Debunking Popular Car Myths

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Revealing the truth about common myths about cars.

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From the dangers of pumping gas with your car on to the notion that premium fuel improves car performance, car-related myths abound and seem to make their way to just about everyone. While most myths about cars are innocuous, there are a few out there that, if not debunked, can prove risky to both our cars and ourselves. Here we set out to explore some of the most common myths, to expose them as old wives' tales or confirm them as cold hard facts.

Every Car Myth You Need to Stop Believing

Here are some of the most dangerous and common car-related rumors that everyone should stop believing:

You Can Sleep Behind the Wheel of a Self-Driving Car

Self-driving vehicle technology has come a really long way, but the fact remains that there's still a very long way for it to go before it is ready for the mainstream market. Most of the newest cars with advanced self-driving technologies are relatively proficient and can safely govern driving on the highways and even commence various parking maneuvers. However, we've only just reached the point where Level 3 Autonomy is a real thing, and even this requires drivers to be alert and focused at all times In many states and many countries, it is still technically illegal to drive without your hands on the wheel, and should anything go wrong, you as the driver are still fully responsible for the consequences. Self-driving technology has not been perfectly developed for reading traffic lights and signs and is a long way from reaching a stage where you can sleep behind the wheel. Simply put, just don't do it.

Pumping Gas with Your Car on is 100% Safe

This is perhaps the most dangerous car myth to believe, as filling your car up with gas while the engine is still running is certainly not completely safe. Gasoline vapor from your car's engine igniting is no myth - it's very possible. While the chances of a fire starting while refueling a running car are minimal, leaving the engine running does increase the chances of the gas vapors in the engine, fuel system, and gas pump igniting and causing catastrophic damage. While doing so is possible, we'd advise you not to.

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Old Gas In Car unsplash.com

Seatbelts and Airbags Cause More Harm Than Good

It's been proven that seat belts reduce the risk of serious injury during an accident by half and the potential of death by 45%. Airbags are also far more likely to save one's life during an accident than be the actual cause of their death. Volvo, which is accredited with the invention of the three-point seat belt, manufactures some of the safest cars in the world. Just look at the crash test and safety ratings of the Volvo XC60, or any other Volvo car for that matter. It's important to understand that these two features work together though. In older cars without airbags, the seatbelts held you firmer, which often resulted in chest bruising and maybe even broken ribs, but in newer cars, the seatbelt slows the initial impact, while the airbag then performs the final stage of slowing an occupant down. Together, these safety features are more beneficial than not having them, but using one without the other is very dangerous. Always wear your seatbelt.

Seatbelts and Airbags Cause More Harm Than Good unsplash.com

Myths About Electric Cars

Along with the rapid progression of electric propulsion technology, and the increase of electric cars, has come a flurry of myths. Here are the biggest myths about electric cars:

Myths About Electric Cars unsplash.com

More CO2 is Emitted During the Manufacturing of EVs than Regular Cars

This myth may be true, but don't let the manner in which it's said trick you. Yes, manufacturing an EV does emit more CO2 on average than manufacturing a regular car, mostly due to the production of the batteries. However, gasoline or diesel cars will far surpass the lifetime CO2 creation of any EV once on the road. The electric vehicle remains the eco-friendly way forward for future cars and as these cars become easier to produce, their carbon footprint will become even better.

EV Batteries are Expensive to Replace and Have Short Lifespans

The electric powertrains and batteries in your EV are typically covered for up to eight years or 100,000 miles by manufacturer warranties. This is because of how dependable they've proven to be. There are also many reports of various EV batteries having lost only a small percentage of their capacities even after 100,000 miles of use. There have even been reports of EV owners driving their cars for hundreds of thousands of miles. In 2020, we even covered the story of a Tesla owner who had covered more than 1.2 million kilometers in his Model S. That's more than 750,000 miles.

EVs are More Likely to Catch Fire During an Accident

This is false. EVs are built meticulously with high-quality materials, and they are generally very well insulated. This effectively protects their batteries, the most flammable components in EVs. The batteries are also placed low in the cars, which creates a low center of gravity and reduces the risk of rolling, which would expose any sensitive parts. An inherent lack of fuel also drastically diminishes the chances of a fire.

A caveat exists that if an EV catches fire, the fire itself is vastly more difficult to extinguish as the chemical nature of it means that the fire can spontaneously reignite. This is one of the reasons EVs in motorsports are still not commonly accepted.

Myths About Diesel Engines

There aren't many diesel-powered vehicles available on the market, so here we stick to a brief list of the more common myths about diesel engines that just aren't true:

  • Diesel is dirtier than gasoline
  • Diesel is pricier than gasoline
  • Diesel cars drive worse than gasoline ones

The combustion of diesel as a fuel emits different gases than gasoline. This doesn't make it dirtier, but rather dirty in a different manner to gasoline. As for the price of diesel being higher, this is a fallacy. Gasoline and diesel typically cost around the same, with variances dependent on your locale and the mark-ups of individual filling stations. The last point is perhaps the most false of all. Any car can be a bad car, and likewise, a good diesel can be a great car. Diesels are torque-rich which makes for easy overtaking, and are generally very frugal. Modern diesel engines from BMW and Jaguar are also very refined, while diesel engines in trucks are capable of hauling immense loads without any negative impact on how the vehicles drive.

