gone back and you are faced with making the daily school run again. Has that doubt begun to creep in again about all those short journeys and what effect they may be having on your vehicle as well as on the air quality in your local area? We take a look at this in a little more detail to help put things into context and help you make the right decision for you.

Are short journeys bad for your vehicle?

Before vehicles became as sophisticated as they are today, yes, short journeys were bad for your vehicle. While it is not quite as bad anymore, there are still a few things to keep in mind that will help reduce the wear and tear to your vehicle and prolong its life. Here are the basics:

  • Battery life. Vehicles may be a lot more sophisticated, but batteries are still limited to an extent. Most batteries will last on average around three to four years, depending on how you use your vehicle. Check the charge on your battery every few months so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise on a cold winter’s day and find a dead battery.
  • Alternator. The alternator’s job is to recharge the battery while the engine is running. If you take numerous short journeys it may be that you are not giving the alternator enough time to fully recharge the battery. This is another way that you risk finding a dead battery one morning. However, all you need to do to avoid this happening is to take a longer journey every once in a while – a drive into the countryside at the weekend or a weekend away – and your battery will be recharged by the time you get there.
  • Engine temperature. Allowing your car engine to reach its optimum operating temperature will also go a long way towards avoiding engine wear and tear. What does this mean? Getting the oil temperature right so that it is flowing freely through the engine will keep things well lubricated and any problems at bay.

Petrol vs diesel engines

There are a few differences between petrol and diesel engines too when it comes to short journeys. Diesel engines have a particular filter fitted which is designed to reduce emissions to atmosphere every time you run the engine. One key thing to keep in mind is that this filter needs to be cleaned, or regenerated, every so often to ensure that it is operating at optimum efficiency. This is done by taking a longer journey so that the engine temperature is higher – as compared to short journeys. Yet another reason to take the car for a longer run once in a while.

Air quality

There is a lot in the media about air quality, particularly in urban areas, and how it is deteriorating and affecting our health. Any length of car journey will contribute to that, so reducing journeys as far as possible is always advisable where practical. An alternative to short journeys, where your kids are old enough, is to cycle or walk to school, something you could even do together as you head to work.

For more advice on keeping your vehicle in good condition or for a service and maintenance check, bring it into us at Bromley Vehicle Test Centre or give us a call on 020 8460 6666 to make an appointment.