Car Myths and Fake News

Car myths are probably some of the most maddening things to deal with in an auto repair shop on a daily basis. Not a day goes by that we deal with this in one form or another. There are basically two different kinds of car myths; those created by (false) advertising and those that are handed around by people. As an independent shop we always deal with “the dealership is the best at everything” so if there is a persisting problem, “they will be able to fix it.” Then there are the parts stores who now advertise that they will diagnose your vehicle for you, so that we don’t rip you off. – Well, let’s see. They are parts sales people, we are professional mechanics with more than 30 years of experience. Like they say, “Consider the source”.

The other category are people who base their car repair needs on what other people tell them or (my favorite) what the internet diagnosed or found for the symptoms their car displays. The problem often is, that this diagnosis is not what’s wrong with the car.

Here, we’ll talk about some common car care myths that end up costing your money, both of us time, and all of us headaches. From car batteries to warranty maintenance, these stories highlight the importance of separating car care myths from the “Fake News”.


 Myth: Always Fill Tires to Maximum Pressure

You fill your own tires with air all the time. The tires themselves recommend a specific air pressure per square inch (PSI), which means that you should always fill them up to the recommended pressure as possible, right?

Busted: Instead of following the number listed on the tire (which is the maximum of air that should go into that tire, so it won’t explode), follow the recommendations found in your owner’s manual. Vehicle manufacturers recommend certain car tire psi, so the car reaches optimal handling and fuel efficiency. What’s really important here, is the correct tire size as recommended by the manufacturer of the vehicle. The brand of tire depends on your needs, financial situation, and usage. The most common issues we encounter are dangerously over-filled tires or completely different levels of PSI among the tires, which will make the car lop-sided and wear your tires unevenly. You’re properly operating TPMS sensors will help avoid these issues. They won’t necessarily break it down to the problematic tire, but they will make you aware that you might have an issue. Always check it out.

Myth: Premium Gasoline is Always Better than Regular

If regular gas is OK for your car, then a higher-grade premium gas must be better, right? That’s why it costs so much more.

Busted: Higher-octane gas does provide some benefits to performance, efficiency, or engine health but the cost of using premium fuel doesn’t outweigh the money saved by any fuel efficiency gains you’ll see.
Using premium gas won’t hurt your car either (unless specifically stated otherwise) and most drivers won’t notice the difference between regular and premium if their car is designed to run on regular gas. However, make sure to read your owner’s manual, because some cars are designed to run specifically on premium gas for best results. For more information, read this article.  


Myth: You Should Warm Up Your Car on a Cold Day

The “warming up car” myth states that on a cold day, go out and turn on your car for a few minutes to let the engine warm up. This will help protect the engine and help it run more efficiently in cold weather.

Busted: Modern engines aren’t built the same as older ones, and while this may have been true for older model cars, it isn’t so much anymore. The best way to warm up your car is to start the engine and take it easy for a few minutes of driving. On the other hand, it’s not too comfortable to sit in an ice-cold car and definitely not safe at all when you can’t see out of iced-over windows, so by all means turn on the car and have it nice and toasty when you are ready to go. Some of the newer vehicles actually have a light indicating when the car is at optimal operating temperature with a changing color signaling when your car is ready to go. For more information, go to

Myth: Low Brake Fluid Just Needs a Top-Off

If your brakes are sticking or unresponsive, then it might be low on brake fluid. If that is the case, then just top it off!

Busted: Brake fluid is inside a closed system. The system should be filled with the proper amount as recommended by the manufacturer. Overfilling will cause the fluid to spill out of the reservoir cap and – it being highly flammable- can cause a fire, so more is definitely not better.

When the brake fluid gets low, it is a sign that there is a leak somewhere. Instead of just topping of brake fluid, take your car to your trusted mechanic to get the entire brake assembly checked, including brake pads and rotors. This isn’t something you just want to fix and forget.

Myth: Jumping Your Battery Means it is Fully Recharged

It’s a little cold outside, or you left your headlights on, and now your battery is dead. No problem! Just get a jump and your car is good to go!

Busted: Not really. When batteries go dead and need a jump, all you do is providing enough charge to get your car started. At this point the alternator will run at maximum capacity and will charge the battery as long as you put enough time or miles on it. Doing this once or twice, your alternator will be ok, but doing so puts a strain on it. The ideal way would be to hook up a battery charger and let it fully charge the battery. If a dead battery keeps happening continually, chances are you have a draw, or your battery is just too old to hold the proper charge. A load test will determine if you need a new battery. Don’t have a parts store “check” your battery, because the only thing their machine tells you if your battery has “A” charge at that very moment.

Myth: You Must Have Your Car Serviced by the Dealer or You Void the Warranty

Every car comes with a suggested schedule of maintenance in order to maintain any warranty. Which means, of course, that you have to have that maintenance done by the dealership you bought the car from. Otherwise they will void the warranty.

Busted: The truth is (and it isn’t a truth that many dealerships discourage) is that any mechanic or service shop can do maintenance work on a manufacturer’s warranty. (That’s the kind that comes with the car from the factory not the dealer) to help you fulfill the terms of a warranty. To say otherwise is actually illegal, which is why no dealership will put this in writing. But when you buy a used car, read the warranty, because this warranty most likely comes from the dealer, not the car’s manufacturer and can have different stipulations, that will require all maintenance and warranty repair work to be done by the dealer. Any work done somewhere else will not be covered by the warranty. Make sure you thoroughly read your warranty.

Arm Yourself with the Knowledge to Take Care of Your Car

Throughout this article, we’ve offered you some cold, hard truths to help you better understand some of the common car myths out there. This is by no means a comprehensive list. We’re sure that you’ve heard a ton of tricks and advice on caring for your car properly.

Understanding these common myths can help you avoid causing more problems for yourself trying to take care of your car when it doesn’t even need it. More importantly, these might help you take better care of your car because you ignored silly myths in the first place.

In either case, always consult with a trusted mechanic. If they know you and you know that you can trust their judgement, then they will help you best understand how to really care for your car. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t; and ALWAYS consider the source. Make sure whoever gives “professional” advice actually has the expertise to do so. Unfortunately, there is so much “Fake News” spread all over, that it can be difficult to find “true” facts.