You should let your engine warm up before driving, especially in winter. Using premium gas will clean your engine. SUVs are safer than small cars. We have all heard similar car tips, but have you ever wondered whether they are true? As it turns out, many of them aren’t.
There are a lot of car myths that have been around for decades and are still popular among car owners, despite having been debunked countless times. Some of them originate from the past, whereas others are just completely false. Have you heard any of the myths listed here?
SUVs Are Safer Than Small Cars
This popular myth has been the center of discussion for years, so it is easy to see why the answer still remains unclear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that “a bigger, heavier vehicle provides better crash protection than a smaller, lighter one, assuming no other differences.” Although this is true, SUVs’ higher center of gravity means they are more likely to roll over on tight turns or during a crash. SUVs also require a longer braking distance than smaller cars, even despite having larger brakes.
Car manufacturers are, however, working hard on improving their SUVs’ safety features by equipping them with all kinds of traction and stability systems as well as adding powerful brakes.
A Bigger Engine Means More Power
Back in the day, powerful cars had big, naturally aspirated V8 engines. For example, the 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS featured an enormous 7.4L big-block V8 making over 400 horsepower. Such engines sounded incredible and performed well for their time, but they certainly weren’t efficient.
The current era of downsizing has completely redefined high-performance cars. Many manufacturers choose turbochargers rather than big engine displacement. For example, the brand new Mercedes A45 AMG makes 416 horsepower with just 4 cylinders and a 2-liter displacement! Smaller engines have become incredibly powerful, very fuel-efficient and a lot more eco-friendly.
Muscle Cars Can’t Turn
This is yet another myth that was true in the past. Old American muscle cars are infamous for their understeer and overall less-than-ideal handling. A big V8 engine combined with a tremendous amount of understeer was fast in a drag race but not on corners.
Luckily, times have changed. The majority of new muscle cars still have a big V8 under the hood and are faster than ever, both in a straight line and around the track. The 2017 Dodge Viper ACR went around the Nürburgring in just seven minutes, beating cars such as the Porsche 991 GT3 RS and Nissan GTR Nismo!
Electric Cars Are More Likely To Catch Fire
One misconception about electric cars is that they are more likely to catch fire than gas-powered cars. A few electric car fires made international news in the past couple of years and the myth kept gaining believers. A damaged lithium-ion battery can generate heat and cause a fire, though gasoline is a lot more flammable and therefore more likely to ignite than a battery.
Tesla claims that the probability of a gasoline-powered car catching fire is 11 times more likely than that of an electric car, based on the number of car fires per one billion miles driven. Though electric cars are still relatively new on the market, their safety looks promising.
All SUVs Are Good Offroad
Initially, SUVs were built to perform well on roads as well as off the beaten tracks. They had elements combining standard road cars and off-road vehicles, making them a middle point between the two.
Today’s SUVs have changed a fair amount. Their wheels became bigger, they got smaller in size and equipped with all sorts of futuristic gadgets, massaging seats, and eco-friendly systems. Manufacturers stopped focusing on off-road capabilities, so it’s best not to take your brand new SUV into rough terrain. There are some exceptions though, such as the new Mercedes G Class, which remains unstoppable in mud, sand, or snow.
4WD Is Better Than Snow Tires In Winter
While a 4-wheel drive system does help a lot when driving in snow, it is definitely not a replacement for snow tires. 4WD improves acceleration in snow but proper tires are crucial in order to steer with control and brake in time. Summer tires simply won’t grip during emergency braking with snow and the car could slide out of control.
Next time you head up to the snowy mountains, make sure you have good snow tires. They will do wonders, even if your vehicle doesn’t have 4-wheel drive.
Korean Cars Are Bad
In the late 20th century, this myth was true. Today, Korean brands such as Hyundai or Kia are on the top spots of the J.D. Power Dependability Study, beating American manufacturers as well as Honda and Toyota.
The automotive market is very competitive, so in order for Korean cars to succeed, they have to be more dependable, fuel-efficient and affordable than what is already available on the market. The ACSI Automobile Survey measures customer satisfaction based on dependability, driving performance, and multiple other factors. Hyundai made it within the top 20 manufacturers on the list. What’s more, J.D Power considers Hyundai to be one of the 10 best car brands you can buy. There is no need to assume that a certain car is bad because it’s from Korea.
