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.

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.

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.

Related links

Car seat myths abound, too. Get the facts.
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407 Responses to “5 Car Myths Busted”

  1. Chris Diaz
    July 18, 2013 #

    Um myth #4 happened in long island about a yr or 2 ago. A family of 4 was murdered by ms13 gang members who drove at nite with there lights off waiting for a car to flash there lights. Story was confirmed by nassau pd.

    • spookiewon
      July 26, 2013 #

      Can you provide a link to the story in a local newspaper or on the Nassau police department's website? Every urban legend has lots of people insisting they know for sure it happened and cites some police department or police officer who 'verified' it, Generally the PD has never heard of it and/or the officer doesn't even exist. But in this case, if you check Snope's, you will find that the Nassau incident is specifically addressed. It wasn't the police department but the sheriff's office, and they mistakenly forwarded it to the fire department without verifying it first, and then the FD forwarded it to every department in the city. It was entirely false, and the Nassau county sheriff's department has said so.

      If you are going to insist that something is true, you need to provide evidence, in the form of actual links actually demonstrating the truth of the claim.

      http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/lightsout.asp

      • ThatDude
        September 14, 2013 #

        Wow, there sure are a lot of people quick to criticize and disagree. Maybe it did happen. I've heard of it in KY. Down in Ireland, Indiana, a man's car exploded at a gas station after he was using his cell phone. They had to replace part of the roof on the gas island. Gonna disagree with me, too?

      • Dave
        October 12, 2013 #

        Snopes is a biased, liberal, and inaccurate source for truth

      • White clowns
        October 18, 2013 #

        Snopes is a politically correct website that bases everything on a leftist agenda. They lost all credibility years ago.

    • Dave Seavy
      August 1, 2013 #

      I believe they would have flashed their headlights – not there headlights. I have done all I can to verify the story, and so far, not one reliable source has confirmed this actually happened.

    • Ignorant Guy
      August 10, 2013 #

      the biggest reason im suspicious of this myth is that cops pull over people driving without their lights. I think that's a faster way to get pulled over than speeding. So if a group of gang-affiliated men who are armed are driving around conspiring to murder someone, I feel like they wouldn't do it in a way that invited cops. This may be stereotyping but I think a car full of gang-members probably already looks obvious and suspicious enough to a cop without the added fact of no lights at night. Most of them I assume would find less dangerous ways of finding targets.

      • arch stanton
        August 31, 2013 #

        Yup

    • darellst
      August 14, 2013 #

      From all the responses I've read I think people believe what they believe and are not going to change their minds.

      • Fred
        September 23, 2013 #

        Yup, and the Earth is flat dadgumit.

    • herspanic
      September 14, 2013 #

      Um… it didn't happened . You can confirm it with Nassau County Police Dept that it never happened . You can also news archives and you will never find any record of it

    • Mark
      September 16, 2013 #

      This happened to me! In 1996 I was headed home from Long Beach to Montebello and got cut off by a Grand Torino on the 60 freeway (and there was no traffic to speak of). My pregnant wife say next to me, sleeping, so I flashed my lights at them. They slowed down, and as I approached, the passenger cocked a hand gun. I slammed on the brakes and his car braked a moment later. They were, after a few moments, far enough away that a shot from a handgun would have likely missed, and then they sped away. Got home 10 minutes later and called the CHP (didn't have a cell back then); the CHP said since he hadn't discharged his weapon, there was nothing they would do. Always good to be careful out there. But yeah, I would say "NOT BUSTED."

      • king
        September 22, 2013 #

        And it took you 17 years to tell this NOW!!???? Can you corroborate this story? What proof do you have?

      • Yourdumb
        October 17, 2013 #

        This one time I road a unicorn across the Atlantic Ocean and a whale shot a dolphin.

    • Austin
      September 18, 2013 #

      He's unfortunately incorrect about nearly everything here with the exceptions being that only high performance engines need higher octane fuel and red car insurance premiums.

      Put some sugar in a pot on the stove. Burn it. Note what happens to sugar when it burns. If you believe that isn't bad when its happening to your engine parts, then you obviously have no knowledge of how an engine functions.

      Ever notice that an engine might knock when you first start it even a newer engine with relatively low mileage? That's because when your engine is turned off so is your oil pump. Your oil runs back down into the oil pan and the engine and oil cool. When you next start your now cold engine, for a few seconds, there is no oil in it. You engine, in most cases, has an optimal running temperature of 195 degrees f. Until your engine block, coolant, and oil reach their optimum running temperature any hard driving you do WILL be doing damage even if minimal. You're taking off years. The carburetor is only PART of the reason to warm an engine.

      Gang members in certain areas of our country have in fact since the mid 90's used chasing down flashers for initiations. It happened to a Virginia Beach family when I was in high school in the area and it was widely publicized. The practice continues today. They drive on sparely populated streets in areas known to be the turf of opposing gangs to avoid killing their own people or families of other members of their own gang.

      Lastly shooting the gas tank of a running car CAN cause it to explode. First off the tank is pressurized so it WILL expel gasoline quickly if punctured. Now that has spraying out is going to have to go somewhere. Not many places to go without hitting somethin hot, brakes, rotors, exhaust, etc. Care to take a guess what would happen when fumes and spraying gas mist hit red hot metal?

      Why would someone who obviously possesses NO automotive knowledge write an article about automotive myths without wasting time on things like research? Terrible article, nearly devoid of anything factual whatsoever.

