Debunked: 11 car myths drivers still believe (that aren’t true!)

Automobiles are amongst some of the greatest inventions to enter the world. Where would we be without our cars and vans? How would companies transport their goods across the country? Crucial to our daily lives, vehicles continue to become more innovative as time goes on. If you compared the cars of yesteryear to the varieties of today, the difference in design, comfort, and safety features is colossal. So, why do we need a car myths debunked article?

As rapidly as the motoring world has progressed, there are still so many assumptions we have about cars that seem to have travelled through time. Manufacturers have advanced, dealerships stock the most sought-after makes and models, yet the average driver still doesn’t know much about how cars really work. We’re here to address some of the falsehoods about cars that have made their way into the 21st century. And why, even after all these years, drivers just won’t trust what their mechanics have to say!

Car myths are amongst the most debunked in the world

1. Using your mobile phone at the petrol station will cause an explosion

We’re guilty of this one – quickly placing our phones on the passenger seat or in the glove compartment – a good distance away from the side with the fuel pumps. After all, when you pull into a petrol station, you’re confronted with warning signs that caution against using your mobile phones. But this idea that a wireless signal will cause gas vapours to catch fire, has little to no scientific basis.

Findings for a BBC report, presented by Dr Adam Burgess of the University of Kent, showed that out of 243 petrol station fires around the world over an 11-year period, none had been attributed to mobile phones. Another study by the Federal Communications Commission found that there is no proven dangerous link between wireless phones and fuel vapours.

Though it’s always encouraged to stay off your phone whilst driving or filling up the tank, using your device at a petrol station won’t cause a fire or explosion.

2. Red cars have higher insurance

Red cars don't have a higher insurance rate - that's another car myth debunked.

Answer this question… have you ever been asked to select the colour of your car when searching for insurance? We didn’t think so! The colour red has long been associated with sporty cars, which has correlated with the idea that red equals fast, which equals dangerous, and therefore the cause of high insurance.

There are no studies or statistics showing that red cars cost more to insure – mainly as colour is not factored into your insurance calculation. There is no reason for you to shy away from getting a red vehicle because of the colour’s connotations.

3. It is against the law to drive with your interior light switched on

If your childhood memories involve one of your parents shouting at you to switch off the interior light because it’s against the law to drive with it on – we’re here to solve this mystery once and for all. *Drum roll please* Having the interior light on whilst driving is not illegal! Police officers may pull you over if they feel that having the light on could be distracting for you, but there’s no need to overreact if your passengers want to reach up and switch the interior light on whilst you’re driving.

4. You must change your oil every 3,000 miles – or don’t change it at all!

This myth has been debunked so frequently that it now has a Wikipedia page of its own. The rule of changing the oil every few thousands of miles may have been relevant for older vehicles with little tolerance, but it’s not even close for modern cars. Most newer vehicles today can clock up to 7,500 miles before needing an oil change. A quick peek into online forums on the subject will reveal that some BMW owners have found that their vehicles, such as the BMW 1 Series M135i, can travel 12,000 to 15,000 miles (24,000 kms) without fresh oil.

A popular car myth is the need to change your oil frequently - not true!

We’ve come to learn that the main proponent of this generational car myth comes from businesses who profit from your regular oil change visits. A good mechanic will tell you that you don’t need to change your engine’s oil so often. Instead, the occasional change will ward off engine wear and tear and assure proper lubrication. We’re sure you’ve heard this before, but the wise thing to do is consult your car’s manual. Simples!

5. Leaving the car running to “warm up” in winter is essential for your engine

How many times have you nipped out to start your car in the winter and sat in it to let it run for a few minutes to “warm up” before you drive off? Too many to count probably – we’ve all been there. The general explanation for doing this has always been “the car needs to warm up” – but what does that actually mean? Many drivers believe that if a car isn’t warmed up, there’s a higher risk of reducing the engine’s life.

That may have been the case for cars of the past, when carburetors were used to pump fuel into the car’s engine. Most manufacturers replaced carburetors in the late 1980’s with newer technology such as the fuel injector, which proved to be more efficient. This up-to-date tech usually has sensors that regulate the amount of fuel needed for the current temperature. The general consensus is that “warming up” your car may actually harm the engine. The extra fuel that is pumped into the engine during the warm-up could seep into the engine’s cylinder walls and wash off the oils.