Myths About Car Maintenance

Most car maintenance myths apply to really outdated cars but these types of myths seem to stick around nonetheless. Here are the most common:

Premium Gasoline is the Best for any Type of Car

If your car isn't equipped with a high-performance, high-compression engine that's been tuned for hard driving, then there's really no point in using premium gasoline. It won't boost your engine's horsepower output or increase your car's speed, but can, in fact, be as bad for your car's engine as using dirty, old gas in your car. You will want to abide by the suggested fuel octane rating provided by your car's manufacturer.

Sometimes, premium gasoline can be beneficial, but this is because certain gas suppliers use extra additives in these fuels. It's the additives designed to clean your engine and prevent build-up that are beneficial, however, and not the premium-rated gasoline itself. These additives in regular gasoline would be just as beneficial for your car.

Your Car's Oil Needs to Be Changed Every 3,000 Miles

When it comes to service and oil change myths, anyone driving a modern car need not fret. Only really old cars required hyper-regular services and oil changes. So, if you're buying a vintage or really old used car, then this is something you'll want to confirm. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations for oil change intervals and use the correct oil.

Warm Up Your Car's Engine in Cold Weather

Most people know that an engine needs to reach an optimal temperature in order to work efficiently. It makes sense then to believe that you should let your car heat up by letting it idle for a certain amount of time before driving it in the winter months. Again, on older cars the need to do this was much, much higher. Modern cars are now equipped in a manner that it is no longer a necessity. The oils used are of a much lower viscosity, which allows them to flow into tiny gaps much quicker without needing to be heated. As long as your car has not been left outside in freezing temperatures where fluids may have frozen and as long as you do not rev the car's engine too high - generally use 3,000 rpm as a good guideline - until such time as everything is up to temperature, starting your car and driving off immediately poses no serious threat. Using the correct weight engine oil for a low-temperature-residing vehicle is far more important, and standing around idling for a long time is just using fuel unnecessarily.

On high-performance cars or modified cars, it is slightly healthier to let the car complete its full cold-start procedure, where it idles at higher revs until things are up to temp, but again, this isn't a necessity.

Myths About Car Insurance

Insurance can be complicated, and the myths around it don't make choosing the right car insurance for you any easier.

The Myth About Red Cars Being Cursed

There is more than one myth about red cars. Many believe that a red car is a lot more susceptible to being pulled over by traffic police than any other color car. That, along with the idea that red cars are also more expensive to insure than any other color cars, can be quite off-putting for some. The truth, however, is that red cars are treated no differently to other color cars. Just because the color red is associated with sports cars doesn't mean you're going to be getting continuously pulled over in your Passion Red Kia Sorento. As for the latter myth, insurers, in fact, don't even always ask for the color of your car during the application.

Myth About Red Cars unsplash.com

Insurance Premiums Increase with Your Age

It's actually more the opposite when it comes to age. Younger people typically pay a lot more for their car insurance than older people who are actually offered reduced rates, based on how much driving experience they have.

Soldiers Pay More for Insurance than Civilians

Veterans and ex-military are actually liable to receive certain exclusive discounts on their car insurance. Sometimes, certain insurers will even apply these discounts to family members.

FAQs

Does keeping your tailgate down save gas?

No, the idea of leaving the tailgate of your truck down to allow for better aerodynamics or air flow out the rear of the truck to improve fuel economy is a total fabrication. It actually worsens the air flow and increases drag.

Can I use my car’s cruise control in the rain?

It's always safer to be in full control of your car when there is inclement weather and slippery road conditions, but that doesn't mean modern cruise control systems are dangerous. The myth goes that cruise control will spin the wheels up to a predetermined speed even if you've lost traction, which is not true. Modern cruise control systems work in concert with traction and stability control systems, and traction control supersedes cruise control. This means that if the wheels start to slip, the car's computer systems will either cut power or apply the brakes, which automatically disengages cruise control. Most computers will back off the throttle before engaging the brakes in this scenario, making cruise control completely safe to use in the rain. And, since your hands should still be on the wheel, you're still in full control.

Do cars really explode if their gas tanks are hit by bullets?

No. Despite what you've seen in video games and movies, shooting a car's gas tank will not cause the car to explode. This is because gas tanks are reinforced, there is little to no oxygen inside them, and regular bullets are not designed to cause sparks or start fires. The bullets will simply go right through the gas tank without igniting the fuel.

Should I buy a black car?

The color of your car influencing your insurance costs is one of the more popular car insurance-related myths out there. In reality, car insurers don't consider the color of your car at all when deciding on premiums - go ahead and opt for .

Which is better for fuel economy: manual vs automatic transmission?

This really depends on the car and its purposing. Modern cars, whether equipped with a manual or automatic transmission, are relatively fuel efficient. Most vehicles simply come with with automatic transmissions, because it is more popular and advanced technology. An automatic also removed an element of human error from the equation, making them potentially more economical if driven in the correct manner.

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