      • Robert
        October 26, 2013 #

        Honestly your car knowledge you claim, you should know that gasoline as a liquid isn't unstable enough to explode unless you give it some outside ignition source. Such as a flame. Unless someone is shooting flaming bullets at you a car will not explode from a bullet to the gas tank. It won't just combust like you claim from spewing onto hot components on your car. Get a bucket of gasoline and drop a cigarette in it, itll not ignite, but drop a lit match into it and it will. So don't insult the whole article if you clearly aren't well informed either. My knowledge comes from years of vocational training and experience. Yours likely comes from lethal weapon.

      • John Q Bellicose
        January 24, 2014 #

        @Austin- As For This Article I Do Believe It Was Poorly Researched; However, While U Say The Author Is No Expert, U Might Want To Know That A Gas Tank On A Car Is NOT Pressurized!! There Might Be A Small Amount Of Pressure That Builds Up Inside The Tank From The Fuel Vaporizing, But There Are Vents That Allow The Pressure To Slowly Bleed Off! Cars, Trucks, & Etc. Have A Fuel Pump That Sends Fuel To The Engine! Older Cars Used A Mechanical Fuel Pump That Was Driven By The Engine, But Newer Cars Use An Electric Motor (DC Powered) To Run The Fuel Pump, Which On New Models Is Inside The Gas Tank, And Is Also VERY Expensive To Replace!!!!!!

    • reformed2
      September 21, 2013 #

      "Myth" #2 – If you live in northern US and you don't give the oil in the pan time to warm a bit you won't have oil in the upper portions of the engine thereby risking breakage.

    • Bobby Killough
      October 20, 2013 #

      People let their car warm up in the cold BECAUSE….when starting a car most all of the oil is in the oil pan and not up in the moving parts of the motor…so if u just start and go your basically putting stress on the motor before it has had a chance to move that oil up and out of it's resting place in the oil pan……cold weather makes the oil a little thicker than normal…..hence YES let your car warm up that oil and get it to where it needs to be before putting stress on the motor…..I've never even heard mention of anything but this concern in cold or any weather….DUH!! Lol

  2. Mulah
    July 18, 2013 #

    No4…Wait what? Beginning of the month when I still have money that's all my car gets, end of the month no more cash, cheap fuel is your friend :)

  3. harry
    July 20, 2013 #

    Myth #4 1986 in a Chicago gang infested neighborhood a Motorcyclist was run over & killed by car with lights off after he tells the driver "your lights are off". true or false widespread or not I have not signaled anyone since then that their lights are off.

  4. Mike
    July 21, 2013 #

    myth #4 has been around a lot longer than 1993, it was a known fact in the late 70s and early 80s that gangs did indeed select their victim from the headlight flashes.

    • larz0
      August 9, 2013 #

      A known fact? More likely a known urban legend.

    • Jackson
      October 24, 2013 #

      This can't be true because I signal them all the time to turn their lights on. Then of course I am packing. Haven't had any takers yet. Jackson

  5. michael
    July 21, 2013 #

    Im not sure what mechanics institute you went to but you should get your money back. Your suggestion that heating an engine is a waist of time is false because it give the different metals (piston rings, being the most important) time to expand before the stresses of higher r.p.m.s are acheived. Your engine doesn't care if its 20° or 50° all it knows is that its not 190~230. Also, higher octane fuel is more combustible. More combustion=more power. People don't spend 7~9 bucks a gallon on race fuel so that it will fire earlier. It burns hotter and fire under more compression. Don't mislead people with facts on things you know nothing about. Its dishonest.

    • tom jones
      July 25, 2013 #

      You have the octane wrong, lower octane gas is more combustible. Thats why high octane is used in performance vehicles, the higher compression needs fuel that resists detonation. Using lower octane in a performance car is bad because it causes the engine to detonate too soon. Both high and low octane fuels have the same amount of energy, the rating is simply a measure of resistance to detonation, higher the number, the higher the resistance to combustion. Don't spread misinformation when you don't know what you're talking about.

      • Sean fuhlman
        July 29, 2013 #

        The timing on your car dictates when and what order your spark plugs fire at. Not the octane rate. And your wrong higher octane explodes harder. That's why jet fuel is what like 110 or higher.

      • mike
        August 18, 2013 #

        Agreed

      • Ron
        September 17, 2013 #

        Actually, you let a cold engine warm up before loading it so the oil that drained down into the crankcase has a chance to circulate up and re-coat the cylinder walls and bearing faces, rocker arms, etc. You can actually hear the engine change when the lubrication has returned – if you know what to listen for.

      • John Phu Nguyen
        September 21, 2013 #

        You are right. I don't know why people are claiming stuff as fact when they are not.To Sean Fuhlman: the timings are the ideal detonation rates, not the actual detonation time if you use low octane fuel. Also, Octane also does not indicate how much energy concentrstion is in the gas. For example, E85 gas has less energy but that doesnt lower its octane score. Diesel engines, on the other hand, benefit from lower octane. That's why diesel fuel would otherwise destroy a gas engine, because low octane doesn't mean low ignition energy.

      • docman
        October 8, 2013 #

        The octane is the percentage of 8 carbon fragments (hence octane) in the gas. More octane, higher ignition temperature. Putting high octane fuel in a car not needing it is a waste of money. Putting low octane fuel in a performance car may damage the engine. The highest octane is 100. Piston driven aircraft use 100LL (low lead) 100% octane and some lead to preserve valves . Jet fuel is essentially kerosene and octane does not apply.

