Skip to comments.Car care: Myths vs. reality
Posted on 10/25/2009 12:20:59 PM PDT by Daffynition
When it comes to maintaining your car, misconceptions abound. And even the best intentions can lead you to spend more money than necessary or even compromise your safety. Here are a few common car care myths that can do more harm than good.
Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.
Reality: Despite what oil companies and quick-lube shops often claim, its usually not necessary. Stick to the service intervals in your cars owners manual. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles are designed to go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Changing oil more often doesnt hurt the engine, but it can cost you a lot of extra money. Automakers often recommend 3,000-mile intervals for severe driving conditions, such as constant stop-and-go driving, frequent trailer-towing, mountainous terrain, or dusty conditions.
Myth: Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tires sidewall.
Reality: The pounds-per-square-inch figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure that the tire can safely hold, not the automakers recommended pressure, which provides the best balance of braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort. That figure is usually found on a doorjamb sticker, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door. Perform a monthly pressure check when tires are cold or after the car has been parked for a few hours.
Myth: If regular-grade fuel is good, premium must be better.
Reality: Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade (87 octane) fuel. Using premium in these cars wont hurt, but it wont improve performance, either. A higher-octane number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so its often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. So if your car is designed for 87-octane fuel, dont waste money on premium.
Myth: After a jump-start, your car will soon recharge the battery.
Reality: It could take hours of driving to restore a batterys full charge, especially in the winter. Thats because power accessories, such as heated seats, draw so much electricity that in some cars the alternator has little left over to recharge a run-down battery. A load test at a service station can determine whether the battery can still hold a charge. If so, some hours on a battery charger might be needed to revive the battery to its full potential.
Myth: Let your engine warm up for several minutes before driving.
Reality: That might have been good advice for yesteryears cars but is less so today. Modern engines warm up more quickly when theyre driven. And the sooner they warm up, the sooner they reach maximum efficiency and deliver the best fuel economy and performance. But dont rev the engine high over the first few miles while its warming up.
Myth: A dealership must perform regular maintenance to keep your cars factory warranty valid.
Reality: As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owners manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop. If youre knowledgeable, you can even do the work yourself. Just keep accurate records and receipts to back you up in case of a warranty dispute on a future repair.
For more on taking care of your car, see our guide to car maintenance.
I only started checking the air pressure in my tires after 0bama told me to.
I’m sure when you get it right, you’ll save tons of money, tons of gas and save the world, too. Thank goodness for Obama’s supurb knowledge. /sarc
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The 3000 mile interval was written by people who sell oil and filters.
Oil is cheaper.
Reality, if your oil is noticeably dirty (black), if you drive in dusty, extremely hot or cold conditions, or work an engine hard, the service interval likely should be shorter than the manufacturer's reccomendation.
I change oil every 3,000 miles and have driven a vehicle with an engine I rebuilt (1975 Chevy van 350 V8, 4 bbl carb) 119,000 miles on that rebuilt engine (vehicle total 296,000 miles).
The idea is to keep circulating carbon and dust from circulating in your engine, because that causes wear. Also, combustion byproducts are corrosive and can build up in your engine oil, so the 6 month interval at a minimum is probably a good idea.
Warmups: some yes, some no.
The Ford/Lincoln 400 CI V8 was notorious for becoming carbon fouled if it sat and idled to warm up, the 460 (Ford/Lincoln) performed better after a brief warmup (3-5 minutes).
At this latitude, if it is below freezing, I prefer plugging in the engine heater and having the engine warm when I start it. Some folks use lower temperatures for a guide, say, 10 above or even zero, but my older vehicles seem to perform better if I have them plugged in when the mercury dips into the twenties.
Synthetic oil helps, too, as it makes cold starts easier in low temperatures and helps get oil circulating in the engine better when it gets cold out (below freezing, and especially below zero).
