How to Use Common Car Myths to Your Advantage


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Sure thing! People hear lots of stories about cars, like how to fix them or things that happen to them. Some of these stories come from older folks who know a lot about cars. But just because someone says something about cars doesn’t always mean it’s true. Some stories are true for some people, but not for others. And actually, a lot of the time, the truth about cars is not easy to say for sure—it’s not just right or wrong.

Myth: Setting A Battery On Concrete Drains It

Sure thing! Many folks, even experienced mechanics, might tell you that placing a battery on concrete drains its power. Surprisingly, there’s some truth to this myth, at least in the past. Older batteries with different casings could lose charge if they sat on concrete or a wet surface. But nowadays, with the sturdy casings batteries have, that’s not really a problem anymore.Nowadays, concrete doesn’t harm car batteries at all. If your battery loses charge while sitting on concrete, it’s likely just because it’s been sitting unused for too long, not because of the concrete itself.

Myth: Fill Up Before It Gets Hot To Get More Gas

Exactly! There’s a myth that filling up your gas tank in the early morning, when it’s cooler, gets you more gas because it’s denser. But actually, gas stations store fuel underground, so it’s not much affected by outside temperatures. So, filling up in the morning or midday won’t really change how much gas you get.

That’s right! Even if, by some rare chance, the temperature affects the underground tanks, any difference in the amount of gas you’d get is likely just a few cents. Most sources agree on this, so the savings, if any, would be very tiny.

Myth: Wiping An Oil Filter Clean Is Good For It

There’s a myth saying you should always clean the top of your oil filter before putting it on your car, but it’s not true. You only need to wipe it clean if it gets dirty while you’re putting it on. Otherwise, it’s not necessary to clean the top of the oil filter before installation.

That’s a great tip! Before you put the oil filter on, it’s a good idea to put a bit of old oil around the rubber seal on the top. This helps create a tight seal when you screw it in. If you skip this step, the seal might not be as secure, and it could loosen up.

Myth: Cranking A Car Takes More Gas Than Idling

Ah, the classic dilemma of whether it’s better to keep the car running or turn it off when low on gas! The saying that starting the car uses more gas than idling is actually a myth. Generally, if you’re waiting for someone and your gas is low, turning off the engine will save more gas than idling. Modern engines are pretty efficient when starting up, so restarting the car won’t burn through more fuel than keeping it idling. If you’re really low on gas, turning off the engine is the way to go to save what little fuel you have left.

If we’re parked for more than 30 seconds, it’s alright to switch the car off. Newer cars with fuel injection systems don’t need much fuel to start up, so it’s not a big gas guzzler when we restart them.

Myth: You Shouldn’t Use Your Phone When At The Pump

Exactly! Some gas station pumps used to have signs warning against using phones while fueling up. This was because older phones with big antennas could potentially create sparks that might ignite the gas. However, nowadays, with modern phones and their smaller size, that risk is pretty much gone. Those signs are reminders of a time when phones were different, but they’re not really a concern anymore.

But that’s not true nowadays. Current phones are completely safe to use at gas pumps. Several studies, including ones done by researchers and even the show “Mythbusters,” have proven that cell phones can’t ignite fumes at gas stations.

Myth: Smaller Cars Are Always More Fuel Efficient

It seems like smaller cars should always be more fuel efficient than heavier, more powerful ones. And most of the time, that’s true. But engine efficiency has improved a lot lately, so even larger SUVs and trucks are more fuel efficient than they used to be. Yet, generally, smaller cars still have the edge when it comes to fuel efficiency due to their lighter weight.

Some SUVs and trucks, especially those with hybrid engines and advanced fuel-saving tech, can actually outperform smaller cars in terms of fuel efficiency, despite being larger.

Myth: You Can Use Vegetable Oil In Place Of Diesel

Ah, the old myth about using vegetables as a diesel substitute! Once upon a time, using vegetable oil as a substitute in an old tractor might have worked fine. But things have changed, and using vegetable oil in a modern diesel truck would likely cause serious damage. Well, we say “likely” because we’re not exactly eager to test it out!Newer engines, being more complex, don’t handle the thickness of vegetable oil well. Older diesel engines were simpler and more adaptable to different fuels. The thicker consistency of vegetable oil doesn’t suit modern engines, causing problems because they’re pickier about the fuels they use.

Myth: You Can Wash Your Car With Dishwashing Soap

Ah, the dish soap debate when it comes to washing cars! It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Dish soaps, like Dawn, do a great job of cleaning your car, but they can also strip away any wax you’ve put on the paint. So while they’ll make your car shiny and clean, they might also remove the protective wax finish.

Consumer Reports suggests using soap specifically designed for cars. Given the cost of a paint job, we’d recommend following their advice to play it safe.

Myth: Aluminum Is Safer Than Steel

Car parts used to be made of steel, but now many are made of aluminum. Why the switch? Aluminum is lighter, making cars more fuel efficient. But what about safety? Aluminum is softer than steel, but it helps create better crumple zones in cars, making crashes safer for drivers.