      • Adam
        November 17, 2013 #

        Diesel you don't have this problem

    • Doug
      July 30, 2013 #

      Tom is absolutly correct. Only higher compression engines or vehicles with heavy loads like motorhomes and trucks pulling trailers benefit from high octane fuel. If your vehicle knocks or pings when under load you may need a higher octane fuel or your ignition timing is maladjusted. If you drive an older car a mechanic can adjust the "initial" timing at idle. The timing advance system can also affect knocking/pinging and performance if not adjusted to operate properly. If you drive a car that is less than 20 years old and regular gas does not cause knocking, then you are wasting money putting premium in it. Jet fuel is a different animal altogether. It is more similar to kerosene than gasoline.

      • Trevor
        August 8, 2013 #

        Tom is correct. Low octane fuel ignites easier than high octane. Using low octane in a high compression motor (bmw for example) causes the fuel to ignite before the spark plug fires, which is called pre-ignition. It fires before the cylinder reaches top dead center causing horrible forces in the engine, and makes the "knock." Please don't post what you've heard or what you think you know. If you doubt any of this look it up in a factual place.

      • Austin
        September 18, 2013 #

        Tom is absolutely INCORRECT, as are you in your support of his statement. Octane is the hydrocarbon in gas that ignites. It IS the combustible element in gasoline. A higher octane rating means a higher concentration of that combustible hydrocarbon thus giving HIGHER combustion. Higher octane = higher combustion. Whole line of folks who know noting about cars talking before they bother to educate themselves.

      • arch stanton
        September 18, 2013 #

        Austin, You’re sorta right but not really. Gasoline has lots of chemicals in it that ignite. Octane is indeed a hydrocarbon (a family of hydrocarbons actually) which makes up much of gasoline, but the “octane rating” is a measurement of the temperature and pressure the whole blend ignites at (it’s resistance to auto-ignition). It is called “octane rating” because it uses an isomer of octane and n-heptane as a standard for the measurement. There are actually several different ways to do the measurement and the same gasoline will have different values depending which one is used.

        LPG has a very high octane rating even though it has little to no octane.

        Wikipedia is a good place to start for this (since it is not a subject with significant political implications). See: Octane, octane rating, gasoline and assorted links.

        hth, arch

      • Andy
        January 9, 2014 #

        @ Docman…nice post but when I was a kid Richfield gas stations listed their "ethyl" gasoline at 102 octane. So there was gasoline with an octane rating over 100. Why was that?

    • phil
      August 3, 2013 #

      Michael, I could not agree with you more. very well written response to this article.
      I drive a 2005 ford f150. even in hot weather here in Florida, after leaving work I let mine idle for about
      three minutes before driving off. all for the same reasons you have stated. well done sir……

      • paul wayco
        August 10, 2013 #

        I see there are a lot of ideas here covering the high octane fuel. going back to the point of should you use premium fuel in a low performance car?. Yes you should IF it is new enough 1992 and up,, IF there is a computer control timing system. the system will learn the detination point of your engine timing, and then use a much wider range of spark advance. giving smoother power, better emissions, and significant fuel economy boost. I have done this for years. preached it to customers and had very positive responce. if you dont know if your vehicle has this type of control, then take a trip, with and without high octane fuel. If you get better fuel economy, then do the math,it will be obvious if its worth the few bucks per tank.

    • hunter
      August 18, 2013 #

      i was thinking along these lines.

    • caribcrazyjim
      August 19, 2013 #

      Top Fuel Drag Cars warmup for how long, not needed

      • EW
        October 8, 2013 #

        How many miles are Top Fuel engines driven before they require a rebuild? Only one quarter mile.

    • Grant
      October 27, 2013 #

      Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Best answer yet.

  6. Susan Burns
    July 22, 2013 #

    Chris Diaz: To make a claim like this that you want people to take seriously, you need toy provide proof to site your source. Do you have a link to an article that backs up what you are saying? The problem with urban legends is that people swear they are true because simeine they respect and believe told rhem it was true. It travels from person to person until it seems legit. Snopes.com carefully researched this and found NO evidence of its truth.

  7. LkBarr
    July 22, 2013 #

    My favorite automotive urban myth is that cell phones cause fires at the gas pump. This myth persists despite numerous reputable sources (FCC, Petroleum Equipment Institute, and MythBusters) debunking it. While a cell phone does emit a small electric charge, the charge is so small that the chances of a gas pump fire are next to impossible. The only documented "case" was a gas pump fire in NY, and it was a fire captain who initially blamed the fire on a cell phone. He later recanted and said the fire was caused by static electricity instead. This belief continues to be perpetuated by gas stations and cell phone companies who issue warnings because they are afraid of lawsuits. I've also seen this falsehood presented as a news story on my local TV news. I won't document my sources here: google "cell phone gas pump" and a long list of articles will come up.

  8. adrian
    July 23, 2013 #

    A vehicle does need to be warmed up to save gas, even fuel injection. When the car is cold the engine goes into open loop, once it is warmed to operating temperature then it goes into closed loop. Dude you need to get your facrs straight. Look it up, research then report it.

    • scared of gangs
      July 25, 2013 #

      Myth, flashing headlights, a man was killed back in the early 2000, he was with his daughter and he flashed his headlights, he was shot and killed. Montana or rialto, ca on foothill Blvd.

      • spookiewon
        July 26, 2013 #

        Link to local newspaper story please or it didn't happen.

    • spookiewon
      July 26, 2013 #

      Yes, but it it takes less than a minute for this "warm-up" to occur. You car is adequately "warmed-up" in the time it takes to buckle your seat belt and set your radio station, FFS. There is no need to idle a car for ten or more minutes even in bitter midwest cold.

      • Sean fuhlman
        July 29, 2013 #

        What's your average temp in winter where your from? How long does antifreeze take to warm up so your heater works properly?

