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Myth busters – 7 car myths debunked

Published on: 09 December 2014

When it comes to maintaining your car, there are many misconceptions which, despite even the best intentions, can lead to you spending more than is necessary or even compromising your safety. Here are some common myths about cars - debunked:

#1: How often should I change the oil in my car?

The first myth is the unwritten rule to change the oil in your car every 4 000-5 000km. This is in fact untrue - for some cars the oil can last up to about 20 000km. Therefore, you don’t need to stress about oil changes; just follow the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. However, do check your oil frequently – in most cars, by the time the ‘low oil’ light comes on, damage can already be done to the engine. Older cars, and high performance vehicles, tend to use more oil and will require more frequent top-ups.

#2: Does the aircon use more petrol?

There has been much debate about whether to drive with the air conditioner on or keep the windows open in order to save petrol. Using the air conditioner does put more load on the engine, but in modern cars there is only a very slight decrease in fuel economy. Opening the windows rather than using the air conditioner has no measurable difference – although driving with open windows increases the aerodynamic drag of the vehicle.

#3: Recharging a flat battery

Another common myth is that if you jumpstart a car with a flat battery, it will recharge the battery immediately. This is not necessarily the case. While a sufficient charge to restart the car in the normal way can be built up in 15 minutes or less, there is no rule – various factors are at play, including the condition of the battery, the temperature, a potential problem with the alternator (which charges the battery) and just how depleted the battery is.

#4: Servicing a car at dealership

The myth that you have to get your car serviced at a dealership is untrue. As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner’s manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop (as long as the specialist dealer has the correct equipment and knowledge). Be cautious though, as this might impact on the service or maintenance plan of the vehicle, if you have one in place. 

#5: Using dishwashing liquid to wash your car

Dishwashing liquid is not a suitable for washing a car. Dishwashing liquid can strip off a car’s wax finish, damaging the paint in the longer term. Rather use a car shampoo which is especially formulated to clean a vehicle.

#6: Brake fluid

You’d think that if the brake fluid in your car is low, topping it up will fix the problem. The answer is “no”: as brake pads wear, the level in the brake fluid drops slightly, which helps monitor brake wear. If the fluid level drops to or below the low mark, then either the brake pads are worn out or fluid is leaking. Either way, get the brake system serviced immediately. You should also get a routine brake inspection every 10 000km.

#7: Red cars cost more to insure

You've probably heard from someone (who heard it from someone else) that red cars cost more to insure. We're here to tell you that isn't necessarily true. Car insurance companies determine premiums on many factors such as claiming history, the make, model, and year of your car.

Do you have any car insurance questions? Go to our Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus page – we would love to debunk some urban myths.