A myth has been described as a sacred narrative that explains how the world and humanity evolved into their present form, so it will come as no surprise that one of the great evolutions of mankind, the motor car, is surrounded by the stuff. So here’s a nice little yarn for a fun Friday, if such a thing exists, which covers some of the more popular myths that surround the automotive industry. It comes from our friends at gearhead.org and sets out to debunk the seven most deadly myths that like all good myths are eternal.
1. CAR DEALERS ARE OUT TO SCREW EVERY CUSTOMER
There is little doubt that this one has some historical basis, but things certainly changed once it started to dawn on the car companies that the way their dealers treated the customer had a huge impact on whether or not they purchased – and serviced – their next new car from the same brand. So the manufacturers started setting aside piles of money, big piles of money, for dealers who achieved high customer satisfaction scores. That’s why the dealer is always telling you that if someone should call, always rate the dealer ‘a perfect 10. It’s conceivable, however, that a dealer could make more money from you giving them a ‘10’ than from what they make selling you the car.
2. THE 3000-MILE OIL CHANGE
The old adage has been to change a vehicle’s oil at 3000 miles (4000kms) with precise regularity. Despite the efforts of all sorts of motoring groups and the manufacturers, research shows that almost half the drivers in the United States (read also Australia) still cling to this outmoded notion. Almost every manufacturer has extended their recommended oil change interval. Porsche, for example, specifies oil change intervals of 10,000 or 12,000 miles (16-20,000kms) for most of its vehicles. How do automakers do this? The same way that they’re creating such powerful engines, by keeping all the fuel in the combustion chamber, where it does work (and not contaminating the oil) and controlling heat that saps power like no one’s business.
And there are two more reasons: the environment and your wallet. Yes, most waste oil gets recycled but is burned as fuel boilers in factories. Not a clean process. This use of oil could be replaced by much cleaner sources. And with longer oil change intervals, it’s less oil that has to be extracted and imported. The difference between changing your oil at 7,500 miles versus 3,000 over a 100,000-mile period is 25 gallons of oil. Doesn’t sound like much, but multiple that by the 250 million cars and light trucks on the road (but divide in half, because only half change their oil at 3,000 miles) and that’ s 3.1 BILLION gallons of oil. And did you know that just one gallon of waste oil is enough to contaminate a 1 million gallons freshwater marsh? Oh yeah, and your wallet. If you’re using a coupon every time and buying the budget oil, let’s say your oil change costs $30. By changing your oil at your manufacturers recommended interval (if it’s 7,500 miles), you’d save $600. Longer intervals or using synthetic oils will save you even more. (Sorry, that was all too hard for us to do the change to the decimal bit, but we’re sure you get the idea).
3. THE PENNY TEST
You know the rule – stick a penny into the tread of your tire headfirst and as long as it touches the top of Abe’s head (or Queenie’s neck) you’re cool. While Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union, he’s not looking out for your safety (sorry about that). You see the top of Abe’s head is 2/32″ (tyre tread is measured in 32nds of an inch) and 2/32″ is about the legal limit in most places. So what Abe is telling us is to get thee to a tyre shop. A better test is George Washington (or Tony Abbott), which is perfect, as we all know he’s incapable of telling a lie. The measurement to the top of George’s head is 4/32″ and a much better gauge of when you should start shopping for new road rubber. There’s also a safety issue involved. A tyre with 2/32″ is much more likely to hydroplane than a tire with 4/32″. (This one’s a bit of a tongue in cheek myth buster, so once again we’ve declined to do what in this case is an extremely difficult conversion involving things like centimetres).
4. DON’T BUY A CAR THATS BEEN BUILT ON A MONDAY OR FRIDAY
This one has been around forever. Back in the days of less cooperative union and management relationships, absenteeism would skyrocket on Mondays and Fridays. With a far better partnership (control) now between the companies that sell the cars and the men and women who make them, this kind of fluctuation in absenteeism simply doesn’t occur. The root of this misconception was that with fewer workers, the cars wouldn’t be assembled properly as they whisked down the assembly line. The companies had a very simple cure in that they just turned down the speed of the line. Fewer cars were built those days but they didn’t suffer any additional quality problems.
5. ENGINE OIL THAT TURNS BLACK IS NO GOOD
Engine oil that turns black is actually a sign that the oil is working. Modern engine oils contain detergent-dispersant additives that keep engine internal parts clean by removing carbon deposits and maintaining them in harmless suspension in the oil. It is better to have the carbon deposits in the oil so they can be drained off than to have them left as deposits in the engine where they could do the most damage. Right?
6. YOU CAN DRIVE A LONG DISTANCE ON EMPTY
When you’re vehicle hits the ‘E’ line, there just isn’t much gas (petrol..that was easy) left and the car companies, in their efforts to trick you into thinking that you’re getting better fuel mileage than you actually are. Fuel gauges read of a logarithmic scale, which in this case means that burning fuel when the gauge is reading F moves the needle far less than when the needle is close to E. The reality is, and don’t bet on my estimates here, depending upon your fuel tank size, location in the car, location of the pick-up in the tank, and the fuel gauge itself, you may have between 20 and 40 miles to drive from the moment the needle fits E. But that’s a guess, so take it as a warning and refill your tank before it hits E.
7. HAVING WORK PERFORMED AT AN INDEPENDENT SHOP WILL VOID NEW CAR WARRANTY
It’s actually illegal for a vehicle manufacturer to deny a warranty claim on the grounds that work was performed at an independent shop, provided the shop is registered with the state (licensing body in Australia) and work was performed to a professional standard. In some cases, work you’ve done yourself can be used in a warranty claim, like an oil change, if you’ve kept receipts for the oil and filter, with the date and vehicle mileage.