      • Bryan
        September 13, 2013 #

        I'm no expert but I thought with these new computers and systems , that it made it less necessasary for the newer cars to be warmed now a days , or maybe only gmc vehicles ?

    • A butler
      August 7, 2013 #

      That is right. Ever notice how much power and response a vihecle has until it warms up. The computer is in a open or close loop depending how it is set up

      • ShunkW
        September 5, 2013 #

        Actually I have noticed in nearly every motorcycle I ever drove that a "cold" engine has much more power than a hot one. In cars I have never been able to tell any difference.

      • WS6Chef
        September 9, 2013 #

        Computers are not the reason that a car is more crisp and responsive when they are cold. It has to do with the oxygen density of air. Cold air is more dense with O2 than warm air. Once a car gets to it typical operating temperature, the air that enters the intake manifold will begin to be heated. By the time it reaches the piston chamber, it is considerably warmer than it was outside of the engine bay. Go to any drag strip and look for older race cars. Chances are, there will be bags if ice sitting on their intake manifolds. They also will have coolers full of ice water to replace the water in their radiators between passes. Racers go to great lengths to get the coldest and most oxygen dense air that they can. Hence "Ram Air" and "Cold Air Intake". Engine heat tremendously effects performance.

      • jag
        October 12, 2013 #

        Its because the engine and pistons haven't had sufficent time to expand, so as a result of being restricted the rings are tight to the piston walls creating a tighter inner seal, as the motor heats up, the expantion let's some of the gases escape past the rings and the result being a slight loss of power, so small u barely notice but u do! So there's ur answer for y motors run so well on start up…

    • paul wayco
      August 10, 2013 #

      Yes,, warm it up! on many points from mechanical physics to comfort and driveability and safety. the emissions that are produced by driving a freshly started engine are huge comaired to one that is at least 150F degrees. Thats for info to the Green Gangs. But also, the amount of wear and tear on engine parts happens Most, during that warm up period, so be easy on that spinning mass of metal until the heat is stabil and oil is flowing nicely. If you dont, then expect early engine failures. these facts are why emergency vehicles and or generators have heaters to keep the ready to perform with ease.

      • chadbag
        September 18, 2013 #

        This makes no sense. The cold engine sitting there warming up is still running and doing engine wear and tear. Modern cars do not need to be warmed up, and in fact you may cause more engine wear and tear because an idling engine won't build up oil pressure as fast as one going at a normal RPM for a slow speed. Most experts recommend no warm up, but do not stress the engine with high speeds or revving until warmed up. Driving through your neighborhood for a couple of minutes at 20-25mph to the main road before you rev higher and go faster should do it.

    • Mechanic
      August 19, 2013 #

      Really? What mileage are you getting while sitting there warming up? Zero MPG! Even if your car gets half of the warm-engine MPG when it is cold, it will definitely be better than zero.

  9. Facts
    July 25, 2013 #

    It is laughable how many of you believe the gang initiation thing, and your anecdotal ("It was all over the news where I live!") evidence is even more absurd. I challenge any of you who believe this crap to link to even a single reputable source for your information. Go on, prove me wrong.

    And yes, you should warm up your engine in cold weather.

  10. Bill Reed
    July 28, 2013 #

    Regarding the cold engine debate, most damage to your engine occurs at the instant of start up. Your engine goes from effectively 0 RPMs to 2000 RPMs immediately. Allowing the engine to warm is really only a benefit to the driver on cold days.
    If you live in an area with extreme cold, making sure your oil is the correct viscosity for the season can help reduce wear.
    Thank goodness our car's computers are smarter than us!

  11. Sean fuhlman
    July 29, 2013 #

    I drive a red 02 z24 cavalier apple red. I also pay 180 a month for full coverage. However on my driving I have a speeding ticket from my 3rd car at 17. I've never been in an accident while I was driving. I drive 2.5 miles a day. So your fake car myth busted is a joke. Also in the early 2000s gangs in the quad cities did that nonsense however the news warned everyone about it so no one flashed they're lights. Also being a mechanic higher octane gas does get better gas mileage but not at 2 percent. Your common 91 octane compared to 89 reg doesn't show great difference however if you add octane buster to the high grade you do see the difference. The warming your car up in cold weather get out of California and experience real cold. Iowa here sometimes -30 degrees. We warm the car up so the heater works better it also helps with getting thicker oil warmed up so it does the job properly. Gas tank one is dumb give me a pinto and I'll show you how easy it can be done. I imagine since you live in Cali you drive a Honda hybrid that requires 0w20 or 5w20 full synthetic. I doubt you change your oil so you pay around 70 to 80 each time. Maybe instead of taking an English glass you should have taken a shop glass too so when you wrote this article you'd have a leg to stand on. This is the dumbest thing I've ever read and I hope you don't get paid to write this.

    • Jssaab
      July 30, 2013 #

      The temps in the combustion chamber reach operating temperature in less than 20 seconds no matter how cold it is. If you think Iowa cold makes a deference, I dare you to hold your hand on the exhaust manifold or pipe near the engine for 20 seconds after starting it on your coldest Iowa morning, look at your 2nd degree burns and tell me the engine is not warmed yet. All the metals expand/contract in that time frame. Warming up of an engine's rotating assembly ( where the oil is needed ) is not how long it takes for the coolant to get warm, it takes a few minutes for that to happen but does not effect the oil viscosity or wear. Modern Synthetic oils are liquid to under 30 degrees F. I am a Saab Master Mechanic from Minnesota, never let it warm up ( cool down yes since a turbo gets real wear) Have one with 267K Miles original engine, 165k original engine, 145k original engine never warmed one once.