Convertibles Are Unsafe In A Crash
Most convertibles are coupes or hardtop versions, so it seems fair enough to assume that removing the roof weakens the car’s structure and has a negative effect on safety. This is the reason that manufacturers take extra measures to be sure that convertibles are just as safe as hardtops. What does that mean, exactly?
Convertible cars have a stiffer chassis, reinforced pillars, and special roll hoops behind the seats, which drastically improve the driver’s safety even in a rollover crash. Some convertibles, such as the 2016 Buick Cascada, even come with active rollbars that automatically deploy when the car is flipped.
You Should Change Oil Every 3,000 Miles
Car dealers usually recommend performing oil changes every 3,000 miles. This has become common practice among car owners. But is that really necessary?
Years ago, frequent oil and filter changes were necessary in order to keep the engine properly maintained. These days, thanks to advances in engine durability and oil quality, most vehicles can be safely driven with oil replaced every 7,500 miles. Some manufacturers, like Ford or Porsche, recommend changing the oil every 10,000 miles. If your car is running on synthetic oil, you can even drive up to 15,000 miles without an oil change!
Performance Chips Increase Power
If you had ever thought about making your car more powerful, you probably came across some cheap performance chips guaranteed to increase horsepower. As it turns out, most of these chips don’t do anything. These plug-and-play chips will supposedly increase your power instantly. How is that possible? Well, it isn’t.
You will be much better off having your ECU (Engine Control Unit) reprogrammed or even getting mechanical engine upgrades in order to increase power. Either way, it is best to just ask your local tuning shop for advice rather than wasting money on a performance chip.
Premium Fuel Will Clean Your Engine
There is a bit of truth to this myth. Premium gas does have a higher octane level than regular gas, that’s why high octane fuel is commonly used in motorsport and recommended for high-performance cars. Using premium gas in a car such as the BMW M3 will noticeably improve the vehicle’s performance compared to regular fuel.
That said, high octane fuel will only affect powerful engines. Contrary to popular belief, a higher octane level does not make premium gas “cleaner” than regular petrol. Unless your vehicle has a very powerful engine, it is completely unnecessary to fill it with high octane gas.
Manual Cars Are More Fuel-Efficient Than Automatics
During the days of early automatic transmissions, this myth was true. The first automatics on the market were far worse than manuals. They used more gas and would break down a lot.
Modern automatic transmissions don’t have much in common with the ones from the first half of the 20th century. Gearboxes in sports cars, for example, can shift faster than any human ever could. Automatic transmissions in most cars today have become better than manuals in practically every single way. They shift quicker, offer better fuel efficiency, and extend the lifetime of your engine thanks to carefully calculated gear aspect ratios.
Using Your Phone While Pumping Gas Can Lead To An Explosion
Do you remember the early days of mobile phones? They were bulky and had long external antennas. Back then, from a scientific point of view, this myth could have been true. A phone’s external antenna could have a small discharge that would ignite the fuel and lead to a fire or a spectacular explosion. There aren’t any documented cases to support this theory, but it wasn’t impossible.
Phones these days are equipped with internal antennas, and it has been proven that the wireless signals emitted by modern phones cannot ignite gasoline.
Driving With Your Tailgate Down For Fuel Efficiency
Pickup trucks driving with their tailgate down are a common sight in the U.S. Have you ever wondered why? Some truck owners believe that driving with their tailgate down, or sometimes with the tailgate removed completely, will improve the airflow and increase fuel efficiency.
The result of driving with the tailgate down or removed is actually the opposite. The tailgate, when closed, creates a vortex around the truck bed which improves the airflow. Driving with the tailgate down creates more drag and is proven to be slightly less fuel-efficient, though the difference is barely noticeable.
Turning On The Engine Uses More Fuel Than Letting It Idle
Another common practice among car owners is leaving the engine on when the car stays motionless for longer than 30 seconds in order to save fuel. The thought behind this is that an engine uses more fuel to start than when the car remains idling.
