August 27, 2009  |  Comments
Separating fact from fiction

Photo By  Dan Eckert

Creative Commons photo via Flickr.

Separating fact from fiction

Technology has made us smarter. We can navigate the information highway in record speed and on multiple devices. We can program our DVRs so we can tweet about our ideas while simultaneously connecting with friends on Facebook. But when it comes to our car’s technology most of us are dumbfounded. Overwhelmed by our lack of admitted knowledge, we may pay a high price for things that aren’t needed or necessary. Worse, we may perpetuate bad advice and pass it down to our kids, spouse or friends.

I am not a car wizard, but in an attempt to weed out the facts from fiction (or, more likely old outdated information) I did the research for you. Here are four common pieces of misinformation about cars:

True or False: Your car needs an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles – whichever comes first.

If you’re like many people you answered true. The real answer, however, is false. Consumer Reports found that under normal driving conditions, most modern cars can go about 7,500 miles or six months, whichever comes first, before requiring an engine oil and filter change. The outdated thinking doesn’t take into account improvements in the engines and synthetic oils. Your best bet is to read your car’s owner’s manual for the recommended oil change interval.

True or False: Manufactures of car products want you to buy their product to wash your car, but the truth is you can wash the car with the same soap you use to wash your dishes.

It would seem to make sense that if you can clean your dishes with it, you can clean your car, but the real answer is false. According to Motor Trend, household soaps and detergents are too strong to care for your car’s professional paint finish. Dish soap will remove dirt and grease easily, but is will also strip the protective wax coating off a car, leaving the paint more vulnerable to environmental damage.

True or False: Your car is a safe place to be in a lightening storm, just don’t talk on your cell phone while you’re waiting for the storm to pass.

Unless your car is the tallest object in the area, the answer is true. The car’s metal bodywork should act as a Faraday cage, safely conducting the lightning to the ground around you — that is if you’re not touching anything inside the car advises Popular Mechanics. And, yes, you can talk on your cell phone while waiting for the storm to pass as long as it’s not connected to anything conductive, like a car charger.

True or False: One way to improve your car’s performance is to use high octane gasoline.

You might be surprised to learn that the correct answer is false. Most cars only need regular octane gasoline. There appears to be no benefit to using a higher octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends. High octane gasoline won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The only time you might need to switch to a higher octane level is if your car engine knocks when you use the recommended fuel. Check the owner’s manual for recommended gasoline octane.

Read your vehicle’s owner’s manual

While many of us don’t read our car owner’s manual, doing so can save you time and money. You don’t need to read the manual from cover to cover. Instead, use it as a reference to look up key facts. What should your tire pressure be? How often does your car need oil changes and other maintenance services, etc. On a separate piece of paper jot down the information with anticipated miles/dates for service and keep the information with your owners manual. At the beginning of every month pull out the paper to see when and what type of service is needed and schedule the appointment.

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  • Eric Lee

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  • Henery Schaffer

    Hi there,

    I looked over your blog and it looks really good. Do you ever do link exchanges on your blog roll? If you do, I’d like to exchange links with you.

    Let me know if you’re interested.


  • Henery Schaffer

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  • Moderator

    Eric, We’re glad you decided to post a comment. Thanks for the feedback. By the way how did you do on the quiz?

  • Moderator

    Hello Henery,

    Sorry at this time we are not posting links, but that’s not to say we won’t in the future. So keep checking back with us. We are glad to hear you are a frequent visitor. Thanks for adding us!

  • Kailene

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  • Moderator

    Hello Kailene.

    We’re glad you added our rss!

    Thanks for letting us know about our web design. We will have someone take a look.

  • Ivan

    Interesting, did you plan to continue this article?
    Thank you

  • Lawerence Gosz

    very good, thankss