12 Car Myths You Should Forget About
You should let your engine warm up before driving, especially in winter. Using premium petrol 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.
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.
You Should Change Oil Every 5,000 KM
Car dealers usually recommend performing oil changes every 5,000 KM. 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 10 000 KM. Some manufacturers, like Ford or Porsche, recommend changing the oil every 15,000 KM. If your car is running on synthetic oil, you can even drive up to 20,000 KM without an oil change!
Premium (95) Fuel Will Clean Your Engine
There is a bit of truth to this myth. Premium (95) petrol does have a higher octane level than regular petrol (93), 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 M4 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 95.
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 petrol 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 Filling Up Petrol 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 petrol
Aircon 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 petrol is worth the comfort.
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.
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.
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 R4000. Higher quality paint jobs will likely set you back more than R9000. 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.
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 petrol 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.
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.
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