5 Common Car Repair Myths: Busted

Buying into long held car repair myths won’t necessarily hurt your wallet. Whoever lost a fortune believing in the Loch Ness Monster or the Abominable Snowman? Cryptozoology enthusiasts who have sunk their fortunes into trying to prove the existence of these fabled creatures need not answer that question. However, there is one class of myth that can cost you dearly if you don’t educate yourself properly: the car repair myth. Here’s a quick rundown on the 5 most often believed car repair myths that could send you scrambling for that emergency credit card.

Car Repair Myth #1: You have to change your oil every 3,000 miles

Before you go canceling your appointment to have your oil changed, be sure that you’re aware – the 3,000-mile requirement is something that’s gradually receding into the area of myth as time passes and newer, more efficient cars hit the market. If you’re driving a ’67 Mustang, you’re going to want to stay on that 3,000 mile schedule. But if you happen to own a late model car manufactured after 2007 (meaning 2008 and everything after) then oil changes only have to be done every 7,000 miles or so, depending upon driving conditions (normal vs. severe). Advances in engine and oil technology require less frequent oil changes under normal driving conditions. Follow the advice given in your vehicle owner’s manual. For vehicles with diesel engines using manufacturer recommended oil, the frequency for oil changes are extended even further.

Car Repair Myth #2: Dark oil indicates it’s time to get an oil change

A lot of people gauge if they’re overdue for an oil change by removing the dipstick indicator and checking the color of the oil. For the longest time, the vast majority of drivers have been led to believe that the blacker the oil, the more in need you are of a change. But the fact is, there are additives in oil that can darken the color even if it’s only been a thousand miles since your last change. Instead of trying to eyeball when it’s time to change your engine oil, make a note of the mileage and stick to a regular schedule: every 3,000 miles for older cars and every 7,000 miles for 2010 models and newer.

Car Repair Myth #3: Air filters should be replaced regularly

Replacing an air filter is actually part of maintaining your vehicle (not a repair), but worthy of making the list of car repair myths. For the most part, every time you bring your car to a mechanic for an oil change, someone will recommend changing out the air filter as well. Although you will, at some point in your vehicle’s life, have to replace air filters in order to keep it operating in tip top shape, it’s not necessary to replace them every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Sometimes all your air filter requires is to be cleaned. The next time you bring your car in for an oil change, ask your mechanic about this. It could save you some unnecessary expenses.

Car Repair Myth #4: Regular warranty maintenance work has to be done at the dealership

All vehicles have certain warranties attached to them. Engine warranties require that you have your oil changed and your engine serviced at regular intervals in order to prevent from voiding that warranty. But many people falsely believe that in order to keep the warranty valid, the work has to be performed at a dealership. The truth behind the myth is that as long as you keep your receipts and records to show that you’ve kept up with your car’s maintenance, it doesn’t matter who performs it – you can even do it yourself. Knowing this could save you a few healthy fistfuls of cash, especially if you’re the do-it-yourself type.

Car Repair Myth #5: Using a penny is the best way to measure your remaining tire tread

Tires should be replaced when they reach 2/32 of an inch in depth. Since very few of us own tire depth gauges, we usually rely on what we’re told about how to determine such a small measurement. For years, people have been using the Lincoln penny method: by inserting the tip of a penny into the tread between your tires, you can tell when it’s time to replace your tires if you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head. Unfortunately this isn’t always accurate. Tires can wear unevenly, especially if your vehicle’s alignment is off, and the condition of the tire’s sidewall as well as the tire’s age should also be taken into consideration – not just the depth of tread left. To be on the safe side, always ask a qualified mechanic to look at your tires to tell you if they need replacing.

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