It doesn't matter if you grew up working on cars or if you've never seen the inside of an engine bay, everybody's heard at least one myth or urban legend associated with automobiles. These usually come from a grandfather or an older mechanic who's been working on cars their entire lives, but does that mean some of the most popular car myths out there are true? For some, yes; for others, no, but as it turns out, most of the time, the truth isn't always so black and white.
Myth: Setting A Battery On Concrete Drains It
This is a pretty popular myth, and even a lot of people that've worked in mechanic shops their entire lives will tell you that laying a battering on concrete will cause it to lose its charge. As it turns out, this myth actually has some basis in fact, or at least it used to. Before battery casings were constructed in the hard casings used today, it wasn't uncommon for concrete or a damp floor to cause a battery to lose power.
However, that simply isn't the case today, and concrete doesn't negatively affect car batteries in any way. If your battery does lose charge while sitting on concrete then it's probably just been sitting out for too long.
Myth: Fill Up Before It Gets Hot To Get More Gas
This myth pops up every time gas prices start to go up. The myth goes that filling up in the early morning, as opposed to the middle of the day when it's much hotter, will give you more gas. This is because gas expands if it's hot and condenses when it's cold. However, it's very unlikely that this myth is true because gas is stored in tanks underground that are usually unaffected by outside temperatures.
And even in the very unlikely event that it gets so cold as to affect those tanks, then you're probably only going to be looking at a couple of cents worth of savings, according to most sources we found.
Myth: Wiping An Oil Filter Clean Is Good For It
There's a myth out there that you should always wipe the lid of your oil filter clean before installing it on your car or truck. This probably won't surprise most people who've changed their own oil before, but this one is completely false. The only time you should wipe the top of your oil filter clean is if it falls in the dirt while you're trying to screw it on.
Before installing it, you should actually wipe some old oil around the rubber sealer on the top so that it seals tightly when after you screw it on. Not doing this can result in a seal that can come loose.
Myth: Cranking A Car Takes More Gas Than Idling
Most of us have been in a situation where we're so low on gas that we're forced to make half-baked calculations in our heads about whether or not we should turn our car off or leave it idling in order to save gas. The old saying goes that cranking a car uses more gas than actually sitting there idling. However, is it actually true? And just what should we be doing the next time we're waiting on somebody and that gas needle is threading E?
It turns out that we're probably okay turning the car off if we're going to be sitting there for more than 30 seconds. That's because newer fuel-injected vehicles are usually pretty good at not taking a lot of gas to start.
Myth: You Shouldn't Use Your Phone When At The Pump
They might not be on every gas station pump anymore, but you can still come across pumps with signs telling you not to use your phone while pumping gas. However, it turns out that these signs, like many other myths on this list, just harken back to a different time. When phones were larger and had those big antennas, it may have been possible that a spark could ignite a pump.
However, that's simply not the case anymore. Today's phones are perfectly fine to use at the pump. Multiple researchers, and even the show "Mythbusters" have tackled this one before and found they couldn't cause fumes to ignite using cell phones.
Myth: Off-Brand Gas Can Hurt Your Vehicle
Depending on where you live, odds are you usually fill up at a big-name gas station, such as Chevron or Shell. However, big-name oil gas stations aren't the only options out there. And for some reason, smaller gas stations are often associated with harmful gasoline. The truth is that small gas station is probably getting their gas from the same plants as the big guys. The only difference is in the amount of additives the two put in their gas.
Big-name gas stations usually put more additives in their gas, but there's still absolutely nothing wrong with the gas at the smaller gas station. The only issue with gas quality arises when tanks aren't properly maintained and this could just as easily occur with one of the big guys.
Myth: Smaller Cars Are Always More Fuel Efficient
Logically, it makes sense that smaller cars would always be more fuel efficient than their heavier, more powerfully equipped counterparts. And in truth, this usually is the case. However, we'll also say that engine fuel efficiency has come a long way in recent years, and larger SUVs and trucks are much more fuel efficient than they were even six or seven years ago. Still, their lighter weight usually gives smaller cars the advantage in this category.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and some SUVs and trucks equipped with hybrid engines and more fuel-efficient technology can score better than their smaller rivals.
