How Many of These Car Myths Do You Believe?


By: Steven Symes

7 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Do you really have to change your oil every 3,000 miles, or is that just a waste of money? Will you kill your car if you don't let it warm up in the morning, and does fueling up in the morning really cut fuel costs? And what about all those additives they sell at the automotive stores - should you be using them or not? If you know the answers to these questions, you might just have what it takes to ace this car myths quiz.

After housing, cars are the second biggest expense or the average person. Not only does Kelley Blue Book estimate the cost of a typical new car in the U.S. at just shy of $35,000 in 2017, but when you add in fuel and maintenance, the average family shells out around $9,000 a year for their car, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes $3,000 in gas expenses. 

With cars and related costs consuming such a big chunk of a typical budget, it's obvious that falling for false car myths can really take a bite out of your wallet. Even worse, the wrong maintenance or care can shorten the life of your vehicle, which can cost you more over time or even leave you stranded out on the road. 

Think you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to buying, maintaining, and gassing up your ride? Take this car myths quiz to find out!

Which of the following can start a fire while you're gassing up your car?

Some people are absolutely convinced that using a cellphone in any way will ignite gas fumes at the pump. Even the FCC launched an investigation into the matter, coming to the conclusion that there's no documented risk. Still, you might want to pay attention while fueling up, instead of letting your phone be a distraction, but that's your choice.


Can you squeeze more gas in your car's tank?

Everyone has their own trick for fitting more gas in the tank. The fact is liquid doesn't settle like cereal, but most pumps will shut off before the tank is all the way full. That being said, you could spill gas down the side of your car, and damage some sensors or other equipment in your tank by overfilling it, so don't say you weren't warned.


SUVs are great choices for what kinds of drivers?

Because they ride high, can tip easily, often take longer to stop and have other limitations on the road, an SUV usually isn't the best choice for a new or inattentive driver. The bigger it is, the worse the more serious these issues can be.


Should you always change your oil every 3,000 miles?

For the longest time, people readily believed that changing your oil every 3,000 miles was an absolute must. That was the case back in the day, but thanks to modern innovations in oil engineering and engines, many modern vehicles can go well in excess of 10,000 miles between oil changes. When in doubt, look in the owner's manual and it will tell you how long to go.


Which of the following does not affect fuel economy?

People debate if rolling down the windows or running the air conditioning negatively impacts fuel economy. With the windows down, the car's aerodynamics take a hit, and that means more fuel consumed. The air conditioning sucks power from the engine, hurting fuel economy at least a little. That being said, you shouldn't roast in the summertime just to save a little gas.


When does all-wheel drive give you better traction?

Despite what plenty of people think, all-wheel drive doesn't directly affect traction, your tires do. Instead, it manages how much power goes to the different wheels and when, which can affect traction, but doesn't provide traction.


If your engine is running rough, which of the following will likely help?

Modern engines don't need new spark plugs very often at all, unlike cars from the past. And modern gasoline contains detergents which should keep your injectors free and clear. Fuel and air filters can still become clogged, which definitely will cause any engine to run rough.


To keep your factory warranty, what must you do about maintenance?

Some dealerships will try to tell you that having anyone else perform maintenance on your car will void the warranty, but that simply isn't true. You just need to follow the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations and keep receipts as well as other documents proving that's what you've done.


What was the single color you could get a Ford Model T in?

The truth is that the vast majority of Model Ts were black, which fueled the myth that it was the only color offered by Ford. During the first few years of production, and later in its life, the Model T could be had in gray, blue, green, red and other hues.


Right after you start your engine on a cold day, what can damage it?

This is a controversial issue, with some people claiming that not warming up your car will grind the engine to pieces. The fact is that some engine parts aren't fully oiled and ready to really work hard until the engine is warmed up all the way. While you can warm up the engine by idling it, that takes a long time, and idling can still be hard on your engine, not to mention bad for your fuel economy. Driving warms up the engine faster, and as long as you don't accelerate hard you'll be fine.


What advantage do manual transmissions offer over modern automatics?

