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 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.