Mechanics Corner - Feb 11
“Persistent Automotive Myths”
By Mike Godwin
Several times I have written that a well informed buyer is a seller’s worst potential client. That is true just as the age old statement that “Knowledge is Power”. In both cases, the knowledge must be put to good use and applied to the current situation.
In the world of automotive knowledge, there are some things that people seem to know and accept as fact. Regrettably, the information and the knowledge base are simply incorrect. Call these incorrect facts, “Myths of the Automobile”, if you will.
So let us embark on a journey to set the record straight once and for all, and debunk some of these falsehoods that are held as Truths. Not in any particular order or ranking, let us explore some of the more popular Myths that are floating about today.
Myth Number 1: In the winter time, you must add dry gas to your fuel tank. Failure to do so will result in frozen fuel. Maybe in the winter of 1964 when the Mustangs were still the marvel of the streets, this idea had merit. Dry Gas, as it was called and marketed, was nothing more than a container, normally metal back then, of Ethanol. Yep, nothing more than a can of corn fuel - an alcohol based concentration. The Ethanol really did prevent the water that was mixed in your fuel from freezing. Today of course, in the winter months here in Seattle, we see signs on the gas pumps declaring that the fuel being dispensed can contain up to 10 % Ethanol. So the cure is already in your gasoline right at the pump. With gas prices being what they are, don’t bother paying even more money for a can of Ethanol when it is already mixed into the fuel you buy.
Myth Number 2: Save money by using dishwashing liquid to wash your car. This one has been around forever and in the early days of the Mustang, it was definitely a common practice in many households. Of course, pouring your used motor oil out in the alley behind your home was a common practice in those days also. It will do in a pinch, but use caution as the dishwashing soaps are just that - soap. These soaps are designed to breakdown animal or vegetable fat. As such, the product can attack your protective wax coating and actually remove it from the painted surface. After all, what is Carnauba Wax, but the essence of a bean? Preferably, you will select one of the many products specifically designed for washing your car’s surface. These quality products are based on detergents, and not based on soaps, which are typically made of rendered animal products that contain trace elements that can damage the clear coat finish on your car.
Myth Number 3: Oil Filters are Oil Filters, so why buy that expensive brand? After all, they are all the same a paper element enclosed in a metal can. Picture the lowly Oil Filter as the primary defensive unit that is going to prevent dirt and grime getting back into your engine. The better job the Oil Filter does at trapping various particles, the better your engine will perform. More important, the longer it will last, as the Oil Filter is the only item that traps and holds material that can cause abrasion and result in premature engine failure. The Oil Filter must be able to pass along enough contaminate-free oil to keep the engine oil pressure at a desired level while performing the task of being a filter.
A little comparison shopping will reveal that those less expensive filters typically are designed to be changed more frequently than the more expensive units. The inexpensive items many times recommend that the filter be changed after 3,000 miles, while the more expensive filters fall into the 5,000 to 7,000 mile category. With oil costing close to $4.00 per quart, the initial cost savings of a cheap filter is soon lost.
Myth Number 4: It is imperative that my engine warm up before I drive the car any place at all. Sounds like advice from a father to a new driver back in the day when Black and White TV was the norm. Older Mustangs actually did rely on a bi-metal spring to heat and expand which would result in the choke being automatically pulled off. The marvels of modern automobiles…what would they think of next? Well, how about a throttle positioning circuit that automatically holds the engine RPM at a slightly higher level for a short period of time and then returns the engine RPM to a normal idle position without any action from the driver. Actually allowing your car to warm up for about 30 seconds is not a bad idea especially in colder months. This ensures that the thicker oil has had a chance to circulate and at least start thinning out. It is a scientific fact that the car will warm up quicker if it is driven than if allowed to sit in the garage or driveway at an idle. The newer Mustang even uses lower viscosity oil than the older cars, so this warming of the oil is less of a problem.
Myth Number 5: Keep the tires on your car inflated to the PSI limit printed on the sidewall of the tire. This myth has not been true for many years. First one must realize that there are numerous manufacturers of tires and each one could have a slightly different recommend PSI rating. Next keep in mind that, unlike when the Mustang was introduced, that today tires are used in many applications. Those under your Mustang might also be found under a light SUV or a Crossover Minivan. So the PSI rating embossed on the sidewall of your tires might not be appropriate for the vehicle they support. The best place to check is the sticker inside the door on the driver’s side of the car. The information located here is correct for your car. This is important, as sometimes the front and rear pressures listed are different. This is also a good source of information about the load limit of your car. Should the sticker be missing or unreadable, refer to your owner’s manual for proper tire inflation information.
There are others out there I am sure, and if we make a list, we can do another article later on five different ones. Again, the knowledge you have is only powerful if it is put to use. So list these five little gems as BUSTED and use the truth for each in your Mustang adventures.
Remember when your cup holder sat next to you, and if you were lucky, she was wearing a mini-skirt?