      • Ignorant Guy
        August 10, 2013 #

        i think this is the greatest response I've ever seen.

    • Lu Johnson
      August 13, 2013 #

      ** their lights **

    • dave
      September 16, 2013 #

      You nailed it. It warms the heater and let's the oil get flowing. Thank you.

  12. A lonely mechanic
    July 30, 2013 #

    I would like to clarify myth #2

    Although you may think that temperature will not affect your engine, you are wrong. (assuming it is cold out like -20 Celsius) Of course you do not need to warm your car up each day just to do the groceries, but you need to wait until it is hot before getting more revs out of it. As a mechanic, i have seen manifolds crack because a dude went wide open throttle while his engine was still cold. This said, i have mostly seen this happen on performance cars. I actually have a friend whos turbo broke because it was cold out and he submitted it to high temperatures while his engine was still cold. Of course, 50 degrees ferehiate isn't really enough to do damage ( unless you have a very high end sports car). Sorry for the mistakes im not english.

  13. Sue
    August 2, 2013 #

    #4 did happen to a neighbor of mine. 2 young African-American men were walking in the street. The African-American lady flashed her lights to let them know she was coming by.
    They moved over but after she past by, one pulled out a handgun and shot at the cat. It went thru the back window and landed in her shoulder. She is self employed so she couldn't afford a go
    od surgeon to fix her arm so it took about 6 months before she could work again.
    You can check this out with the Akron Police Dept. and the Beacon Journal. That is how I found out. They finally caught the shooter!

    • raven1462
      August 8, 2013 #

      Wait, how is it a gang initiation ritual if they were shooting at a cat and hit her by accident?

      • Dees_Nutz
        August 15, 2013 #

        I think Sue misspelled car and said cat instead…

    • Dog lover
      October 6, 2013 #

      Let's hope her cat is doing better.

  14. marco esquandolas
    August 5, 2013 #

    While it may not require more than a minute, warming up the car does accomplish a few thing.Even with computer controlled fuel injection, the O2 sensor must warm up to generate a current, so in the interim the mix is adjusted to a default setting. You will not get an optimum mix until the sensor comes online. Even on a warm day, start the car and listen to the idle or watch the rpms change after the first minute.

  15. Mark
    August 8, 2013 #

    Growing up in Alaska when I had to park my car outside, I idled the engine to get the heater wake up so I would have hot air blowing instead of cold air. It was a comfort thing.

  16. george (@carrerageorge)
    August 10, 2013 #

    Deeply misleading article.
    Sugar in your fuel tank WILL destroy the car's fuel system and even the engine itself.
    Fuel tank leaks WILL cause an explosion since most car exhaust systems
    are located under the tank. Fuel vapor escaping from the tank and hitting
    the exhaust pipe will cause the explosion.

    • Dees_Nutz
      August 15, 2013 #

      Ummm, no.

    • Bobby
      September 19, 2013 #

      Mythbuster put everything they could think of in a gas tank and nothing, including sugar, had any effect except bleach. That was only because it corroded the gas tank and particles traveled into the engine.

  17. Bryan Bowlin
    August 12, 2013 #

    My young grasshopper, thou should learn to keep your ignorance to thy self until you have proved yourself truly unable to learn, as by showing ignorance in all areas gives one the impression your have a learning ability. I have never heard the light flashing death story, but cars can and do blow, as for premium gas, engines knocking , better milage , and warming engines, while you don't u derstand the meaning of any does not mean they should be ignored. It only means we sometime are vague when attempting to communicate an idea, and that you have no clue to the stress and forces an engine is subject to at various times and in reoccurring conditions. Letting an engine warm up, is still a good practice if you want to use it 300000 miles. Give it time to get oil pumped to and flowing though out all the engine and let the engine warm and components expand at an even rate with each other. Less stress, less wear. But you go ahead and fire yours and put your foot to the floor and let's see who walks first.

    • ShunkW
      September 5, 2013 #

      Can you give us one example of a car blowing up from a bullet? The Mythbusters did a very good job of showing how unlikely that is of occuring.

  18. Ed
    August 12, 2013 #

    My car adjusts to lower octane fuel to run without knocking. I get more horsepower (very noticeable) and better gas mileage with high crane fuel. I have noticed with lower performance rental cars that octane has less effect on performance. In my car, the small price difference iis more than offset by the improved mileage (about 10%).

    • Alex Grover
      August 18, 2013 #

      This is an interesting report, a couple of things confuse me though. Why would the woman be flashing her lights at a couple of pedestrians? And even though it seems to back the myth on the surface, there is a problem since the myth is based on the idea that the gangs are encouraging people to flash lights. There is no indication of this in the report. Without more evidence, I would be inclined to think that the light blinking was incidental, or even a misreport rather that real proof.

      I will continue researching the subject, however.

  19. James B
    August 14, 2013 #

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

    It's always a good idea to let your car warm up before you put it under a load. Calling it a "waste of time" is very ignorant, and misleading to people that don't know better.

    Some cars (especially newer ones 05+) have a cold rev limiter that's only active when the car isn't up to operating temperature. Like someone here mentioned before, there are sensors that don't come online and provide the ECU with accurate readings until they are warmed up. ie. O2 sensors. The Honda S2000 for example will not engage VTEC, and will not rev to it's full potential unless the engine is at operating temperature.