Best I ever had was sold by Interstate (9 years, subzero winters), next best by NAPA (7 years). If you have to get a jump start, let the vehicle charge the battery for a bit. When you get home, check battery connections for corrosion and clean them as needed (or have a mechanic do it, but the tools only cost a few bucks and last a long time), put a battery charger on the battery at a low setting (2 amps) and let the battery charge. The newer chargers can auto regulate the charge rate. Make sure electrolyte levels are where they should be (check them before you hook up the charger with the engine off), and keep in mind that really hot weather is just as hard on batteries as really cold weather.
Anyone who drives should be able to do a few basic maintenance tasks.
My work trucks get a once annual oil and filter change. They tend to get about 12,000-15,000 miles on them per year. transmission oil and filter change done at about 150,000miles. The trucks tend to last 180,000 to 200,000 miles. The drivetrains are good for a little more than that, but everything else falls apart. rust, interiors rot, electricals malfunction, door hinges and windows get loose and cause problems, locks quit working, bumpers fall off...etc
My grandfather used to do filter changes and save the oil and pour it back in.
With many newer cars, especially GM vehicles, there is an indicator for when the oil must be changed. You can follow these indicators as they take loads, temperatures and other things into account. Depending on how you drive, you might get 4,000 miles before it says "Oil Change Required" or, if you drive gently, you could get 9,000 miles before the indicator says an oil change is needed.
I used to work in a car dealership. Some of our vehicles had the smart oil change indicator systems. The ones that came in at 12,000 miles for their second or even third oil change were the ones who abused their cars. They often needed brake pads and other wear items (tires) by this time, where others who were in for their second oil change after 15,000 to 18,000 miles often had hardly any wear at all on these items.
As for tire pressures, you will wear a set of tires out in a hurry by over inflating them to maximum pressure (as shown on the sidewalls). Go with the auto manufacturer’s recommendation. A few extra PSI will save a bit of gas, but could cause the center of the tire to wear quicker, reducing tire life. Things vary based on the individual car and driving style. Watching tire wear closely (with a tread depth gauge) can get you tuned in to where it is best.
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I agree with the article and never believe snake oil salesmen. They all sound like Obama to me. Great picture. Automobile repair is where most snake oil is sold. Not one thing works. Cow magnets, water for fuel, tornadoes, miracle additives, etc.. I will add, changing your oil too often can cause premature catalytic converter failure, and as far as good fuel goes, some car manufactures call for top tier fuel.
I’m fortunate I guess to have a garage that never dips below forty, even during the coldest winter days. Those nice warm engine blocks do well to heat the place back up too.
Longest battery life I ever had was on a 96 ford F250. The original battery was replaced in 2007. maybe 2006.
Seems to me the main thing you need to do to make a vehicle last a long time is to drive it regularly, park it indoors, don’t get in an accident(when you do, the vehicle seems to start having problems later on after the repairs are made), and once it gets about 80,000-100,000 miles on it, you need to start checking oil levels frequently and keep it topped off.
Sometimes even a few feet can save you from becoming part of a pole.
They ride nicer on the softer side as well.
I change the oil as often as I feel like it, water is the only thing this palnet(new freeper word) has more of than oil.
There's a reverse exponential slope to the detergents dirt handling (read holding) ability and during the lower part of the slope the dirt abrades and gooks up things, I'd rather get rid of it and replace with fresh and clean.
So far so good (23 year old Toyota w.231,000 miles).
It's nice not having car payments since well into the previous century ( one less thing).
Just bought a new diesel which is designed for extended service intervals...e.g., oil changes at 1 year or 12,000 miles.Given that I paid a good chunk of $$$ for it plus the fact that my driving habits qualify as âsevere drivingâ (short trips,cold weather,etc) I’ll be changing the oil at least twice a year..maybe even three times.And the car requires a special synthetic oil that makes for $70 do-it-yourself oil/filter changes.
Does Obama even own a car?
