5 Car Myths Busted

Automotive myths are as common as a rainstorm after a carwash. Find out which are fiction and which could be breaking your bank.

car myths busted

Have you ever heard that adding sugar to your gas tank will destroy the car’s engine? Or that premium fuel will clean out your injectors? Did you know that both of these statements are false?

Unfortunately, automotive myths like these are as common as a rainstorm after a car wash, and some of them could cost you time and money if you’re not equipped with the truth. Here are 5 debunked car myths to scratch off your list.

Car myth #1: Red cars cost more to insure

We already addressed this one in the car insurance myths section of our website, but it’s worth reiterating here. There are 2 sides to this myth: The first is that brightly colored cars, especially red and yellow ones, cost more to insure. The second is that they’re more likely to get a ticket.

On the insurance end, this pans out to nothing more than a myth because insurance companies don’t take color into account. And even if they did, some studies suggest cars that are hard to see at night — black, navy, green — are at greater risk for accidents.

What about tickets? It makes sense that a cherry red coupe would draw more attention than a charcoal sedan, but according to Snopes, that myth was dispelled as far back as 1990.

Car myth #2: Warm your engine when it’s cold out

In Los Angeles, where I live, “cold out” means 50 degrees and cloudy. If you reside somewhere like the arctic wilds of New England, however, you might have a habit of letting the car idle for a few minutes to warm the engine.

But unless you drive an older car, you’re wasting your time by warming up your engine. (Tweet this.)

See, up until the ’80s, cars used a system of valves and chambers called a carburetor to control the mix of fuel and air being pumped into the engine. Back then, carburetors did have problems adjusting to cold temperatures. But modern car engines are now built with electronic fuel injection systems instead of carburetors, and these systems use an ECU (engine control unit) to detect oxygen levels, automatically adjusting the fuel-air ratio accordingly.

Another bonus: fuel injection systems also improve mileage and cut down on emissions.

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Car myth #3: Premium gas gets better mileage

The only reason you’d ever want to pay more at the pump is because your owner’s manual specifically says that your car needs it.

The one real difference between regular and premium gas is in how long it takes to combust. Premium gas has a high octane level, which means it requires more pressure from the engine to do its job. In high-performance cars, low-octane gas can ignite too quickly. This is bad for the car and causes a loud noise called “engine knock.” In other words, a high-performance car demanding premium gas must use premium gas to avoid damaging the engine.

But premium gas makes no difference in a regular car, so don’t waste your money. (Tweet this.)

Car myth #4: Gang initiates are targeting people who flash their headlights

Okay, so maybe this isn’t as widespread or as practical as the previous automotive myths, but I honestly believed it for years and was relieved to learn it was nonsense.

The story goes something like this: a gang is initiating new members, telling them to drive around at night with their headlights off and kill the first person to flash high beams at them.

According to Snopes, this urban legend has been in circulation at least as far back as 1993. At the time, the rumor was pegged to a “blood initiation weekend” in late September. Several states were affected, from California to Texas to New York, but no incident ever actually occurred.

You may not have heard this particular car myth, but it’s important to include an example of scaremongering so you can know what to look for. That’s not to say you should discount anything that sounds suspicious, but at least do some research.

RELATED: 5 Gas Myths Busted

Car myth #5: Shooting the gas tank will cause a car to explode

If you’ve ever seen an action movie like Mission: Impossible or The Terminator, you’ve watched as the protagonist shoots a single bullet into a vehicle’s gas tank, causing it to explode.

The guys at MythBusters tackled this one in 2004 and again in 2005. And while they did admit that it could be possible to blow up a gas tank with a single tracer round (such as a flaming bullet) from a great distance, they also agreed that it’s extremely unlikely — and never a good idea.

Of course, car myths pop up every year. There’s bound to be a new generation of absurd anecdotes related to automated systems, smartphones, and sensors, but all it takes is a quick google search to set you free … and possibly save you money.

What are some of the other myths you’ve heard? Sound off in the comments section below.

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500 Responses to “5 Car Myths Busted”

  1. Avatar for Anthony Larsen
    June 18, 2015 #

    I'm nitpicking here and you were mostly correct. But also perpetuating another myth. Premium and race does not actually combust more slowly and often far more quickly. Octane rating is resistance to premature combustion only, once the spark is lit the combustion event generally has to be faster in higher rpm higher compression performance engines.

  2. Avatar for Anthony Larsen
    June 26, 2015 #

    It is truly amazing to me that people who read these articles beleive the author word for word and do not bother to use their built in sense that we are all born with. If you want to test this theory yourself , put a rubber gasket in your freezer and let it freeze . Take it out and see if you can cause damage to it by simply bending it slightly. Take the same type of gasket and warm it in the direct sun for an hour. Bend this gasket and you will find it not only bends without cracking but can be stretched without any damage to the integrity of the product. I have been a aerospace toolmaker for 30 plus years and I can tell you for a fact that we do mot run any machines under load for a minimum of 15 minutes until all seals and gaskets are up to temp nevermind the metal forming parts nor the actual machine itself . Cars are machines and need to be brought to a warmer temperature to reduce devasting frictions and heat shock that occurs when suddenly put to full load.I f you truly do not care about your engine as another poster had mentioned, then by all means ,follow this advice. I have not acheived 200 to 300 hundred thousand miles on every car I have owned by listening to these "experts"

  3. Avatar for Anthony Larsen
    Allan DeGroot
    July 20, 2015 #

    As a long time gun enthusiast the Hollywood myth of exploding gas tanks has been a long time
    issue with me that has caused a loss of "suspended disbelief" (a phenomena that is required to enjoy televised fiction).
    to the point where I have literally put fresh gas into the tank of a vehicle we were going to scrap
    (I also owned a tow truck) and invite friends to shoot it up on a holiday weekend.. it's cheap amusement because shooting a junker full of holes does not harm the scrap value of the junker…

    We used conventional ammunition (no effect except holes), tracer ammo (rarely starts fires)
    and some WW2 surplus "Incendary ammo (Less than perfectly effective even though it is specifically intended to start fires)

    What was very effective on a 1970's full size GM car (a 1973 Oldsmobile 98) was shooting through the bumper into the gas tank with armor piercing ammunition. this generates a spray of glowing fragments that create multiple punctures in the tank… some letting AIR in as well as fuel out… REMEMBER any fuel requires oxygen from air to burn…. and fuel tanks are generally full of fumes that reduce or eliminate the air (and thus oxygen) required for combustion

  4. Avatar for Anthony Larsen
    August 10, 2015 #

    Starting a cold engine and putting it under load is obviously stupid. For instance, the rod bearings and crankshaft journals will have a slight bit more clearance and this has a negative effect on the rotating parts. Once it is warmed up, it is a tighter clearance and loses its tendency to "knock"

  5. Avatar for Anthony Larsen
    August 24, 2015 #

    I can document better fuel milage burning primium non ethenol gas in my 2000 F350, at least 20 miles per tank

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