When most of us think about vehicle damage, we picture auto accidents and fender-benders, or maybe a runaway shopping cart colliding with it in a parking lot. Of course, there are plenty of other ways that your car can be damaged – a rock kicked up by the truck ahead of you can crack your windshield. An animal in the road can do some serious damage. Road debris can also be devastating. However, there are many things that you might be doing that are damaging your car without even knowing it. Here are some of the most surprising (and most easily stopped) ways that you’re causing your car damage.10. Unload Your StuffMost of us carry more than a few things in the car at all times, but you might be taking things to the extreme. The more weight you keep in your car, the harder you’re forcing the engine and transmission to work. That costs extra fuel, yes, but it also adds unnecessary wear and tear. Lighten up.9. Not Using Your Parking BrakeIf you’ve ever parked on a hill and just put the transmission into park, you’ve felt the vehicle roll backward and then stop with a “thunk”. That’s the weight of the vehicle resting on the transmission, and it’s damaging the system. First, put the transmission in neutral, and then engage the parking brake. Finally, put the car in park and avoid excessive wear.8. Lack of RotationWe mentioned tire rotation previously, but what’s it all about? Rotating your tires is necessary to prevent excessive wear on the drive tires (the front in a front-wheel drive car, and the rear in a rear-wheel drive vehicle). Have your tires rotated at every other oil change.7. Not Lining Things UpYour vehicle’s steering and suspension system is incredibly complex, and must be adjusted regularly due to things like normal wear and tear from driving, as well as unavoidable bumps, dips and potholes. If you’re not having your car aligned periodically (roughly once per year or so), then chances are very good that you’re not getting the use life out of your tires that you should. Tires are expensive, but so is premature wear on steering components.6. Riding Your BrakesYour brakes are meant to slow and stop your car, but not to be used constantly. If your foot is always hovering over the brake pedal (or constantly in contact with it), then you’re riding your brakes. This puts an immense amount of stress on the system, and chances are good that you’re blowing through pads and rotor resurfacing services like there’s no tomorrow. Get your foot off the pedal, and don’t ride your brakes. Even very minor pressure on the pedal activates your brakes and will reduce not only lifespan, but braking performance as well.5. Stopping Too HardHow far from the red light or stop sign do you apply the brakes? Do you wait until the very last moment? If so, you’re doing your car no favors, and are really just moving your next appointment with a mechanic that much closer. Hard braking puts a great deal of stress on your brake pads and rotors. Pads wear out faster, and rotors heat up more, increasing the chance of warping. It also has a negative effect on your brake fluid, reducing its use life. Make sure that you’re slowing down well before you have to stop. Your car will thank you with lower repair bills.4. Not Doing MaintenanceReally, who has time to take their vehicle in for an oil change when they hit the mileage noted on the window sticker? It doesn’t hurt to go a few miles over, does it? Actually, it does hurt your engine, and you should ensure that you’re having your oil changed on time, every time. This goes well beyond engine oil, as well. Make sure that all of your maintenance is performed on time, from tire rotations to transmission services and everything in between. This is particularly important for fluid changes. All of the fluids in your engine have finite lifespans. Eventually, they degrade and are unable to protect vital components. Exceeding your maintenance limits puts your engine, transmission, radiator and other components in significant danger and can drastically reduce the lifespan of your car.3. Driving with Low FuelHow far can you drive after your “low fuel” light comes on? For most of us, it’s a decent distance, which makes it seem like doing so isn’t a bad thing. Don’t believe it. Driving with low fuel can be an engine killer. Why is that? When the fuel level in the tank drops too low, the car is forced to pump gasoline from the very bottom of the tank. Gasoline contains sediments that settle to the bottom. When you pump from this area, that sediment is sent into the fuel lines and the fuel filter, clogging it and reducing its lifespan. In addition, there’s always the possibility of some sediment making it through the fuel filter and into the engine, where it can cause significant damage. Try not to drive with less than half a tank of gas if at all possible.2. PotholesSure, it would be nice if the government could maintain the state’s roadways at all times, but that’s never going to happen. Potholes are a fact of life for just about every driver in every state, and they’re very damaging to your vehicle. Even shallow potholes throw off your car’s alignment over time, but deep, wide potholes can actually duplicate the damage caused by impacting a curb, including warping your wheels and blowing out tires.1. Curbing"Curbing" refers to any instance when the tires or wheels of your car encounter the curb on the road. Sometimes it’s not your fault, but other times, you’re just not paying attention. Hitting curbs can do a significant amount of damage. Curbing can blow out your tire because the sidewalls are not reinforced like the tread, and the force of impact with a curb can easily puncture the rubber. It can also seriously damage the wheels as all types of wheels can be warped by impact with concrete.Are you guilty of these 10 no-no’s? Put a stop to them and see just how much lower your maintenance and repair bills are, as well as how much longer your car lasts.