For a few years around 1990 my job involved running around jump starting cars. Below about 10-15 degrees, that's all I did, and often the business phone would be off the hook by the time I got in at 6am (already had enough business for the day).
Vehicles with Interstate batteries were far more likely to start. [Now, before anyone asks why if they're so great did you need to jumpstart them, there are other reasons why vehicles don't start in the cold, and often people run the battery down while trying]. Also, that is the brand that we sold in the shop. Replacing an Interstate before, or even a couple years after, the warranty expired was rare (compared with other brands, where batteries going out before the warranty was pretty common if not expected).
Motorcraft (Ford) batteries, OTOH, might last a couple years, but were worthless in the cold. IMO, their only value was to hold the battery tray in place.
That was nearly 20 years ago (sucks that I can say things like that these days), I don't deal with batteries these days, or live where it gets cold, but at that time Interstate was head and shoulders the best.
By actual test my car works better with 87 octane rather than 85. I get better gas mileage, enough of a difference that it actually pays (in terms of fuel cost per mile) to get the slightly more expensive 87 vs 85. Both have ethanol in them. There is a smaller increase in mpg when I go to 93 octane, but not enough to make it worth the price differential.
So in my case anyway, the "myth" is at least partially true: the better (mid-grade) fuel does work better than the standard.
If you oil looks like this, youre in trouble
I just wait until my tires’ audible indicator tells me to inflate them. They make a lub, dub, lub, dub noise when they need air.
Well, that’s what Obama thinks people do.
Changing your oil before the recommended time to me, is a pretty inexpensive peace-of-mind issue. [Even though mine takes 8 quarts.]
I think warming a car up is imperative, especially if it is a HP car, even after it’s warm, I try not to full throttle the engine for a while.
“changing your oil too often can cause premature catalytic converter failure,”
Huh!?! I never heard of this one, but I’m willing to learn something new. Can you tell me why this would be? Lower initial wear on the engine, which would increase blowby perhaps? Just guessing.
My wife has a '78 Lincoln which only takes about 5 minutes idling at the curb to warm up.
I'm not sure what temperature ranges you are dealing with, but if you commonly have temps below freezing and occasionally below zero, you might consider getting a block heater (frost plug heater) or a tank heater for the pickup. If there is no available electrical outlet, the easiest and cheapest fix is to get a grille cover to partially block airflow to the radiator (yes, it can be done with a piece of cardboard), but don't overdo it if you live in an area where winter temperatures are commonly above freezing (or if you operate the vehicle for long periods of time under load) or you might overheat the engine, which is far worse than being chilly for a few extra minutes.
I have used both methods in concert, and the coldest weather I ever drove in was -54 out of Riverton, Wyoming (static air temp, not wind chill). It took over 100 miles before I could not see my breath in the van, at about 200 miles (driving north into warmer weather (only -30) I could unzip my coat some and think about taking my gloves off inside the vehicle. Covering the entire grille helped a little, and I never would have started the engine without a crankcase full of synthetic oil (easier cranking and better oil flow at startup) and the frost plug heater to warm the engine up before I started it.
If you are running a manual transmission in temperatures below zero, you might consider replacing the gear lube and differential lube with synthetic as well, it makes a huge difference getting going and saves clutch in the long run.
The damage is is caused by the phosphorus in the motor oil and other additives. Most of the phosphorus burns off in the first 500 miles after an oil change. The oil companies have been developing low SAPS oil to deal with these problems. With extended oil life, comprehensive oil change monitor vehicles, mostly European cars but soon all car manufactures will follow, I would and do trust the cars computer to tell me when an oil change is needed. For the last few years, most vehicles have no dipstick for the automatic transmission and service intervals of 100K miles. I believe in the next 5 years, motor oil will be lifetime oil to be serviced every 100K. Mercedes Benz already sells cars without motor oil dipsticks. Oil, lube, and catalytic converter technology changes real fast and is too boring and complicated for me. The rest of a car is fun and easy.