Auto Pilot - April 2016

Debunking a Few Automotive Myths

Here are the Facts:

I realized last week during an impromptu question and answer session that started during a friend’s BBQ that lots of car related “myths” exist. So what better subject for
this month article than a bit of automotive debunking.

Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. Wrong. For the proper answer to this one your best bet is to look in that ever useful owner’s manual tucked snuggly in the glove box and ignore the quick oil change places’ fear campaigns. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles can travel 7,500 miles or more between oil changes and many new cars and trucks have 10,000 mile recommended changes. Changing your oil more often certainly won’t harm your engine; it just wastes money (and oil). If you are trailer-towing, or going off-road, 3,000 miles between oil changes might be a good idea, but again consult the owner’s manual.

Myth: Using premium 92/93 grade gasoline will give you more power, better mileage and make your engine run smoother. Wrong. With the exception of cars that require premium fuel (typically high performance cars and cars with a turbo or supercharger), using premium-grade gas won’t do anything for your car. It won’t make your engine run smoother, it won’t give you more power, it won’t improve your gas mileage and it certainly won’t make your hand-me-down mini van you got from Mom seem cooler to your friends. The octane rating is just a measure of how well the gas will resist knocking and has nothing to do with energy content. So, save the extra money and use 87.

Myth: Using your cell phone while pumping gas can trigger an explosion..When combined Wrong. We have all heard the rumors about the local prom queen bursting into flames at the gas station because she answered her smartphone while pumping gas. Well it simply isn’t true. The Federal Communications Commission investigated “rumors” that a cell phone signal can ignite fuel vapors, and concluded: “There is no documented incident where the use of a wireless phone was found to cause a fire or explosion at a gas station,” and “scientific testing, has not established a dangerous link between wireless phones and fuel vapors.” So other than annoying your fellow gas pumpers by forcing them to listen to you chatting on the phone, you aren’t in danger of catching fire.

Myth: Manual transmission cars get better fuel economy than ones with automatics.hen Wrong. This may have been the case when automatic transmissions were first invented and had only a few internal speeds, but modern seven or eight speed automatic, twin clutch and CVT transmissions eliminate the advantage of manuals (other than the fun factor), and in some cases put automatics ahead of the best manuals in MPG. But, still learn to drive a manual transmission! It will increase your cool factor when among a group of your peers, and might come in handy if you ever want a part time job as a valet.

Myth: I left my lights on. My battery will recharge after a jump-start and a few minutes of driving.Wrong. It can take hours of driving to give the battery a full charge, and likely won't even restart after a few minutes of driving, if shut off. Modern car alternators are getting much more powerful, but the alternator is under so much load from modern electronics and environmental systems that it has very little reserve left to recharge the battery. Best to let it spend several hours on a battery charger to give the battery a full charge.

Jay Ramowski is a commercial helicopter pilot, automotive consultant and professional driver based in Charleston. Jay brings an easygoing love of all things mechanical and a particular passion for cars and the people who drive them. Have questions? Email Jay at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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