Myth: You Can Use Vegetable Oil In Place Of Diesel
This is a pretty old myth, but it goes that you can use vegetables as a diesel substitute. It turns out that if you were brave enough to try this back in the day, most likely on an old tractor, you'd probably be okay. However, things have changed since then, and using vegetable oil in your new shiny diesel truck would probably cause a lot of harm. We say probably because we're not brave enough to try it.
The viscosity of vegetable oil is just too thick for most newer engines, whereas older diesel engines were much less complex and could keep on running no matter what.
Myth: Start-Stop Systems In Cars Use More Gas And Drain Batteries
A lot of people absolutely hate start-stop systems, so it's no surprise that they're associated with a few myths. These usually go a little something like start-stop systems use more gas, destroy starters, and drain the juice out of car batteries. We're here to tell you that start-stop systems, while annoying, actually result in more fuel efficiency. In addition, starters on these cars are usually fine since engineers make sure to beef these up.
These systems will take a toll on normal batteries, but most cars that utilize a start-stop system usually come with a special battery and require that you buy that same type of battery when it comes time for a replacement.
Myth: You Can Wash Your Car With Dishwashing Soap
Here's a pretty divisive myth. Is dish soap, such as Dawn, okay to use to wash your car? A simple Google search will leave you with all kinds of answers, most of which say it's not okay to use to wash your car. The truth is actually a bit more complicated than that. Dish soaps certainly work in getting your care squeaky clean. However, they're also known to strip any wax finish you may have applied.
Consumer Report also recommends that you use a soap that's been specially made to be used on cars, and considering how expensive a paint job can be, we'd say stick with their recommendation just to be safe.
Myth: Aluminum Is Safer Than Steel
A lot of manufacturers have switched from making car parts out of steel to making them out of aluminum in recent years. Why? A lot of the reason has to do with the lighter weight of aluminum, which translates into better mileage. However, which is safer for drivers? Steel or aluminum. The latter is a softer metal, but it has allowed car makers to make better crumble zones, which has resulted in safer crashes.
When compared to steel, pound for pound, aluminum is also better able to absorb impacts. So, in the grand scheme of things, yes aluminum is safer than steel when utilized in a smart way.
Myth: Korean Cars Are Low Quality
This is another myth that may have been based on some truth back in the day. However, despite still being relatively cheap compared to their competitors, Korean companies like Hyundai and Kia actually make some pretty good cars. Of course, that wasn't necessarily always the case, and that may be where this myth got its start. But today, many of their cars perform pretty well, especially when their price is taken into account.
In fact, in 2019, JD Power said that Korean car makers were beating their American and European rivals when it came to quality, according to Wired. Next were the Americans, followed by Japanese automakers, and then the Europeans, which in itself is also kind of surprising.
Myth: Electric Cars Are More Likely To Catch Fire Than Their Gas Counterparts
Here's a myth that might seem like it's logical on the surface. It goes that electric vehicles are more likely to catch fire than their gas counterparts. There has been a couple of studies done on this and they've all found that not to be true. Gas is simply more flammable and more likely to catch fire than a battery-powered car. That said, electric fires are different from those caused by gas, and many first responders are still adapting to this change.
However, numbers still back up the fact that gas-powered vehicles are much more likely to combust than their battery-powered counterparts, even when adjusted for the amount of each type of car on the road.
Myth: Lowering Your Tailgate Saves On Gas
This is another old myth, although we're not quite sure where this one came from. Maybe it's just logical to think that driving with the tailgate down reduces drag. After all, isn't all of that wind slowing you down when it hits the back of your tailgate while you're driving down the road? Well, it turns out that no, actually, it isn't. In fact, driving with a tailgate down causes more drag.
We're not engineers, so we're not exactly sure how it works. But the people that are engineers figured out a long time ago that driving with your tailgate down creates a vortex, and thus, more drag.
Myth: Using The Air Conditioner Uses More Gas
This is one that some people live by. It could be record-breaking temperatures outside, and some people will still refuse to use the AC because they want to save gas. But does using the AC really result in more gas being used? It turns out that it does. Now, we're not saying you shouldn't roll up your windows and turn on the AC when it's 110 outside, but just be aware that you are using a bit more gas.
The average amount of fuel used can vary pretty widely according to the vehicle, but we've seen some sources place it as high as three mpg, which is a good bit.
