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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

Save on windshield wiper fluid by using water

“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.” —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 if you don’t drive long distances

“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.” —Lauren Fix, The Car Coach. 

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Hundred dollar billsOlena Bloshchynska/Shutterstock

Your car will become 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.” —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.” —Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

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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. Find out the weird car features you don’t know you might have.

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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.” —Kevin Coyle, General Manager of Carvana‘s inspection center near Philadelphia

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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.” —Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

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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. Check out the ways you could be wasting money on your car.

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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.” —Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

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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!” —Lauren Fix, The Car CoachDon’t miss these 34 car buying secrets your dealer won’t tell you.

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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

Those dashboard warning lights aren’t important

“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.” —Lauren Fix, The Car CoachNext, don’t miss these 14 signs your car is about to die.

Joe McKinley
Joe McKinley is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering cars, careers, tech and more.

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