    Car myth #3: Premium gas gets better mileage

    Another piece of misinformation. I know with 100% certainty that higher octane fuel will give you better gas mileage. I specifically tested this myself when I was making a regular 150 mile trip between MD and PA 12 years ago. The majority of the trip was interstate driving, and a bit of mountains when you're close to PA.

    I was driving an '88 Honda. I would top it off with 87 and start my 150 mile trip from Maryland to Pennsylvania. By the time I reached my destination in PA, my fuel gauge would be sitting on a quarter tank.
    Topping off with 93, making the same exact trip, using the same exact route, I would arrive at my destination with a hair over a half tank left. I've tested this multiple times with the same exact results.

    • maninpain
      August 17, 2013 #

      Premium gas absolutely gets better mileage.
      I tested out with 88 Honda Accord, 98 Lexus ES300, and 06 ES330.

      For those of you don't believe in it, do the math, I challenge you to test it out in your car. You should go at least one gas tank, same interstate driving condition, same gas, and especially same speed both times. Of course, you don't drive an average of 65 mph on regular and then an average of 85 mph on premium, this would defeat the purpose of testing out since the speeds are differences.

      I go home every weekend, sadly about 350 miles each way, so I had plenty of testing on this. The '88 Accord gave me about an average of extra 4-5 mpg. For the '98 ES300, I gain about 3mpg, and for the '06 ES300 I gain little bit more than 3 mpg.

      Here is an intersting part that I want to point out. The money I saved, or "wasted", would offset for the miles I gained. Let's see, at about 30 cents to 40 cents extra on premium, it will cost extra $4.50 – $6.00 to fill up 15 gallons. Hence, at just extra 3 mpg, for the above 15 gallon tank, I would go 45 miles further. So the $4.50 – $6.00 extra cost for the premium gas, if I use regular gas, the money "wasted" would be needed to cover the additional 45 miles.

      The bottom line is no matter if you're using regular or premium gasoline, it costs somewhat about the same after all. I did not mention the feeling of power, or the smoothness of engine with premium because those things are .. feeling, no concrete proof.

      To premium or not to premium. :) . I admit , it hurts to pump premium gas. Everytime I pumped, I am in pain, lol

  20. saintstephen
    August 18, 2013 #

    Sugar is not soluble is gasoline, if it even makes it to the fuel filter, which is unlikely as it is not solute, the engine will sputter and die. There will be no sticky residue. at all.Try it at home. Pour sugar into your engine, and drive away. It will run normally, and you will never even notice.

  21. Robert
    August 20, 2013 #

    I never warm up my car. 206,000 miles and going strong. Just normal wear and tear from age. NJ is not Alaska but still…

    Driving and driving conditions hter effect on mpg than the fuel, especially between 87 and 93. The first part of that came from a service manual for my son's '69 Buick Skylark. Car companies new this back then! Even the EPA tests for milage lead to bogus answers.

    The only reason you need higher octane rating for higher compression engines is that the other components of gasoline will ignite earlier (and burn quicker) under the increasing pressure from the rising piston instead the spark initiating the burning. It is suppose to be a burn, not a bang. Don't believe me, put gasoline in a diesel engine. I dare you. BTW, It's almost impossible to ignite diesel fuel with a match.

    One myth I didn't see mentioned, and should be, was that tires should be filled with pure nitrogen for "better handling", "performance", "tread life", and whatever. Too bad the fools who get the nitrogen treatment have, as a result, a lesser load due the missing dollars in the owner's wallet, Air is 80% nitrogen! Now that is a scam if I ever saw one!

  22. Greg
    August 21, 2013 #

    Years ago I made many trips across Ohio using one of three different vehicles. Speed limit was 55, the highway had lots of cops using the instant on radars. Red Ford Mustang GT was zapped every time even if I was driving only 45MPH. Old red beat up pickup truck was never zapped even if I was running 70. Ford van in good shape was almost always zapped if I was in the left lane and hardly ever zapped if I was in the right lane. It does make a difference what you drive and red or yellow sports cars draw more attention from the police.

    • disco
      September 27, 2013 #

      it certainly appears that the make and model not the color are why a mustang gt would get zapped and not a beat-up old pick up truck.

  23. Greg
    August 21, 2013 #

    The headlight happened at least once in Atlanta. High octane fuel does not combust slower it is harder to ignite. This allows for high compression ratios. Using low octane fuel in an engine that requires high octane will result in pre-detonation or pinging. modern cars will detect pinging and adjust the timing to stop it but you loose performance and economy. Pinging is hard on an engine.

    • WS6Chef
      September 9, 2013 #

      Your comment on Octane is a contradiction. High Octane does burn slower. It becomes more combustible under compression. I have 3 high performance cars in my garage that can easily prove my point. One of my vehicles requires 110 Octane Racing fuel to run it. A lot of racers who drive imports put 110 Octane in their cars thinking it will improve performance. However, it only destroys performance and burns up O2 sensors and catalytic converters. Please research before you comment.

  24. Pledge
    August 21, 2013 #

    I was shot and killed for flashing my headlights at a gang in Florida, or was it Texas. here's a link http://www.shotbyagang.com

  25. Birdman
    August 27, 2013 #

    You writers can keep saying what you want about how premium gas makes no difference in cars that only require regular gas, but I have had several economy cars and I have seen as much as a 75 mile increase in the mileage per tank of gas. As well as improved acceleration. I now drive a 98 Honda CR-V and its a night and day difference in the way it performs with 93 vs 87. And for only a few cents more. It also keeps my engine cleaner.