Myth: Manuals Are Better On Gas Than Automatics
Here's another myth that actually used to have a lot of basis in fact. Before automatics got as good as they are today, manuals actually used to be the better choice when it came to saving on gas, (and having fun while driving, but we digress). However, sadly today automatics are better in just about every way. Not only are they more fuel efficient but they're better at shifting in just about any situation.
This also means that they're more likely to increase the life of your vehicle, whereas older automatics were known to be unreliable and prone to breaking down.
Myth: Red Car Owners Should Expect To Pay More For Insurance
This is a bit of a weird one, but it's also one that most people have heard before. The myth goes that red cars are more to insure than their differently colored counterparts. It kind of makes sense if you think about red sports cars, but that's about it. And in fact, there is no basis for this myth. Insurance companies have much more reliable ways to tell if someone is a bit more prone to speeding and having an accident.
Some of those variables include things like the type of car and a driver's age. Because the teen with a fast sports car is much more likely to speed than the older driver with a truck or SUV.
Myth: Cars Can Stop Bullets
According to most Hollywood movies, cars are as good as brick walls when it comes to stopping bullets. In truth, this isn't the case. Of course, it depends on the caliber of the bullet but most calibers larger than a .22 are capable of punching through the thing metal on a car door. That isn't to say they're totally useless as they can be used to hide behind in the event of a shooting.
Of course, we hope that nobody reading this ever finds themselves in a situation like that, but if you do, just remember that the metal on a car is actually pretty thin.
Myth: Muscle Cars Can't Take A Turn
The common wisdom out there is that muscle cars do one thing, and they do that thing well: accelerate in a straight line. Well, that was true back in the day when just about every town had a drag strip, but it's not so true now. Today's muscle cars are more than able to keep up with their foreign counterparts on the track and many of them have captured track records in recent years.
Not only that, but they've done it without sacrificing the aggressive styling, large V8s, and sounds that make them so popular. Of course, we're probably approaching the last era in which you'll see V8s on the road.
Myth: The Drive Back Is Shorter Than The Drive There
This one isn't so much a myth as it is just something everyone experiences. And if you've ever thought that a return trip felt much faster than the trip to your destination, then you know what we're talking about. It actually has a name: the return trip effect. Researchers have pointed to a couple of different reasons for this, including someone's familiarity with a place and their eagerness to get there in the first place.
The latter is certainly understandable as time does seem to move a lot slower when you're constantly checking the clock or waiting to get somewhere. Just think back to grade school.
Myth: Electric Cars Are More Expensive Than Gas-Powered Cars
This is a myth that seems pretty clear-cut. It states that electric vehicles are more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. This one kind of just depends on how you look at it. The average upfront price for an electric vehicle is almost always going to be more than that of a gas-powered car. However, they also retain their value a little better than those gas-powered cars, so there's that.
It's also worth noting that electric cars usually require a lot less maintenance than gas-powered cars, although when it does require maintenance, expect to have to go to a certified dealership and pay a premium price.
Myth: The Batteries In Electric Cars Only Last A Couple Years
We haven't personally heard this one, but apparently, there's a myth going around that electric car batteries are prone to go bad after only a couple of years. However, as you might expect, this one is false. According to JD Power, the vast majority of electric car batteries last around 10 to 20 years. Although, that number can fluctuate based on if the car is driven and stored in a hot environment.
According to them, electric car batteries don't do as well in hotter climates, but they're still going to last a lot longer than just a couple of years.
Myth: The Minerals Used In Electric Cars Are Mined By Kids
So, this one is a bit complicated. For the vast majority of minerals used to make electric vehicles, there is no child labor involved. However, that doesn't mean that there haven't been some bad actors out there. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there has been child labor involved in the extraction of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The cobalt mined there was probably used in everything from phone batteries to car batteries.
There's also been some concern about mining conditions in other areas. However, there's also been more awareness in recent years and efforts to ban minerals from these countries from entering the supply chain.
Myth: Switching Lanes To Get Ahead Gets You There Faster
We just know this one is going to divide people. Does switching lanes and passing cars actually get you to your destination any faster than sticking in your own lane? Of course, it depends on the situation, but most research has shown that in the majority of cases switching lanes doesn't actually help you get to where you're going any faster than if you'd just stuck to your original lane.