6. If a car crashes, there will be an explosion

Myth 6: If a car crashes, there will be an explosion

If the Fast and Furious film franchise is where your knowledge of cars comes from, it’s time for us to break it to you – cars in real life are just not that volatile. Films teach us to stay away from a car that’s just hit a tree, but in reality, it takes a lot of manipulation to create a big ball of fire from a car crash. Because who wants to see a cinematic car chase that ends with just a slightly smoked-up crash? Not us.

It’s important to remember that in the real world, professionals with tons of expertise work to make sure that cars are safe to drive and built with accident-proof features. It is incredibly rare for a car to blow up in flames when it crashes. In fact, it took the Mythbusters’ team several tries to get a car to explode after crashing in their “crash and burn” episode. It was only when they heavily modified the vehicle from its original state that it ended in a Hollywood-worthy explosion… and even then it was thrown off a cliff.

8. Refuel in the mornings to get more for your money

Who remembers their parents rushing to leave early on the school run just to stop by the petrol station? And who still does this as an adult on their commute to work? The simple logic behind filling up your tank early is due to lower temperatures in the morning.

When it’s cooler, fuel is denser – causing generations of drivers to believe that they’ll get more gas per gallon in the a.m. However, as Storengy explains, natural gas is stored over 500 metres below the surface in salt caverns where the temperature barely fluctuates. So, no matter what time of the day you fill up, the fuel that comes out of the nozzle is essentially always the same density. No more early morning stops needed!

9. Servicing your car with an unauthorised dealer will affect the manufacturer’s warranty

Probably the most asked about myth on this list. The simple answer is – no, you don’t need to get your car serviced at the dealership to keep your manufacturer’s warranty intact. A warranty is the manufacturer’s promise to you that the vehicle you are purchasing, or leasing, will be free from defects and major disrepairs for a certain period.

Car Myth Debunked - do you need to service your car at the manufacturer's dealership?

Much like everything else in life, it makes sense to shop around for the best servicing deal when the time comes. The confusion often stems from the notion that many dealers give to drivers. The logbook and warranty terms may also give the impression that your warranty is void if you service the car elsewhere.

What you do need to make sure is that wherever you choose to service your car meets the requirements of the manufacturer’s warranty terms. So, the service must be carried out by qualified people, and as the manufacturer has specified, with only approved parts used when needed.

10. Luxury cars are unattainable

Putting aside the luxury heavyweights – we’re talking Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati, and so on – access to “luxury” cars is more attainable than ever before. According to figures released by online parking marketplace JustPark, at present more than 1 in 4 cars on UK roads are classed as luxury. And if you’re looking for a little bit of posh in your daily driving, the car market now offers a variety of finance types to suit all budgets and help you drive away in your dream Range Rover, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz.

Luxury brands such as Audi and Lexus have built up their reputation through good marketing, superior features, and a luxury price range – but you’ll find that traditionally reasonable brands like Ford, Mazda, and even Kia, all offer luxury amenities without the hefty price tag. Remember, you always have the option to customise your chosen vehicle with higher-class interiors, sophisticated materials, and innovative tech.  

Anytime you’re in the market for a car, we’d highly recommend reading up on expert and customer reviews, test driving vehicles, and taking your time to compare and learn about luxury cars vs non-luxury brands. You might just find that the Volkswagen’s and Mini’s of the world bring a lot more to the table than their more expensive counterparts.

11. Bigger rims equals better performance

Bigger rims does not equal better performance - another myth debunked.

If your go-to inspiration for kitting out your car is a Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre rap video, you’ve likely thought about putting 22s on your Golf. Let us stop you right there.

Aside from taking you up on the “looking cool” radar – if that’s the sort of thing you care about – putting 22” rims on your car doesn’t make it faster or perform better on the roads. The mechanics in town – and anyone who comprehends physics – will tell you that bigger rims don’t equal more benefits. Quite the opposite; you may end up sacrificing on performance and handling unless you also have the funds to spend on suspension mods to compensate for the tires and rims. Even then, you may still lose the ability to navigate uneven terrain without risking damage to the rims. And with the number of potholes in the UK, is the cool factor worth the risk? Plus, you’ll be lugging around extra weight which will put an extra strain on fuel and acceleration too.