  26. Michael
    August 27, 2013 #

    The only problem I have ever encountered with cold engines is an oil pump shaft being twisted in two due to too heavy a weight oil being used for the time of the year. Vehicle's owner swore by 10w 40w, well parking it outside facing into the north wide in -30 degree weather changed his mind. As for the fuel octane, I drive a 07 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4, on the 89 octane my daily commute back and forth to work I averaged 12.7 miles to the gallon. I changed to 91 octane due to most of our lower octane around here switching to 10% ethanol content. I then noticed I was now getting 16.7 miles to the gallon. There does seem to me less horse power but then again it is a factory v6 in a box shaped brick with the name plate jeep plastered on it.

    • Buzzer
      October 15, 2013 #

      I agree about the octane/ethanol statement. High octane in SOME gas stations have 0% ethanol, which means that it burns more efficiently! I've gotten somewhere between 3 to 7 mpg more on ethanol-free 91 than with 87/89 E10. My motorcycle has jumped from 39mpg to 45 on E0 Premium!

  27. Scott
    August 28, 2013 #

    Sugar in your fuel tank will not destroy your engine. It will simply plug the fuel system compoents. Fuel vapor hitting theexhaust pipe causing an explosion? A fire maybe but not an explosion. You sir, have been watching too much Hollywood.

  28. Robeson
    September 5, 2013 #

    It's good that you cleared up #4 but you got something MAJORLY wrong! First, why would gangs shoot people who try to help them by flashing their lights? In fact, they WILL shoot people who don't care about others and DON'T flash their lights. That's why you should always flash your lights when the situation calls for it (plus it's good manners).

  29. TheTruth
    September 5, 2013 #

    The thing I find most amusing is that people place so much faith in snopes. Snopes is expressed opinion based on questionable research. Worse when presented with evidence to debunk the opinions expressed on their site, much like spookiewon here they rapidly become angry and childish in their own false belief.
    As to the proposed urban myth of gangland flashing light slayings…the devil is in the details. Few reports meet the specific criteria as outlined by their site. This is by design. It has to be that way for them to say several reports over time are not these things. The key detail is gang member initiation. They exclude angered drunk drivers, road rage and incidents in which a person's brights were left on causing a danger to other drivers. Even when as in Akron a seasoned gang member shot, it was neither initiation nor was it a case where the victim was baited.
    Anyone that understands the internal combustion engine or electronics knows that there is a warm up period needed to reduce wear. It's why your led or LCD TV does not magically spring to life, and your car doesn't go from start to greased lightening. Top fuel dragsters are indeed warmed as they sit idling (if you ignore that they are being revved to entice the crowd) waiting on the light tree.
    Tracers aren't exactly flaming bullets. A single bullet causing an explosion is unlikely, but not impossible. Physics is funny that way. 999 times out of a 1000 you can get away with throwing matches in a bucket of gas too.
    Now comes the one thing that will get this comment edited or removed. I underwrote for a well advertised auto insurance company. There are hundreds of rating factors and it is untrue to suggest paint is not one of them. There is a reason beyond the initial 6 month policy discounts that customers see a significant increase upon rate revision. More detail has been learned about the customer and their vehicle. As vehicles age certain components become more rare causing potential increases in price, untimely back orders causing more time in rental vehicles and often require full paint instead of blending due to environmental wear or fade.
    The big car paint red flag? Candy apple red. Why do you think a good agent will ask if you have aftermarket parts or paint? Everything counts. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    • WS6Chef
      September 9, 2013 #

      Insurance agents ask about aftermarket parts and paint because they are wanting to know if anything is custom. Custom paint jobs are most costly. Custom rims, grills, bumpers, etc. are more expensive to replace then OEM factory parts. Naturally this will cause you to have higher premiums. A good agent asks those questions to avoid potential discrepentcies (sp) in the future if parts need to be replaced/paint job.

      • 07StangGT
        October 2, 2013 #

        This is true about some insurance companies. Also, there are a few out there that offer aftermarket parts insurance which is additional, up to $2000 for about $4 a month.

    • WS6Chef
      September 9, 2013 #

      Also, Top Fuel Drag cars are NOT running their engines to "warm them up". They rev their engines not to entice crowds, but rather to do a last second check for oil pressure and boost pressure. Ever notice that they are ALWAYS towed or pushed to the water box (burn out pit)? They want the engine as cold as possible. Everything they do at the track has purpose, NEVER is it to "entice the crowd".

  30. Marie
    September 13, 2013 #

    How could anyone verify this if the man were killed? Same with most of the other tales of the flashing headlights… If the gang killed them, how does anyone know that they flashed their headlights?

  31. Dave
    September 16, 2013 #

    #2 is absolutely wrong! Anybody who knows anything about cars- knows you should let a cold engine warm up! The reason for this is first and foremost to let the oil warm up! which is like molasses, and to get the oil back into the cylinders, because some of it has dripped down into the oil pan. As mentioned above, it also lets the other materials warm up and properly expand! Who wrote this article? Its almost shocking how ignorant it is on how engines work.

    Also I don't think #3 is totally correct either…the higher octane also helps to reduce carbon build up in the engine.

    • chadbag
      September 18, 2013 #

      Actually, most engine experts will say NOT to warm up your car by letting it sit idling, in cold temperature. More than a few seconds, quarter minute or so is not needed. They DO say not to rev the engine, or push it to high RPMs until it is warmed up. Don't gun the engine when cold. Idling does not build oil pressure that fast, but slow driving does. Slow driving, non-stressed driving, is better for modern cars in cold weather.

