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Automotive Myths: What common beliefs about your car are rubbish and which are reality?

This is probably true of any industry, but we know first hand there are a lot of automotive myths out there disguised as “information.”

From time to time, we enjoy doing a reality check to see which of these myths are true and which are a work of fiction.

Here are 10 of our favorites and their corresponding explanations.

We invite you along for the ride to see where your automotive knowledge stands…

Rubbish or Reality?

Myth #1: It’s more dangerous to drive while talking on a cell phone than driving drunk.

Reality: According to MythBusters on the Discovery Channel, this is true. Although this episode goes back a few years, we find the results worth sharing even now. Two of the MythBusters drove through a driving test course that included a brake test, a parallel parking test, a timing trial and an accident-avoidance challenge. After they both passed the control tests sober and cell phone-free, they went through the course talking on the cellphone, and again after drinking enough to have a blood alcohol content bordering on the legal limit. Both failed the course while on the cell phone and while driving drunk. But they failed the cell phone test by a much bigger margin.

 

Myth #2: Premium gas (fuel rated above 87 octane – such as 93 octane) will perk up your performance.

Rubbish—Mostly: For most cars, the only difference you’ll notice is less money in your bank account. Using higher octane fuel will not boost power. BUT some vehicles, especially sports cars and European luxury models, require a premium fuel because of the way the engine is, well, engineered. Failing to use premium fuel in these cars can cause engine knock, performance issues and even engine damage. Check your owner’s manual. If it doesn’t specifically use the word “require” for fuel octane, then you should be safe to use plain old 87 octane. If it “recommends” higher octane fuel, you’re still probably safe to use the cheaper fuel. But if you’re not sure, feel free to give us a call and seek a second opinion.

 

Myth #3: If you buy a new car, the warranty requires you to take it to the dealer for maintenance and repairs.

Rubbish: When you buy a new car, it comes with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, which covers component failures like sensors, electrical components and the air conditioning. But those warranties don’t cover regular maintenance, such as oil changes or new tires. For routine maintenance, you can bring your car to Auto Lab or even do it yourself without affecting the warranty. Your only obligation is to adhere to the maintenance schedule and to keep records proving the maintenance has been done. And in fact, when you bring your new car to Auto Lab for service, we’ll inspect it for warranty repairs. If we see anything, we can even take the car to the dealer for you as part of our regular service. You don’t have to make a second appointment.

 

Myth #4: You can still drive a long way after the gas gauge is on empty.

Reality: You should have time to get to a gas station when your tank hits “E,” but how long do you have? That depends on the vehicle you’re driving. A Ford Focus averages 39 miles, and a Chevy Avalanche averages 45 miles. Check out your ride on Tank on Empty, which has a searchable database.

 

Myth #5: Let your engine warm up for a few minutes before driving.

Rubbish: Modern engines warm up more quickly when they are driven, not when they’re idling in the driveway. The faster they’re out on the road, the sooner they reach maximum efficiency—which means the best fuel economy and performance. So save yourself that morning idle. Turn on the car and go!

 

Myth #6: Open windows waste fuel.

Rubbish: The theory behind this one sounds credible enough: “Rolling down windows to enjoy a good gust at 55 mph and above should impede a vehicle’s aerodynamics.” The problem? Tests don’t support the theory.

 

Myth #7: Shell, Mobil and BP are the only places to buy top quality fuel. Anything else is substandard and a risky proposition for your car’s components.

Rubbish:  Major players such as Shell, Mobil and BP don’t enjoy a monopoly on good gas. In fact, independent filling stations buy petroleum from name-brand oil companies, so their fuel doesn’t differ from that sold by their more expensive competitors. The biggies might put engine-cleaning additives in their gas, but experts say their absence doesn’t make much of a difference one way or the other.

 

Myth #8: If you put sugar in the gas tank, it will ruin the engine.

Rubbish: Sugar doesn’t dissolve in gas if it’s in solid form, and if it’s in liquid form, it simply doesn’t mix. It just sits at the bottom of the gas tank. If enough is added, it might eventually clog the fuel lines or filters, but blowing out the lines with compressed air would fix the problem.

 

Myth #9: A potato in the exhaust pipe will stop the engine.

Rubbish: The exhaust pipe pushes air out. The potato will shoot out when the engine is turned on. We don’t encourage you to try this at home.

 

Myth #10: Driving your pickup truck with a mesh tailgate gives you better mileage.

Reality: According to MythBusters, the mesh in place of the tailgate is the most fuel-efficient option, while no tailgate, or a hard-cover top with the tailgate up, proved to be about the same in terms of fuel efficiency.

Have you heard something about cars or car care lately and aren’t sure whether it’s rubbish or reality? Let us know, and we’ll run it through our reality checker.