However, as with everything else, we imagine there are some instances in which switching lanes would probably help you get to your destination, if only a little bit quicker.
Myth: Shooting A Vehicles Gas Tank Will Cause An Explosion
Out of all of the Hollywood cliches we've seen associated with cars, making a gas tank explode by shooting it might just be the most logical. Sadly though, it's simply not true. And you don't have to take our word for it because "Mythbusters" actually tested out this very same myth before. Their conclusion was that this one was completely false, and you couldn't create an awesome explosion by shooting a car's gas tank.
Wikimedia CommonsStill, we wouldn't suggest you go out and shoot a gas tank to try this one for yourself. That said, we have seen some sources that claim tracer rounds work.
Myth: Coolant Doesn't Need Replacing
Whoever came up with this myth was simply trying to cause harm to your car. While you don't need to replace your coolant as often as you change your oil, you do need to check it pretty regularly and make sure you have enough in the tank, especially if you live in a place that has harsh winters. It's also recommended that you completely change it around every five years or 30,000 miles.
Not doing so can cause all of the water in your lines to freeze and your car to run hot, which is one of the worst things for your engine.
Myth: Nitrogen Is Better For Your Tires Than Air
There's an old myth that nitrogen is actually better for your tires than air. And this one actually has some truth to it, though if it's actually worth it might depend on the type of car owner you are. Using nitrogen instead of air results in far less deflation over time. It can also be better for your tire since air can contain more moisture than nitrogen. However, it's also a lot more expensive.
Filling a tire up with nitrogen could run you upwards of $30 a pop. So, as long as you regularly check the air pressure in your tires, there isn't a reason for most people to use nitrogen.
Myth: A Car Battery Lasts Upwards Of Five Years
This is kind of a surprising fact, but according to AAA, around 42% of people think that batteries are basically guaranteed to last up to five years. We've never actually thought about it, but the truth is that batteries usually last anywhere from three to five years, with fewer lasting longer than that. That number can also vary a lot depending on your driving habits and the climate where you live.
In short, most batteries aren't going to make it to that five-year mark, and you should probably budget for the day when that battery finally succumbs to all those times you ran the radio without the car off.
Myth: Tires Don't Need To Be Replaced Until They Hit 2/32
The rule of thumb is that you should replace your tires when their tread hits 2/32. It's also the legal limit in a lot of states. However, is this actually best? The truth is that tires lose a lot of traction before they get to that tread. AAA found that your tires' traction is already pretty bad in wet weather at around 4/32 tread, and they recommend you change them around this number.
If you choose to wait a little longer, just be aware that you're going to be driving with less traction and drive in a way that takes that in account.
Myth: Convertibles Are Death Traps
For a long time, common wisdom has held that convertibles are a lot more dangerous than their hardtop counterparts. It makes logical sense, right? You remove the entire top and all of that metal, and you're sure to lose some structural integrity and some of the safety that comes with it. However, research done on later-model convertibles has found that they're just as safe as cars with hardtops, including the same model cars.
This might be because automakers reinforce convertibles and sometimes even add roll bars if it's a performance car or an off-road SUV. Whatever the reason, convertible drivers can rest a little easier.
Myth: Bigger Engines Automatically Mean More Power
Certainly there used to be a time when engine size equated to sheer horsepower. However, as many car enthusiasts know, that isn't always the case anymore. All one has to do now in order to give their little engine a lot more oomph is slap a turbocharger on there, and odds are it'll keep up with, if not outrun a lot of cars with larger engines. Of course, one could also do the same to a large V8.
All we're saying is a small engine doesn't necessarily equate to measly horsepower and speed anymore, especially not if it's paired with the right kind of car.
Myth: AWD And 4WD Cars Break Better Than 2WD Cars
This myth makes a bit of sense logically when you think about it. The myth goes that cars that are AWD or 4WD break better than 2WD cars. However, that isn't really the case. All cars come equipped with the same number of brakes regardless of if they're AWD or 2WD. What really makes the difference is the quality of the brakes a vehicle comes equipped with, along with the type of tires.
For example, vehicles with larger rotors or performance brake pads are going to stop a lot quicker than vehicles with regular ole brake pads. The same can be said for performance tires.
