Setting some automotive myths straight


As a long-term automotive shop owner- since 1975- I work at giving my customers the proper guidance to extend the longevity of their vehicle without over spending. I have worked diligently on that balance.

As part of walking that line, I often need to clarify misconceptions customers have about vehicle maintenance. Here are some of the common myths I encounter and what I tell my customers:

Myth: Modern vehicles require routine tune-ups. In fact, the phrase “Tune Up” does not apply to newer vehicles. The last time most cars could truly be “tuned up” was in the 1970’s. Tuning a car was like conducting an orchestra, making sure all the cylinders are firing correctly, at the correct time, with the proper air fuel mixture, to maximize power, drivability and fuel economy. On vehicles built after the 1990′s, none of this is adjustable. The closest thing to tuning up today is getting a check engine light to turn off by troubleshooting and replacing of components.

Myth: You need to warm up your car before driving. This myth is the most ingrained. It just is not true with newer vehicles, which are designed to be started and driven immediately. Just drive gently until the temperature gauge reaches the normal range.

Myth: You should pump the gas pedal before starting a car cold to set the “choke.” All newer cars have fuel injection so this is unnecessary.

Myth: There is a conspiracy with the oil companies to keep the 80 mile per gallon carburetor from getting to the public. This is just a conspiracy theory.

Myth: Sugar will ruin an engine if poured into the fuel tank. Actually it won’t even dissolve in fuel or get through the fuel filter.

Myth:You should change your antifreeze yearly. Long life anti-freezes now lasts five years or more.

Myth: Your car will run better if you fill the tank with premium fuel ever third or fourth tank. Not true. (But use premium if your vehicle’s manufacturer calls for it, of course)

Myth: You should not turn off your car while waiting, unless it is for longer than two minutes. If you are waiting for a train or whatever, shut off your engine to save fuel.

Myth: Air filters can affect fuel mileage. This is the greatest new myth. On all vehicles built in the past 20 years, a very sophisticated system involving mass air-flow meter and sensors in your exhaust along with central computer controls the fuel your engine burns. A dirty air cleaner will not affect that ratio. The claims that “free flowing” air filter will increase you fuel mileage are not true.

Myth: A small amount of oil on a shock or strut means it needs to be replaced. This is not true, as a matter of fact, it’s normal.


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