Modern fuel injection systems are as efficient as possible and use a lot less fuel than what is required to keep the engine on. Next time you’re stopped somewhere for over 30 seconds you should turn the engine off in order to save gas, unless your car has a carburetor. In that case, the ignition might use the same amount of fuel as idling.
A/C Instead Of Open Windows Increases Fuel Economy
It’s an old summertime driving debate that keeps coming up each year. Is driving with your air conditioning more fuel-efficient than opening the windows?
The short answer is no. Sure, driving with the windows down does increase drag, and in effect the car needs more fuel to run. However, blasting the air conditioning adds load to the engine and ends up needing even more fuel. The Mythbusters conducted a test which proved that opening your windows is in fact slightly more fuel-efficient than using air conditioning. The absolute most efficient solution would be driving with the windows closed and A/C switched off, but perhaps sacrificing a little gas is worth the comfort.
A Start-Stop System Wastes Fuel Instead of Saving It
According to this theory, a start-stop system actually increases fuel consumption by repeatedly switching the engine off and on. On top of all this, using the system can apparently lead to permanent battery damage.
Practical tests have proven that cars with a start-stop system can save as much as 15% more gas than with the system disabled. A start-stop also lowers emissions and is perfectly safe for the car’s battery, so you can disregard this myth and turn the system back on.
Dirty Cars Use Less Fuel
The apparent science behind this myth is that dirt and mud fill the car’s cracks and crevices, improving its airflow and lowering drag. The explanation does not sound completely absurd — even the Mythbusters set out to test this theory.
As you probably guessed, the myth was debunked. In fact, dirty cars turned out to be up to 10% less fuel-efficient than clean cars, as the dirt reduces the aerodynamics and distorts the airflow. If you believe this myth, it is probably best to head to the carwash straight away.
You Can Wash Your Car With Dishwashing Soap
Washing your car with dishwashing soap or, frankly, any chemical that is not meant for cars, is a very bad idea. While you will be able to save a bit of money by using detergent or soap, it will result in stripping the wax off your car and end up damaging paint.
Cars with paint damage will have to be repainted, and a single-coat low-quality paint job will cost at least $500. Higher quality paint jobs will likely set you back more than $1,000. It is best to just invest a bit more money into proper car care products instead of having to repaint the entire vehicle in a couple of months.
Warm Up Your Engine Before Driving
This is one of the most-believed myths on this entire list. Many people think that it is crucial to let a car idle before driving, especially on a cold winter day. This myth is completely false. Sure, it does take some time for a car engine to reach its ideal temperature, but idling to warm it up is completely unnecessary.
A modern car has the technology to warm up the engine by itself and will reach the ideal running temperature quicker by being driven as opposed to idling. It just wastes fuel and generates excessive carbon monoxide.
Red Cars Are More Expensive To Insure
44 percent of Americans believe that red cars are more expensive to insure than other colors, according to a study by InsuranceQuotes.com. This result might come from the high amount of red sports cars on the street, though it is hard to establish exactly why so many people believe this myth.
When calculating a rate, insurance companies have to consider a number of factors. These include the driver’s age, the make of the car, the driver’s insurance record and many more. However, the car’s color is not a factor that’s taken into consideration. The car color has no effect on the insurance rate.
You Are More Likely To Get Pulled Over In A Red Car
This is yet another myth that probably resulted from the amount of red exotic cars out on the roads. Some studies have shown that certain models of cars tend to get pulled over more than others, there is no proof that a red car will more likely be stopped by the police.
Police pull drivers over based on their behavior on the road, and not the type or color of the car that they drive. One could argue that exotic cars are more prone to traffic violations and therefore get stopped more often. As of today, there is no proven connection between the car’s color and its likeliness to get stopped by the police.
You Can Fill More Gas In The Morning
The theory behind this myth is that gas is denser after a cold night than on a hot afternoon, and as a result you can get more fuel for every gallon you pump into the tank. While it is true that petrol expands at higher temperatures, this myth is false.
Consumer Reports tested this theory and proved that the outside temperature does not affect the density of fuel at gas stations. This is because petrol is stored in tanks deep underground and its density remains the same throughout the day.
