1. You should change your oil every 3,000 miles.
While advertisers have pushed this myth relentlessly, it’s usually a waste of money to change your oil this often. Most vehicles actually need an oil change about once ever 7,500 miles, more than twice what oil manufacturers and car shops would have you believe. The best way to determine how often your oil needs changing is by looking at the recommended schedule in your owner’s manual.
2. Your car needs a tank of high-octane gas every now and then.
This myth used to be of use, since only high-octane gas included the detergents necessary to clean out fuel injectors. Now, though, the EPA requires these detergents in every grade, so you may as well just stick to your vehicle’s recommended octane level.
3. Keep your dashboard and tires wiped down with protectant compounds for that new car shine.
No matter what you do, your dashboards and tires are going to lose some of their shine. However, using those “protectant compounds” too much can end up drying out or aging your dashboards faster, as well as discoloring your tires. But the risks aren’t just superficial: overusing protectants can strip the tire of its original protectants, resulting in cracks in the rubber. If you want to keep your car looking sheen, just wipe the dashboard down with a wet cloth, and use mild soap and water on the tires.
4. Leave your automatic transmission in 3 around town, and save “D” for the highway.
Since most modern vehicles use transmissions that are quick to kick down into a lower gear, all this ends up doing is lowering your gas mileage.
5. You should shift your automatic transmission into Neutral at red lights.
It’s a myth that being stopped in Drive wastes fuel and damages the engine; in fact, regular shifting from Neutral to Drive and immediately stepping on the gas can end up wearing slightly on the transmission, driveline, and engine mounts. If you really want to play with the gear selector, why not buy a stick shift?
6. Luxury logos are important for long-term value.
Another myth fueled by powerful marketing messages. In reality, your up-front higher cost isn’t going to be matched by the difference in resale value. Also, your repair bills can be significantly higher (up to four times as much) with a luxury nameplate as with a comparable vehicle.
7. You’re driving safely if you have a hands-free headset while talking on your phone.
The bottom line is that talking on a phone while driving is incredibly dangerous, even if you do have both hands available for steering. A fourth of all accidents are caused by driver distraction, with cell phones the biggest factor in that category.
8. You don’t need to wear a seat belt in the back seat.
This may not seem to be a hugely prevalent myth, but the fact is that fewer than half of rear-seat passengers wear seat belts, according to NHTSA. This is incredibly dangerous since there often aren’t airbags in the back, and because rear-seat passengers can actually become projectiles themselves, increasing not only their risk, but the risk of the driver and front-seat passenger as well.
9. You should keep your doors unlocked, to ease in rescue after an accident.
While this may sound like common sense, NHTSA officials warn that if your door isn’t locked, it’s more likely to open during a collision, allowing you to be thrown clear and placing you at a higher risk. Rescuers know how to get to you: that’s their job.
10. Airbags need aiming.
Many drivers waste time fiddling around with their steering column position, pointing the airbag at their head, or moving it closer to them. NHTSA recommends that the steering wheel should be aimed at your chest, and positioned at least ten inches away. You should keep your hands in a 9-and-3 position to avoid having your arms broken by airbag deployment, which can occur if your hand is draped over the top of the wheel.