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Automotive Myths

As a long term automotive shop owner since 1975, I work at giving my customers the proper guidance to ensure longevity of their vehicle without over spending their money. It is a balance that I have worked diligently on.

One customer wanted tune-up only 15,000 miles after the previous tune-up was completed. I very kindly and patiently explained that newer vehicles just didn't need service that frequently. When I was done with my spiel, I was feeling good about my integrity, and about saving this good customer money. But his response surprised me: He said that his dad told him (back in the 60’s) that a car should be tuned up every year and I had no place saying that his deceased father was incorrect. Then he hung up, I never did hear from this customer again.

The truth is times have changed; today’s vehicles are so much more advanced then vehicles of yesteryear, and so automotive care procedures are different. The word tune-up doesn't even apply to newer vehicles.  Ever since that customer experience, I have realized that “dads” have perpetuated many automotive myths, such as these:  

  • Warm up your car before driving. This myth is the most ingrained but doesn't apply to newer vehicles, which are designed to be started and driven immediately. Simply drive gently until the temperature gauge registers normal.
  • Pump the gas pedal before starting a car cold to set the “choke.” All newer cars have fuel injection so don’t pump the gas pedal.
  • Sugar will ruin an engine if poured into the fuel tank. Sugar won’t even dissolve in fuel nor get through the fuel filter.
  • Change your antifreeze yearly. In reality, long life antifreezes can last 5 years or longer.
  • Your car will run better if you run premium fuel ever third or fourth tank.  Not true, save your money.
  • Don’t turn off your car while waiting because you will ruin your starter or battery. If you’re going to be sitting for more than 45 seconds, turn off your engine. The only exception would be at a traffic light or some place that would hold up traffic.
  • Changing you air filter will increase fuel mileage. All vehicles 1995 and later measure the amount of air entering an engine with a mass air meter and inject the correct amount of fuel to that air. A new filter makes no difference in fuel mileage, but may improve engine power if the old air filter was plugged.


Little ways to lower emissions

As the earth warms, global warming and sustainability has become a big news maker. People often ask me what they can do to help fight global warming and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some have gone so far to get a hybrid or electric vehicle, others have taken to walking more, riding the bus while others are puzzled what they can do with little money that would make a difference.

What I am going to suggest is how to get the biggest amount of good for the least amount of money. Not everyone can afford to buy a new car.

The easiest way is to do very small steps. When a tire is not inflated properly, it requires more energy to make the car move and maintain speeds. An informal study found the majority of the vehicles in the US are only inflated to 80% of capacity. Property inflated tires can increase fuel mileage by 3.3%; an underinflated tires can lower fuel mileage by .4% per pound. Putting that an average driver who drives 12,000 miles per year, that would be an extra 144 gallon of fuel and up to 2,880 pounds of greenhouse gases and the waste of $300-$500 dollars per year!

Low tire pressure can also wear out tires prematurely and will allow the tire to build up heat which can lead to a blow out. Check your tires pressure monthly and if you find one consistently low, have a tire shop repair it. It is an accident waiting to happen.

Correct tire pressure for your vehicle is found in the drives door jam, owner’s manual or glove box door. Do not use the pressure that is written on the tire, which is the maximum pressure for that tire. (On bicycles, use the pressure written on the tire)

Other small tips that will help the vehicle have lower emissions are

  • Have your “Check engine light” fixed if it is on. Your vehicle has self-diagnosis; it’s telling you get it checked.
  • Smooth driving, anticipate traffic light, no quick starts
  • Have vehicle maintained
  • Use proper oil
  • Use cruise control on freeway
  • Don’t warm up you vehicle, just drive easy until temperature gauge is to the normal range
  • Empty car of unnecessary weight
  • Remove ski rack, bike racks, and cargo carriers when not in use.  This is most important on freeway driving.
  • Combine trips, a cold engine gets poor fuel mileage

Talk about a small steps that anyone can help with improving the quality of life in Eugene/Springfield area and the rest of the world.


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