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Car care: Myths vs. reality
ConsumerReports ^ | October 16, 2009 | staff reporter

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, it’s usually not necessary. Stick to the service intervals in your car’s owner’s manual. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles are designed to go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Changing oil more often doesn’t 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 tire’s 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 automaker’s 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 won’t hurt, but it won’t improve performance, either. A higher-octane number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so it’s often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. So if your car is designed for 87-octane fuel, don’t 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 battery’s full charge, especially in the winter. That’s 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 yesteryear’s cars but is less so today. Modern engines warm up more quickly when they’re driven. And the sooner they warm up, the sooner they reach maximum efficiency and deliver the best fuel economy and performance. But don’t rev the engine high over the first few miles while it’s warming up.

Myth: A dealership must perform regular maintenance to keep your car’s factory warranty valid.

Reality: As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner’s manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop. If you’re 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.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Education; Hobbies; Travel
KEYWORDS: car; carcare; myths; oilchange
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Don't always believe a snake oil salesman.

1 posted on 10/25/2009 12:20:59 PM PDT by Daffynition
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To: Daffynition

I only started checking the air pressure in my tires after 0bama told me to.

2 posted on 10/25/2009 12:26:46 PM PDT by LiberConservative ("Sarah Palin irritates all the right people." -Dennis Miller)
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To: LiberConservative

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

3 posted on 10/25/2009 12:35:16 PM PDT by Sacajaweau
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To: LiberConservative
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4 posted on 10/25/2009 12:40:09 PM PDT by Daffynition (What's all this about hellfire and Dalmatians?)
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To: Sacajaweau

5 posted on 10/25/2009 12:42:25 PM PDT by Daffynition (What's all this about hellfire and Dalmatians?)
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To: Daffynition

When I get that pony Hussein promised, I won’t have to worry about tires.

6 posted on 10/25/2009 12:45:55 PM PDT by bgill (The framers of the US Constitution established an entire federal government in 18 pages.)
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To: Daffynition
The 7500 mile interval was written by people who sell cars and parts, including engines.

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.

7 posted on 10/25/2009 12:50:12 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: Daffynition

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.

8 posted on 10/25/2009 12:56:33 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum (If you want peace prepare for war))
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To: Daffynition
A few cautions about the info in this. Before extending oil changes, check what the manufacturer specifies for “Severe driving” and check the conditions listed for “severe driving.” Most people actually should follow the “severe driving” maintenance schedule because most people fall into the conditions listed for “severe driving.”

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.

From the desk of
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9 posted on 10/25/2009 1:05:53 PM PDT by cc2k (I have donated to Doug Hoffman, have you? [check my recent reply posts])
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To: Daffynition

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.

10 posted on 10/25/2009 1:07:39 PM PDT by ftk1t
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To: Smokin' Joe

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.

11 posted on 10/25/2009 1:08:20 PM PDT by MSF BU (++)
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To: Smokin' Joe

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.

12 posted on 10/25/2009 1:10:25 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum (If you want peace prepare for war))
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To: cc2k
Get more life out of your 0wn a$$ as well by not havin' too much air in the tire, each pound up saves gas, yes, but a harder tire grips less in a panic stop.

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).

13 posted on 10/25/2009 1:15:07 PM PDT by norraad ("What light!">Blues Brothers)
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To: Daffynition

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 “severe driving’ (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.

14 posted on 10/25/2009 1:31:53 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Host The Beer Summit-->Win The Nobel Peace Prize!)
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To: LiberConservative

Does Obama even own a car?

15 posted on 10/25/2009 1:33:06 PM PDT by charles1252
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To: charles1252

Good point!

16 posted on 10/25/2009 1:35:57 PM PDT by norraad ("What light!">Blues Brothers)
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To: Smokin' Joe
Best I ever had was sold by Interstate

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.

17 posted on 10/25/2009 1:48:23 PM PDT by Darth Reardon (Im running for the US Senate for a simple reason, I want to win a Nobel Peace Prize - Rubio)
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To: Daffynition
Reality: Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade (87 octane) fuel. Using premium in these cars won’t hurt, but it won’t improve performance, either.

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.

18 posted on 10/25/2009 1:51:08 PM PDT by ThunderSleeps (obama out now! I'll keep my money, my guns, and my freedom - you can keep the change.)
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To: bgill
Let me know when you get the pony. Personally I'm waiting on the rainbows and unicorns.

19 posted on 10/25/2009 2:07:24 PM PDT by Daffynition (What's all this about hellfire and Dalmatians?)
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To: Daffynition

If you oil looks like this, you’re in trouble

20 posted on 10/25/2009 2:07:46 PM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet)
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