Myth: ABS Is Better For Stopping On A Dime
ABS, or anti-lock brakes, is pretty much ubiquitous among modern cars. In fact, they became legally required around 2004. ABS basically keeps your wheels from completely freezing up when you punch on the brakes, therefore giving a driver a bit more control. But do they actually help a car brake better? Well, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yes and no. They've been found to give vehicles a 14% shorter braking distance in wet weather.
However, they've also been found to not really affect braking distance at all under normal, dry conditions. So, we guess you could probably call this myth half right.
Myth: Should You Underinflate Your Tires For A Smoother Ride?
So, this myth goes that underinflating your tires can actually result in a much smoother ride. Logically, it kind of makes sense, as fully inflated bouncy tires are sure to equal a more bouncy ride, right? The answer is actually yes, underinflating your tires will give you a very slightly smoother ride. However, it's probably not worth it as the leading cause of tire failure and rupture is actually underinflation, according to Tire Review Magazine.
Less air in your tires means more of that tire is coming in contact with the road, which equals more friction and flexing, which in turn can lead to a blowout on the road.
Myth: A Quick Jump Can Fully Revive A Dead Battery
We're not completely sure where this myth came from, but according to the myth, a jump start will completely recharge a dead battery. That's simply not the case, especially if it's time for a new battery. The only thing a jump will do is give you enough power to crank your vehicle. It's advisable to leave your vehicle running after receiving a jump or, if you can, drive it around a bit to let your alternator do its thing.
You can also hook your battery up to a battery charger and let that charge your battery. Most of them, and even most jump boxes, will show you your battery's voltage.
Myth: Coolant Needs To Be Changed With Your Oil
This one isn't super consequential as a lot of oil change shops will automatically change your coolant or at least check it every time you get an oil change, but is that even needed? The myth goes that you should change your coolant every time you get an oil change. However, the truth is that you really only need to flush and change your coolant every five years or around 30,000 miles.
The really important thing is that you check your coolant levels every now and then in order to make sure you're not running low or have a leak somewhere.
Myth: Cars Need To Warm Up Before Driving In Cold Temperatures
This is a pretty pervasive myth, and it actually has a fun little history. The myth is that you need to let your car idle and warm up before driving it, particularly if it's really cold outside. This was actually true once upon a time when vehicles were carburated. If you didn't let your car warm up back in the day, it might stall out while you were driving down the road.
However, modern fuel-injected engines did away with that need. It's perfectly fine to drive your car as soon as you crank it in the cold, unless of course, you want to wait to run the heater first.
Myth: 4WD Vehicles Don't Need Snow Tires
This is one that we're pretty sure anybody with experience driving 4WD vehicles in the snow knows is false. The truth is that while 4WD is obviously better than 2WD in the snow and in off-road conditions, nothing is a replacement for snow tires. A 4WD can get just as stuck in the snow as a 2WD if the conditions are right and the snow is pretty relatively deep.
Now, a 4WD is going to be better in the snow once it has snow tires compared with a 2WD vehicle that also has snow tires. That's simply because you have more acceleration, control, and usually traction.
Myth: Vehicles Have To Be Serviced At Dealerships To Maintain Warranty
This is a big one. A lot of people believe that you have to get your car serviced at a dealership in order to maintain your vehicle's warranty. It's one of the reasons dealerships are able to charge so much more than the mechanic shop around the corner, right? Well, this one is completely false, it turns out. In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it illegal for a manufacturer to require a customer to have to use their parts or service center in order to maintain a warranty, according to consumer reports.
If a dealer or manufacturer does threaten to void a warranty, it's up to them to prove that an oil change or whatever else that was gotten elsewhere caused your vehicle to break.
Myth: All Four Tires Have To Be Replaced Every Tire Change
Considering the price of tires, this is another big one. The myth goes that you have to change all four tires every time you get a tire change. The truth is that you really only need to change two when it comes to front or rear-wheel drive vehicles. AWD vehicles on the other hand usually do need all four tires changed. Notice we said AWD and not 4WD there though.
That's for the simple fact that all of the tires on AWD vehicles are receiving the same amount of torque and things can mess us if a lone tire is a different size than the rest.