  32. mike barbera
    September 18, 2013 #

    WOW! I have read every single comment, and am impressed with the debate. I have been teaching drivers education in the great state of Maryland for 15yrs. And i am going to make this awesome convo site part of todays lesson. Thank you so much for helping me to become a better informed educator. The kids are gonna love it. For you detail oriented folks. My name is mike and im teaching drivers ed at Marriotts Ridge High in Ellicott City Md till the end of the week. Then its on to another school. Thanks again for the spirited education

  33. chadbag
    September 18, 2013 #

    My vw specced premium. I drove for many years with regular. No damage to engine. However, I then did a test measuring gas mileage with premium and the car got slightly better gas mileage with premium. I drive several tanks on each, measured mileage on each, and did two iterations of tests (ie, several regular tanks, several premium, several regular, several premium and the results held out. Now, the car specced premium so the engine was tuned to work with premium. I am not saying an engine tuned to regular will get more on premium.

  34. Bewildered
    September 19, 2013 #

    Forget the myths! Who are these people that are dumping yummy sweetners in their gas tanks? Shall we test agave nectar next? If the engine knocks, is a doughnut expelled from the tailpipe?

  35. Laura
    September 25, 2013 #

    About myth #4- For those if you say things like this doesn't happen, you are wrong. I lost a dear friend in Flint, Michigan in 2001. Maybe you should have grown up there and lived there like I did for 30+ years. Better yet, check shootings for Flint. It isn't number one in the nation for violent deaths for nothing.

  36. Letha
    September 26, 2013 #

    Are you seriously fact finding this article with snoops??? Smh…

  37. Alex
    September 27, 2013 #

    What a debate over everything, I have read all of them. Oddly enough last night I saw a car without headlights on, and thought of that. Needless to say being the cautious person I am, I honestly wouldn't want to risk it…. But thats just how I am about everything… Lol

  38. Al
    October 5, 2013 #

    Myth 2 says it makes no difference whether you warm up the engine or not. That is probably true, but you could damage an automatic transmission in cold weather. The fluid gets thicker in cold weather and doesn't flow thru the transmission like it should. If you put it in drive and it doesn't engage right away it is too cold.

  39. Chris
    October 8, 2013 #

    I'm going to tell all my gang friends to start popping off at people who insist on the veracity of urban myths, and then start an urban myth about it.

  40. tom
    October 10, 2013 #

    Concerning warmup – read your owners manual; they all say the same thing. Use the proper oil for your temperature range, and give the engine a few seconds, not minutes, before rolling (circulates the oil). Then keep speed, acelleration, and load down until the engine and transmission reach operating temperature, a matter of a few minutes. And it is better to drive with moderation than to idle the engine.

  41. usmcdog71891
    October 12, 2013 #

    I remember a reading about the gang attack for the headlights in Atlanta, Georgia. It was in the news, they were driving around Buckhead if I remember right, no lights on and they got flashed. Ended up attacking the person who flashed them.

  42. Ron
    October 13, 2013 #

    Flashing your lights at oncoming traffic is used as courtesy to inform drivers that Police are waiting ahead with radar out. I'm thankful for this a couple weeks ago.

  43. Trystan
    October 13, 2013 #

    Using high octane can improve your fuel mileage but it is depends on your engine. Higher octane burns slower and more even than low octane. Low octane can cause pre-ignition in older engines. Carbon deposits can get hot enough to ignite the fuel instead of the spark plug. Computer controlled engines will retard the timing in order to keep that from happening. When the timing is retarded, you will get lower MPG. A higher octane will burn smoother and not ignite before it is suppose to so it could give you better gas mileage. High octane is needed in engines with high compression engines because low octane will ignite before it is suppose to.

    If your engine is running properly, then using high octane will not give you more MPG if that is what the car is suppose to use. If you use low octane when the engine is suppose to use high octane then you could lower your mpg.

    I saw someone say that gasoline would be good in diesel. That's a big no-no. Diesels work by compressing the air/fuel mixture until it ignites; there are no spark plugs to ignite it. Diesel in a gasoline engine probably would not work as most gas engines do not operate with enough compression. Gasoline in a diesel engine would result in the gasoline exploding before it is suppose to resulting in a damaged engine.

  44. BigVatoLoco
    October 16, 2013 #

    You still have to warm an engine when it is cold outside….When materials are cold they become brittle, Putting stress on brittle components will cause them to fail at a faster rate..In turn you should still warm your engine even though you have electronically metered and controlled fuel/air systems.

  45. Alyssa
    October 17, 2013 #

    I don't think Snopes knows everything. I work for a juvenile prison system and that is a VERY common gang initiation for certain gangs. They drive around with their lights off and are instructed to chase and kill the driver of the first person to flash them.

  46. Bonnie
    October 17, 2013 #

    States have actually enacted laws around the gang headlight article. Here in NJ it's now a law that you are not allowed to flash your lights.

  47. Sparky
    October 20, 2013 #

    I am not a mechnic and know next to nothing about engines, but to me it seems like a matter of common sense to let your engine warm up for a few minutes in the cold. Almost any mechanical contrivance with multiple moving parts needs time to hit optimum performance. For that matter, so do people. How many people operate at their best within a minute of waking up?

  48. print the truth
    October 21, 2013 #

    Shooting have and will continue happening for flashing your headlights. They have occurred close to where I live.

  49. Ben Sweeten
    October 29, 2013 #

    Addressing myth #3: I ride a motorcycle and have found using Chevron high octane fuel got me 41mpg. I had to stop at a 76 station once and my mileage went to 36mpg and the power was diminished. Next fuel stop, Chevron, and immediately it shot back up to 41mpg. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Chevron high octane makes a major difference in both mileage and performance. Yes, it's a bit pricier, but, the higher mileage makes up for that.

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