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Car And Driving Myths That Need To Die

Car Culture / 85 Comments

No dad, I don't need to change the oil 10 times a year.

For those that have been to the school of "My Father Always Told Me," and the University Of "I Read On The Internet Once That," then this may be a hard list to swallow. For the rest of us, it's worth having things people say a lot but don't seem quite right cleared up with a little research and some common sense applied. There are so many myths out there that this a list of the most common and most misleading ones, but if you have one you think should be here then let us know in the comments and we may revisit the subject later.

Red Cars Get Pulled Over More For Speeding

This is one of the most persistent myths when it comes to driving. There's no actual hard data, which is a red flag, so to speak, but the soft data we do have comes from a study made in 2014 that showed white cars get pulled over more. But, white is the most popular car color in general, so read into that what you will. What we suggest is that colors don't get you noticed more by cops, speeding and reckless driving does. By extension, that kills the myth that red cars aren't more expensive to insure.

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Cops Don't Stop People For Going 10 mph Over The Speed Limit

There are variations of this myth and 5 mph is commonly touted, as well as a percentage. They're all nonsense and there simply isn't acceptable tolerance before being pulled over. You could challenge the calibration of the device used to clock your speed, but that's an uphill struggle at best. What is true is that cops often use their discretion. For example, if you get pulled over doing 67 in a 65 mph limit, then they could be giving you a ticket rather than finding someone being reckless elsewhere. Of course, if a cop is sitting there waiting for speeders and everyone has been sailing by for the past hour doing the limit and then you go by doing 8 over, your chances are raised for getting a ticket.

Place Your Hands On The Wheel At 10 And 2

If your steering wheel was a clock, then placing your hands at 10 and 2 used to make sense. That was before power steering and airbags. Now, it makes much more sense to hold the wheel at 9 and 3 as it gives you a wider range of motion and the ability to make large evasive maneuvers without bringing a hand off the wheel. Plus, you can pretend you're a race car driver.

Using a Cellphone At A Gas Pump Can Ignite An Explosion

You still see the stickers at pumps, but the reality is that cellphones igniting fuel is just not a thing. The Petroleum Equipment Institute has been investigating mysterious fires at gas stations since the mid-1990s but has yet to confirm one started by a cellphone. Going further than that, many people have tried to spark gasoline vapor using a cellphone, including Mythbusters, and all have failed. What does cause those fires is static electricity, and the one to pay attention to on warning stickers is to not re-enter your vehicle while refueling. And, you know, turn off your engine, don't smoke, play with matches, fire guns, and things like that. Or, as with the case of the fire in the image below, don't try to kill spider with lighter.

Change Oil Every 3,000 Miles

We look forward to your comments, but this hasn't been necessary as a hard and fast rule for some time. Between improvements in oil and engine technology over the decades, anywhere from 5,000-10,000 miles for an oil change is generally fine and 3,000 is just wasting money. If you want to apply some common sense to this one, manufacturers give a recommended oil change interval and recommendation of what oil to use and its rarely 3,000 miles now. There is absolutely no reason for manufacturers to lie as a reputation for their engines lasting is incredibly valuable.

Fill Up With Gas In The Early Hours

This long standing myth is based on the idea that at colder temperatures fluids are more dense, so you would get more gas for your money. Unfortunately, that doesn't work in the real world because petroleum is stored underground where the temperature is constant or pretty damn close to constant. If we want to apply some critical thinking, would you want to own a gas station where the giant tanks are full of a flammable liquid underground and will constantly expand and contract? On top of that, gas stations and are not famed for being loose with prices and amounts.

Warm Up Your Car Before You Start Driving

Every year as winter starts, there's a slew of articles on automotive websites and in magazines explaining exactly why its actually worse for modern engines to warm them up before driving. Yet, every year we all see that neighbor that insists on doing it. Save the planet and get your heater working quicker by just driving the damn car.

Four-Wheel Drive Makes A Car Safe To Drive In The Snow

Those that live in the snow states or countries with snowy winters have seen people driving their big SUVs about in snow and ice as if it's not there. Drive to all four wheels will help with forward traction from a stop or uphill, but that's about it. It doesn't aid lateral grip or braking. The rest is pretty much down to tires and, as we've seen, snow tires always beat no snow tires and all-wheel drive.

The Parking Brake Can Help You Stop In Winter Weather

This can be true if your brake system has failed completely, otherwise, all you're doing is substituting your vehicle's anti-lock braking system for all four wheels for a limited amount of human control on just the rear wheels. That's probably not something that's going to end well unless you're deliberately planning to go sideways.

Premium Gas Is Better Than Regular Gas

This is absolutely true if your engine is built for it, and some cars can take both and get better performance with premium gas, and some cars really do need premium gas. However, if your car says regular on the little sticker inside the gas flap, you're wasting your money with anything else. The blanket statement that premium gas is better than regular gas is nonsense though.

It's Illegal To Drive Barefoot

Nowhere in America is this the case at the time of writing, particular California where the myth is most persistent. There are concerns about driving barefoot and most are debatable at best. However, what isn't debatable is that driving in flip flops, which should be illegal to sell, buy, or wear anyway, is a common contributor to accidents by getting caught on pedals.

Manual Transmissions Get Better Fuel Economy Than Autos

This is another one of those myths that have a root in the reality of yesteryear. Once upon a time, it was a given that you could get better MPG from a manual but now technology has massively improved and we are seeing CVT transmissions and 8+ gear automatics it's far from a given anymore. In fact, we can find examples of manuals getting better mpg, but it's not even common now.

They Don't Build Them Like They Used To

This is true, but not in the way it's usually meant, as in, old cars were better. In every way, new cars are better, but what people usually mean is in how they are built and how long they last. The reality is that cars last much longer than they used to because the engineering and manufacturing, even on cheap cars, is better than it was 'back in the day'. Now, you would be annoyed if your engine didn't last more than 150,000 miles and you don't need to get a tune-up on modern engines. Sure, many old cars a wonderful, full of character, and are fun to drive and maintain, but the idea they were better, in general, is absolute tosh.

Cop Cars Are Modified For Performance

There's a myth perpetuated that all cop cars are upgraded for performance. Some certainly are, but the average cruiser has a stock engine and is loaded up with enough equipment to slow it down. It all comes down to specifications and the vehicle's main duty. High-performance engines are typical in cop cars, but usually with an eye on fuel economy. Cop suspension is a thing, but it's mainly to deal with the extra weight and in part to enable them to bump up curbs or go down rough roads. It's nothing to do with cornering. Cop alternators and cop cooling systems are a thing due to the loads put on both systems when they're put to work but, again, nothing to do with performance.

The reality is that cops don't need the fastest cars. They mainly need to be able to keep going all day, every day, and be powerful enough to keep up because it's harder to outrun a radio and other cops coming in from other directions.

There's No Replacement For Displacement

Turbocharging and supercharging are perfectly good replacements in the right situations. What there is no replacement for is the most displacement you can practically fit and then adding forced induction. We're not going to argue there's no benefit to a naturally aspirated engine but if you want a light little engine to compete with something bigger, then forced induction is the key.

Big Vehicles Are Safer

This is a common one and part of the reason SUVs got so popular. It is true to a degree but, on balance, bigger is heavier and that's a problem. That means a vehicle is harder to control when things start going wrong and a lot of mass hitting something that doesn't move if it goes really wrong. Call us crazy, but if we had to drive into a wall at 50 mph, we would take the smallest vehicle with the highest safety rating.

The myth is based around the idea of an impact with another smaller car. However, buying a car, SUV, or truck based on the possibility of hitting something smaller or equal in size is a bizarre way to approach the decision making process.