Car Maintenance Myths Debunked

Car maintenance myths are everywhere both online and off. Usually, these myths aim to save you money, whether that’s in an effort to improve cosmetic appeal or mechanical performance. Many of these myths are outdated, and based on ideas that may have once been true. Today, some of these tried-and-true tricks still work, but others might actually damage your vehicle and your wallet. Read on to learn about common car myths and how to avoid the bad ones.

Car Myth #1: You don't need to drive far after a jump start

If you’ve been driving for at least a few years, chances are you’ve tried to start a car with a dead battery. Most likely, after figuring out that your battery died, you flagged down a fellow driver for a quick jump start. Once the car gets started again, the other driver pulls away, and you get back in your car to continue your drive. However, you accidentally turned off the car. You try to start the car again, but it’s dead. What gives? 

The Truth:

You should drive at least 20 minutes at 50MPH to reliably charge your car’s battery with the alternator after a jump start. If it doesn’t start after this period of driving, your alternator likely needs replacement. In the past, cars didn’t need as much juice to start and run. A simple spin around the block would have been good enough to help the car start again after turning off. Today, however, our vehicles have a slew of multimedia and convenience features that drain the battery. This can happen even when your car is sitting in the garage turned off.

"What if I don't drive it a lot?"

The best way to avoid losing power and keep a charge is to take your car for a drive a few times each week. It doesn't have to be a long trip — about 20 minutes to an hour is enough for most vehicles. If you do notice the battery can't hold a charge, take the car in to get it tested. Most batteries should last anywhere from 3-5 years but if yours is failing to keep power, have it looked at right away.

Myth #2: Warm up your car's engine before braving the cold

You're about to head out when you take a look at the temperature — it’s under 32°F . Maybe you remember your uncle telling you to warm up your car before cold weather driving. Is he right? 

The Truth:

Truth is, in most climates, even if it feels cold to you, you don’t need to pre-warm the car. In fact, an idling car actually takes longer to warm up. It also exposes the engine to more cold-start wear and tear than it would while driving. However, it’s still a good idea to take it easy on the gas pedal during the first 15 minutes of driving. If your car has been sitting in extreme cold, it’s a good idea to let the vehicle warm up. Read your owner’s manual, and follow manufacturer recommendations for cold-start driving.

Myth #3: Replace all your tires at once

It's been a few years since you bought your used car, and it's time for some new tires. As you pull into the shop to buy, a tech suggests replacing all four.

"Why not?" you think. "I could save some money, right?"

The Truth:

It’s complicated. The best course of action is to have your current tires examined by a professional you trust. The answer is different for every car, especially for 2WD vehicles versus 4WD vehicles. If one tire is damaged but the others are relatively new and have very little wear, replacing a single tire might work. Tire wear is complex. If you add a brand-new tire to three unevenly worn tires, it could wear out all four tires more quickly, and cause costly transmission or differential issues down the line.

On that note, make sure you get your tires rotated and balanced every other oil change this will help with potential uneven wear.

Myth #4: Flush your transmission fluid every 50,000 miles

If your car has recently reached the 50,000-mile mark, you might think it's time to flush the transmission fluid. That's what everyone says, right?

The Truth:

There’s no one-size-fits-all anymore. At one time, flushing your transmission fluid at 50K miles was the standard advice, because that's what most cars needed. But the newest vehicles today can go for 100,000 miles, or even their whole lives, before needing a flush. This is particularly true for CVTs (Continuously Variable Transmissions) from manufacturers like Subaru. They recommend that you don’t do any transmission maintenance at all. The best way to know for sure is to check your owner’s manual for manufacturer maintenance recommendations or speak to a well-informed service technician.

Myth #5: Refuel in the morning to save money

On the way to work, you see that you're due for a fill-up. You could make it to work and get gas later. But then you recall hearing that filling up now could save money. So why not?

The Truth:

The myth contends that since gas expands with heat, getting gas in warmer weather equals getting less overall. Refueling in the AM when it's still chilly would, in theory, get you more gas and save you money. But there's one hitch to this idea.