Paying Cash Will Always Get You a Better Deal
Cash is king. Money speaks. We have all heard similar phrases, and the majority of people believe that you should always pay cash when buying a new car.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Customers usually expect a discount from the sticker price when paying cash. If you do settle on a discount, it might not be as big as you would have wanted. That’s because it is more profitable for the dealers to finance, so paying cash won’t give much room for negotiating. If you are sure about paying for your new car in cash, it is best not to mention it until the price is finalized.
Hybrids Are Slow
When hybrids were first introduced on the market, they were pretty slow. A prime example would be the 2001 Toyota Prius, which needs over 12 seconds to accelerate to 60 miles per hour.
Hybrids have gotten a lot better in just a few decades. Rapid advancements in technology have made hybrid batteries fuel-efficient, more powerful and faster. The recently unveiled SF90 Stradale is the fastest car ever made by Ferrari and the fastest hybrid of all time. It can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds and is able to reach a top speed of over 210 miles per hour!
You Should Replace All Tires At The Same Time
Changing all four tires at the same time does sound like a very logical and safe practice. However, as it turns out, it isn’t always necessary.
Whether or not you should change all tires at a time typically depends on tire wear as well as your drivetrain. Cars with front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive usually need two tires changed, while all-wheel-drive ones should get the entire set replaced at a time. AWD cars have differentials that send the equal amount of torque to each wheel, and a different sized tire (tires get smaller in time as they lose tread) will result in the differential working too hard and could lead to drivetrain damage.
Low Tire Pressure Results In A Smoother Ride
Some car owners purposely deflate their tires believing it will result in a smoother ride. This dangerous practice is especially common among RV and truck owners. Not only does this merely have any effect on comfort, but underinflation also worsens the fuel economy and is a serious safety hazard.
Low pressure results in more tire surface touching the road and increased friction. It leads to overheating, which can cause premature wear, tread separation or even a tire blowout. In the majority of vehicles, underinflation does not improve the smoothness of the ride at all.
A Smaller Car Uses Less Fuel Than A Large One
It makes perfect sense to assume that a small vehicle would use less fuel than a big one. Until recently, this was indeed the case. Large cars tend to be heavier, less aerodynamic and have more powerful engines. These factors lead to quite a bad fuel economy, but times changed.
Downsizing affected fuel efficiency a lot, especially in terms of large cars. Most SUV’s today come with smaller engines than in the past and are rarely naturally-aspirated. Big cars have also become a lot more aerodynamic over the years, which results in improved fuel economy. A prime example would be the 2019 Toyota RAV 4, which can get over 35 MPG on the freeway.
Off-Brand Gas Is Bad For Your Engine
Did you ever fill up your car at an off-brand gas station? It is a common misconception that cheap, off-brand gasoline can hurt your engine. The truth is a bit different.
Off-brand gas stations as well as the major ones, such as BP or Shell, often use common “base gasoline” from a refinery. The difference between the fuels is in the amount of extra additives that each brand adds. Such additives help clean the engine, so your car would definitely benefit from gas with a rich mixture. This doesn’t mean that off-brand gas will hurt your engine. A mix with less additives still has to pass the legal requirements and won’t end up causing damage to your car.
Overdrive Makes Your Car Faster
“Shifting into overdrive” is a phrase that’s commonly used in movies, video games and pop culture in general. It can be heard right before crazy car chases, street racing scenes or simply going very fast.
Overdrive is nowhere near as exciting as it appears in movies. It is a special gear that helps the car run efficiently and improves fuel economy. It essentially makes the car cruise at a fast speed in a low RPM. Overdrive won’t make your car faster, louder or more exciting, despite the cool name.
Aluminum Is Less Safe Than Steel
There is a difference in density between aluminum and steel. If car manufacturers used the exact same amount of aluminum to replace steel, it would be less safe. This is why manufacturers take extra measures to ensure the safety of aluminum cars is as high as steel.
To make up for the density difference, automakers use more aluminum to increase the thickness. An aluminum body, according to various sources including Drive Aluminum, is safer than a steel one. The extra amount of aluminum provides bigger crush zones and absorbs energy a lot better than steel.
A Jump-Start Will Recharge Your Battery
Chances are you might have learned about this myth the hard way. If you’ve ever had to jump-start your car because the battery died, you know that this myth is false.
