April 6, 2023

Coping With Traffic and Driving Short Distances


Frequently driving in stop-and-go traffic or regularly taking short rides to the grocery store can harm your vehicle. Take your car to Milex Complete Auto Care for regular maintenance to ensure it continues to run efficiently.

Effects of Traffic and Short Drives
The average one-way commute time for American workers is 27.6 minutes, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While hybrid schedules and remote working helped unclog some of our country’s major highways in recent years, sitting in traffic is still a reality for many Americans.

Listening to podcasts and streaming music help solve some of the monotony associated with commuting, but it does nothing to prevent the wear and tear on your vehicle. If you spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, you need to take steps to ensure your car continues to get good gas mileage and maintain its resale value.

When we aren’t commuting, many of the trips we take in our vehicle only cover short distances, which can also be harmful to your car. Nearly 30% of all car trips in the United States are less than one mile, and 50% are shorter than three miles.

Here are some common problems Milex experts commonly encounter when car owners take frequent drives of less than 20 minutes or spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic.

  • Engine buildup. When you’re driving short distances, your vehicle’s engine never achieves optimal temperature, which causes excessive buildup over time. Your engine’s oil needs to reach the right temperature to remove contaminants, such as moisture or combustion byproducts. Moisture buildup can cause holes in the tailpipe and muffler and damage the catalytic converter. Water remaining in the cylinders can damage the engine block. If you take short drives, your engine oil can become compromised over time and need to be replaced sooner.
  • Brake wear and tear. Stopping frequently also has an impact on your brakes. If you spend a lot of time in traffic, your brakes are likely to wear out faster. It’s important to get your brakes inspected regularly, especially if you hear squealing or grinding when you put your foot on the brake. Another indication of a problem is if your car pulls to the side when you hit the brakes.
  • Depletes battery. The battery on your car recharges while you are driving. If you drive a short distance, your car battery does not have time to replace the power it used to start your engine, which shortens the lifespan of your battery.

Tips for Driving in Traffic
To alleviate brake damage, give the car in front of you a wide berth. If you keep your distance, you’ll have to hit the brakes less, which can go a long way to keeping them in optimal condition. People who spend a lot of time commuting should take their car in for maintenance frequently.

Driving in stop-and-go traffic may deplete your fluids and filters faster than expected. Keeping your maintenance appointments on schedule will protect against unexpected repairs and spot problems before they become an issue.

To extend the lifespan of your car battery, let your car warm up after starting the engine, especially when taking a short trip. Giving the car time to reach an optimal temperature will help prevent buildup, let the battery recharge, and help the engine oil last longer.

Environmental Impact
In addition to taking a toll on your vehicle, short driving trips are also bad for the environment. When your engine is cold, your car takes steps to decrease damage by delivering a richer mix of fuel to the engine, which causes higher emissions. Needing to take a quick trip to the market or heading out to drop your child off at school when they miss the bus is inevitable. Mobility and health issues may also prevent people from walking or biking. But, if everyone eliminated half of their car trips under a mile in the U.S., we’d save $900 million in driving costs per year and prevent 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Simply being aware of the environmental impact and potential harm to your vehicle will help you improve your planning to limit driving short distances.

Take Your Car to Milex
To keep your car in tip-top shape and prevent undue wear and tear from short drives or traffic, bring your car into Milex for regular maintenance. Milex is a leader in the automotive repair industry, and our expert technicians are trained to perform diagnostic and general repair services on all makes and models, as well as perform your factory-recommended maintenance services.

Visit our website to find a nearby location to schedule a service appointment.

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