Gas is stored underground and is insulated from the outside temperatures. In most cases, gasoline is the same temperature no matter what time of day you pump it into your car. However, on extremely hot days, many municipalities recommend not refueling until later at night or in the morning. Just don't wait until you're running on fumes to refuel.

Myth #6: Roll down the windows for better MPGs in the heat

It can be hot in the summer — super hot. The kind of heat that makes you wonder if you’re living in the right place. In an effort to save gas, you opt to roll down the windows instead of blowing the AC.

The Truth:

Rolling down the windows increases wind resistance. This drag affects fuel economy savings when traveling above 35 MPH. In general, use your air conditioning at high speeds and on the freeway. Only when driving at slower speeds with the windows down might actually save more energy than using the A/C on full blast.

Myth #7: Premium fuel Is better for your car

At the pump, you might think it's better to go for the high octane. If it makes sports cars and NASCAR perform well, it could do the same for your car, right?

The Truth:

It’s tempting to use premium fuel, especially after watching NASCAR for a while. Before you grab the premium pump handle, though, consider a few key facts.

High-end sports cars and racing cars use premium fuel because they’re designed to use a particular mixture of air and fuel. Their engines are sport-tuned for it. A typical non-sport-tuned vehicle should stick to mid regular 87 octane gas.

"How can I be positive I'm using the right fuel?"

Check your owner’s manual to research the fuel type it recommends. Plus many newer cars note the specified octane near the fuel cap.

Myth #8: Fuel additives are good for your engine

As a fossil fuel, many assume that gasoline has impurities like dirt and sediment that will clog your engine. Using additives is supposed to prevent clogging. To avoid build-up you should always put additives in your gas, right?

The Truth: 

Probably not. What you probably don’t know is that since 1995, all gasoline manufacturers have been required by law to add detergents to their fuel to prevent build-up. Most vehicles in regular usage will not benefit significantly from using additives. In most situations, you probably don’t need them.

Myth #9: Change your oil every 3,000 miles

You're driving around one day when you notice that it's been about 3,000 miles since your last oil change. Should you just go ahead and get the oil change done?

The Truth:

Probably not. Was your car made within the last ten years? If so, you might not need to change it every 3,000 miles . Depending on the make and model of your car, you could wait until 5,000 or even 7,500 miles.

Oil technology has changed to the point where most modern vehicles can go up to 10,000 miles without needing an oil change. Unless you’re going to the drag strip on weekends, it’s unnecessary to change your oil every 3,000 miles.

Like we’ve mentioned before, it's best to check your owner’s manual to see what oil type, viscosity and recommended replacement interval.

Myth #10: Wash your car with dish soap

Ah, dish soap. If it can get off the caked-on Thanksgiving or birthday dinner grease. What's the worst that can happen? A lot, as it turns out.

The Truth:

Leave your dish soap for flatware. It can cut through difficult substances like grease. However, using dish soap, or any soap not made for cars, can damage the wax finish. This can expose your clear coat and paint to potential damage. Always use soaps designed to protect your car's wax and paint job.

Myth #11: Bigger cars are more unsafe

Looking for a new family car? Perhaps shopping for a safe midsize sedan?

Some people think those clunky SUVs look too dangerous. If this sounds like you, there are a few things you should know.

The Truth: 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, mini cars have the largest overall fatality rate in crashes. Small and mini cars actually accounted for 15 out of the 20 models with the highest fatality rate for 2017. SUVs had the lowest. 

Myth #12: Get regular engine tune-ups

If you're driving a lot, it only seems logical to get regular tune-ups for your car. Your engine is what makes everything go and should be consistently cared for. But what if it doesn't need as much attention as you think?  

The Truth:

Not really. Almost everything in your engine is automatically tuned up countless times each day by your car’s onboard computer. Short of a checkup every 50,000 miles, with regular usage, you shouldn’t need to head to the shop just for a tune-up. If you are going on a road trip, we do recommend coming in to Caliber Auto Care for a complimentary Trip Check in order to make sure your vehicle is road-ready for your journey.

Sources:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/g475/15-favorite-mythbusters-car-myths/?slide=7

https://www.iihs.org/news/detail/driver-death-rates-remain-high-among-small-cars

https://www.truecar.com/blog/winter-car-accessories/

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