After jump-starting a dead battery, it is best for the engine to stay on for a long period of time. It can take hours to recharge an empty battery, especially when driving in winter. Accessories such as the car’s radio or lights all need power from the battery to run and increase the time needed to fully recharge. Using a car battery charger is a better solution for a drained battery.
You Should Never Place A Car Battery On The Ground
Apparently, you can extend the lifetime of a battery by storing them on wooden shelves instead of concrete. Placing a car battery on concrete can cause serious damage, at least according to this myth. Is there any truth to this myth?
This myth used to be true. In the early days of batteries, roughly a hundred years ago, placing a battery on concrete could drain all of its power. Back then, the cases around batteries were made out of wood. As expected, engineering has improved over the last century. Modern batteries are encased in plastic or hard rubber, making this myth completely irrelevant. Placing a battery on concrete will not drain it at all.
Diesel Cars Can Run On Vegetable Oil
A 50-year-old tractor will probably run fine on cooking oil, as long as it’s a diesel. That said, the engineering behind an old diesel engine is nowhere near as complicated as in modern cars and using “homemade” biodiesel fuel, such as cooking oil, can have terrible consequences.
The issue of using vegetable oil to power a modern diesel engine boils down to the difference in viscosity compared to petroleum diesel. Veggie oil is so thick that the engine isn’t able to atomize all of it properly and this leads to excessive unburned fuel and ultimately a clogged engine.
American Cars Are Made in America
Some American car brands are a lot less domestic than they appear. Many cars that are supposedly made in America are simply assembled here, using parts imported from all over the world.
Cars.com created an American-Made Index, ranking the most American-made cars. The results are surprising. While the top spot is taken by the very domestic Jeep Cherokee, the Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline made it to the podium. What is even more surprising is the fact that four cars within the top ten are manufactured by Honda/Acura.
ABS Always Reduces Braking Distance
This is yet another myth on this list that is partially true, depending on the scenario. ABS prevents wheels from locking during heavy braking and was not made to reduce the stopping distance, but instead to make sure the driver remains in control of the vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the braking distance for cars equipped with ABS was 14% shorter on wet roads than for vehicles without the system. In normal, dry conditions, the braking distance for ABS and non-ABS cars remains essentially the same.
4WD Cars Brake Quicker Than 2WD Ones
4WD cars have a large fan base around the planet, as most of them are very capable off-road. There is a common misconception that 4WD cars have a shorter braking distance than RWD or FWD vehicles. Is that true?
As previously mentioned, 4WD cars can accelerate quicker on wet roads or snow compared to RWD. An AWD or 4WD system does not affect the braking distance of a vehicle. The braking distance, especially on a wet surface, largely depends on adequate tires. For example, a car on summer tires will need a large distance to brake on snow, no matter whether it has 4WD, RWD or FWD.
You Can Mix Coolant And Tap Water
Everyone has heard at least once that mixing coolant and tap water in the radiator is perfectly fine for your car. It is true that coolant can be mixed with distilled water, but it should never be done with tap or bottled water. Here is why.
Tap or bottled water, unlike distilled, contain extra minerals. These minerals are good for your health but definitely not your radiator. Such minerals can form deposits within the radiator and the engine’s cooling passages, leading to overheating and ultimately serious engine damage. You should only use pure, distilled water to mix with the coolant.
Flush Your Coolant At Every Oil Change
When was the last time you flushed coolant in your car? According to this myth, it should be done along with every oil change. However, it is completely unnecessary to do it too frequently as it won’t make your cooling system more durable, it just ends up costing more money.
Most manufacturers recommend changing coolant every 60000 miles or five years, depending on which comes first. It is best to check your coolant level every now and then, if you notice a sudden decrease there might be a leak somewhere in the system.
Airbags Make Seat Belts Unnecessary
As silly as it sounds, there are people who believe that a car with airbags does not need seat belts. Anyone who follows this myth is putting themselves in great danger.
Airbags are an effective system designed to protect buckled passengers, as their placement relies on the position that the seat belt will keep you in. If you are unbuckled, you might slide underneath the airbag, or even miss it completely once it deploys. This can lead to colliding with the car’s dashboard or being ejected from the car. Using airbags as well as seat belts will give you extra protection during an accident.