We’ve all heard legends and old wives’ tales that defy logical explanation, yet Uncle Buck and Cousin Vinny absolutely swear by them. Like the majestic Jackalope, many car myths are just begging to be busted.
Here are six car myths debunked:
Car Myths Debunked Because They Used to Be True
Change your oil every 3,000 miles.
This is the quintessential “used-to-be-true” situation, because back in the 1970s and 1980s this was the case. But modern lubrication and engine technologies have increased oil change intervals to at least 5,000 miles, and some automakers recommend oil changes as infrequently as every 15,000 miles. Your best bet is to check your owner’s manual and follow those instructions.
Manual transmission = better fuel economy.
Again, it used to be true that automatic transmissions were less economical than manual transmissions, particularly before the invention of the locking torque converter. In actuality, today’s automatic transmissions easily rival manual transmissions, both in performance and fuel economy.
Diesels are dirty.
Here in America, thanks to older diesel cars and big rigs, diesel fuel has gotten a bad rap. Modern low-sulfur diesel fuel and modern small turbodiesel engines, however, have been proven to deliver better fuel economy and generate fewer emissions than gasoline engines and older diesel engines.
Car Myths Debunked Because They Never Were True
Top off your brake fluid if it’s low.
For the most part, your brake system is a sealed system. Brake fluid doesn’t evaporate or go anywhere, and the level is actually a great indicator of brake wear. When brake pads, rotors, shoes and drums are new, brake fluid level should be at the “full” mark. As brake pads wear down, or if there is a leak, because of damage or corrosion, the fluid level will drop. If brake fluid level is “low,” check the condition of your brakes and inspect for possible leaks.
Premium fuel will make your car run better.
You hear the word “premium” and automatically think “better,” but what are premium fuels better at? Some premium brands may contain more cleaning additives, and high-octane gasoline, 94 octane versus 84 octane, will prevent pinging in high-compression engines. On the other hand, using 84 octane fuel will save you a few bucks at the pump and won’t harm your engine in any way. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that all fuel sold in the United States meet specific purity levels and engine-cleaning additives.
Texting and refueling = BOOM.
In a very precise setting, under laboratory-level conditions, in which air currents and fuel vapor concentrations are exactly controlled, one could possibly use a cell phone to start a fire. However, the Federal Communications Commission investigated claims that such a thing has ever happened, and they reported that “there is no evidence that these reports are true.” So go ahead, check your email, make a phone call or write a text message, while waiting for your tank to fill up.
If you’re worried about taking care of your car the right way, the best thing you can do is refer to the owner’s manual. The automaker knows how to advise you on taking care of your car, and the information is right there at your fingertips. So cracking the case on car myths is as easy as opening up the manual and laughing at yourself when you realize how long you’ve believed something that just isn’t true.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.