When you compare them pound for pound, aluminum is better at absorbing impacts than steel. So, all things considered, using aluminum in smart ways actually makes it safer than steel.

Myth:  Korean Cars Are Low Quality

This myth might’ve had a hint of truth in the past, but things have changed. Korean companies like Hyundai and Kia make quality cars now, and though that might not have always been the case, it’s different today. Many of their cars perform really well, especially considering their price.

In 2019, according to Wired, JD Power found that Korean car makers topped the list in quality, ahead of American and European rivals. Following them were the American manufacturers, then the Japanese automakers, and finally, the Europeans—quite a surprising ranking in itself.

Myth: Lowering Your Tailgate Saves On Gas

This old myth might seem logical—driving with the tailgate down could reduce drag by letting air pass through. But the reality is different. Driving with the tailgate down actually creates more drag instead of reducing it.

Though we’re not engineers ourselves, those who are have discovered that driving with the tailgate down creates a vortex, leading to more drag. This phenomenon contributes to the increased resistance rather than reducing it.

Myth:  Using The Air Conditioner Uses More Gas

Some folks believe in not using AC even when it’s super hot to save gas. But actually, using AC does make your car use more gas. It’s okay to use it on scorching days, just know it might make your car use a little more gas.

Different cars use different amounts of fuel with the AC on. Some sources say it can make your car use up to three more miles per gallon (mpg), which is quite a bit.

Myth: Manuals Are Better On Gas Than Automatics

There used to be a time when manuals were the go-to for saving gas and enjoying driving. But now, automatic cars are the winners. They’re more fuel-efficient and handle shifting better in almost any situation.

Today’s automatic cars are better for your car’s longevity compared to older models. Older automatics had a rep for being unreliable and breaking down, but the newer ones are more dependable and can help your car last longer.

Myth: Cars Can Stop Bullets

Movies might show cars as bulletproof, but in reality, most bullets larger than a .22 can go through a car door. Cars can still be handy as a shield during a shooting, but they’re not as tough as they seem in movies.

Absolutely, it’s not something anyone wants to experience. But if you ever do, keep in mind that car metal is thinner than it seems, so take cover wisely if you need to.

Myth: Muscle Cars Can’t Take A Turn

Once upon a time, muscle cars were known for straight-line speed. But nowadays, they’ve evolved. Today’s muscle cars can handle tracks just as well as foreign ones, and some even set records on the track in recent years. They’ve become more versatile than just speed demons in a straight line.

They’ve managed to keep their cool looks, powerful V8 engines, and that signature growl while becoming more versatile on the track. But, we might be nearing the end of seeing V8s dominating the roads soon.

Myth: The Drive Back Is Shorter Than The Drive There

It’s a common feeling: the trip back home seems faster than the journey to a place. It’s called the “return trip effect.” Scientists think it happens because we’re more familiar with the route and eager to reach home or our destination.

Absolutely! Remember those moments in school when time seemed to drag on endlessly while waiting for the bell to ring? When we’re eagerly anticipating something, time tends to feel slower.

Myth: The Batteries In Electric Cars Only Last A Couple Years

There’s a myth floating around that electric car batteries die out quickly, but that’s not true. In fact, most electric car batteries last quite long, typically between 10 to 20 years. However, extreme heat and how the car is used and stored can affect this lifespan.

They believe that electric car batteries perform less effectively in hotter climates; however, they’re expected to endure significantly longer than a mere couple of years.

Myth: The Minerals Used In Electric Cars Are Mined By Kids

In the realm of mineral extraction for electric vehicles, most sources don’t involve child labor—a positive aspect. Nevertheless, there have been instances of misconduct. As highlighted by the U.S. Department of Labor, cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo has unfortunately involved child labor. Regrettably, this cobalt might have found its way into various products, including phone and car batteries.

Mining conditions in various regions have raised concerns, prompting increased attention. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a surge in awareness leading to initiatives aimed at prohibiting minerals sourced from these countries from entering the supply chain.

Myth: Shooting A Vehicles Gas Tank Will Cause An Explosion

Among the myriad Hollywood car clichés, the idea of igniting a gas tank by shooting it might seem the most plausible. Regrettably, it’s pure fiction. “Mythbusters” tackled this myth, definitively debunking it. Their experiment conclusively proved that shooting a car’s gas tank wouldn’t result in the dramatic explosion often portrayed on screen.it’s definitely not advisable to attempt shooting a gas tank to test this theory! While there are some claims suggesting that tracer rounds might have an effect, safety should always come first. However, I’d strongly emphasize that attempting such actions could be extremely dangerous and is not recommended in any circumstance.

Myth: Coolant Doesn’t Need Replacing

It’s unfortunate that someone concocted such a damaging myth. While coolant replacement isn’t as frequent as oil changes, it’s crucial to regularly inspect and ensure an adequate level in your car’s system, particularly in regions with severe winters. Moreover, experts advise a complete coolant change approximately every five years or 30,000 miles to maintain optimal engine health.

Absolutely, neglecting proper coolant maintenance can lead to serious issues. In freezing conditions, inadequate coolant can cause water in the lines to freeze, potentially resulting in engine overheating—an extremely detrimental situation for your car’s engine health.

Myth: Nitrogen Is Better For Your Tires Than Air

The myth surrounding nitrogen being superior for tires compared to regular air does have some validity. Nitrogen usage leads to significantly reduced deflation over time and can benefit tire longevity by minimizing moisture, unlike air which can contain more moisture. However, whether it’s worth it may hinge on your priorities as a car owner, considering that opting for nitrogen can be notably pricier.Given the cost, which can be around $30 per tire, for most people, diligent and regular air pressure checks suffice. Nitrogen might not be necessary as long as you maintain a consistent habit of monitoring and adjusting the air pressure in your tires.

Myth:  A Car Battery Lasts Upwards Of Five Years

It’s fascinating—AAA reports that approximately 42% of individuals believe batteries are almost guaranteed to endure for up to five years. The reality, however, is that batteries typically last between three to five years, with fewer exceeding that timeframe. This duration can fluctuate significantly based on driving habits and the climate of your region.

Exactly, expecting a battery to reach that five-year mark might be optimistic. It’s wise to budget for the eventual replacement since many batteries won’t surpass this timeframe, especially if they’ve endured frequent instances of running the radio without the car being on or other similar power drains.

Myth:  Convertibles Are Death Traps

The long-standing belief that convertibles are significantly more hazardous than their hardtop counterparts seems logical—you’re removing a substantial portion of the car’s structure and potentially compromising safety. However, recent research focusing on newer convertible models has indicated that they offer comparable safety levels to their hardtop equivalents, demonstrating similar safety standards across the same model cars.

Automakers often reinforce convertibles and, in certain cases, install roll bars, especially in performance cars or off-road SUVs. These enhancements might contribute to the comparative safety of convertibles, providing reassurance to those who prefer driving with the top down.

Myth:  Bigger Engines Automatically Mean More Power

You’re absolutely right! In the past, engine size often correlated with sheer horsepower, but times have changed. Nowadays, adding a turbocharger to a smaller engine can significantly boost its power, allowing it to match or even outperform many larger-engine cars. Interestingly, the same turbocharger upgrade can also enhance the performance of a larger V8 engine, showcasing how technology has shifted the horsepower game away from sheer engine size.

Small engines today, paired with the right car, can pack a serious punch in horsepower and speed. Size doesn’t limit performance anymore!

Myth: ABS Is Better For Stopping On A Dime

ABS, or anti-lock brakes, are nearly universal in today’s cars, becoming a legal mandate around 2004. ABS prevents wheels from locking up during sudden braking, offering drivers increased control. As for whether they enhance braking performance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a mixed verdict. Studies show they can reduce braking distance by 14% in wet conditions, yet their impact varies.

Interestingly, under typical dry conditions, ABS doesn’t notably impact braking distance. So, in a sense, this myth is partially accurate—it’s a mixed bag when it comes to the effectiveness of ABS on dry roads.

Myth: A Quick Jump Can Fully Revive A Dead Battery

It’s puzzling where this myth originated, but the belief that a jump start fully recharges a dead battery is untrue, especially if the battery is at the end of its life cycle. Jump starting merely provides enough power to start the vehicle. To replenish the battery, it’s wise to keep the vehicle running after a jump or, ideally, drive it for a while to allow the alternator to recharge the battery.

You have the option of connecting your battery to a battery charger to recharge it. Many chargers, as well as most jump boxes, display your battery’s voltage for your convenience.

Myth: Coolant Needs To Be Changed With Your Oil

While many oil change shops often include a coolant check or change during an oil service, it might not be entirely necessary. The myth suggests changing coolant with every oil change, but the reality is that a coolant flush and change are generally required only every five years or after approximately 30,000 miles.

Absolutely! Regularly monitoring your coolant levels is crucial to ensure you’re not experiencing low levels or leaks within the system. This simple check helps maintain your vehicle’s optimal performance and prevents potential issues.

Myth: 4WD Vehicles Don’t Need Snow Tires

While 4WD offers better traction in snow and off-road situations compared to 2WD, it’s not a substitute for snow tires. Deep snow and specific conditions can still cause a 4WD vehicle to get stuck, highlighting the importance of proper tires designed for snowy conditions.

When equipped with snow tires, a 4WD vehicle outperforms a 2WD vehicle with snow tires in snowy conditions due to enhanced acceleration, control, and typically better traction.

Myth: All Four Tires Have To Be Replaced Every Tire Change

The prevailing myth suggests that every tire change demands replacing all four tires. However, for front or rear-wheel drive vehicles, replacing only two tires is often sufficient. In contrast, AWD vehicles typically require changing all four tires, distinguishing them from 4WD vehicles in this aspect.In AWD vehicles, all tires receive equal torque, and discrepancies in tire size can cause issues, hence the necessity to replace all four tires to maintain uniformity and prevent potential complications.


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