It used to be that automatics were a luxury that sucked down gas faster, and made cars slower. Thanks to modern advancements, newer automatics can be more efficient and help cars accelerate faster than even the most expert drivers can with a manual. Still, driving with a stick gives you more control over how the car drives, if you like that sort of thing.


What time of day is ideal for getting the densest gas from a pump?

Plenty of people believe that getting your gas during the daytime in the summer means you actually get less gas or energy density in the gas you buy. because liquids expand when they're hot and contract when they're cool. What they fail to realize is virtually all gas stations store the fuel underground in insulated tanks, so it stays about the same temperature all the time. That means you can buy gas whenever.


What makes a heavier car safer?

Many people buy an SUV or truck, believing that the fact it's big will keep them safe, no matter what. Recent studies have proven that weight has less to do with safety than you would think. Crumple zones, strategic reinforcements, and other advanced designs have a larger bearing on if you'll walk away from a crash or not.


You can instantly make your car go faster with what?

Plenty of people have heard legends of airport workers using jet fuel in their car, but that could really hurt your engine, since jet fuel is similar to diesel. Also, putting premium gas in a car that only requires regular won't lead to improved performance. Injecting nitrous oxide will give a temporary performance boost.


What's the most expensive color of car to insure?

When you get insurance, your carrier will ask for the vehicle's VIN. That doesn't indicate the color of your car's paint, and you could change that at any time. So you see, insurance companies don't change your rate based on paint color.


In which states have gang members killed people for flashing their lights as a warning that the gangsters' own headlights aren't on at night?

Back in the 1990s, word started traveling around different parts of the United States that gang members were going through a creative initiation process that involved killing the first person to flash their headlights as they drove around with theirs off at night. While this story has continued to spread even to this day, there has never been a documented case of this actually happening.


Getting back in the car while refueling can lead to what?

You might think climbing back into your car after starting the pump is no big deal. As you slide across the seat, your body builds static electricity, which can then discharge when you touch the pump. That would spark a fire, which would grow worse if you pull the nozzle out of your car. You should stay out of your car, or if you do get back in, make it a point to touch something metal after you get out and before you grab the nozzle.


What is the safest position for your hands on the steering wheel?

Back in the day, instructors taught drivers the 10 and 2 hand positions. The fact is you have more stable control at 9 and 3. Also, 9 and 3 help keep your arms free of the airbag, which comes out instantly if you're in an accident.


How often should a modern car have a tune-up?

Cars from way back in the day didn't have onboard computer systems to keep everything running smoothly, so mechanics had to regularly make adjustments and tune up the engine. Today, cars need items like the belts inspected, fluids refilled, etc. only occasionally. You can find recommendations for your specific car in the owner's manual.


Which of the following is the biggest danger you risk by riding in a modern convertible?

The big myth about modern convertibles is that if they roll, you're dead, because there's nothing protecting your head. That used to be the case, but today's convertible models have reinforced windshields, rollover hoops that deploy automatically to protect your head, and other safety devices.


If you push the overdrive button in your car, what will it do?

When you put overdrive on in a car, it doesn't mean you start going faster or work the engine harder, which is what most people think. Instead, it puts the car in a higher gear, making acceleration less severe and helping to save on gas.


Putting bigger wheels on your car will do what?

So many people think just throwing bigger wheels on their car will boost performance. If you do that in combination with using low-profile tires, which you didn't have before, you might notice the car handles better and accelerates a little quicker. But the bigger the wheels, the heavier they are, which actually harms performance all around. Keeping the same wheel size and going with low-profile tires will give you much better performance.


Which of the following hasn't been successfully used to power a car?

You might have heard about the guy who developed a car that runs on water, but big oil buried the project. It's a nice idea, but it's also completely false.


What secret engine modification do police cars have?

You might think that police cars have all these crazy modifications to make them super fast, but that's not true. Vehicles that are pursuit-rated do need to achieve a certain level of performance, but part of that is the ability to hop curbs and take other forms of abuse during a chase.


By never washing your car, what advantage do you enjoy?

Sure, not washing your car might mean you have slightly more time in your week, but not enough to really make much of a difference. But it's possible that a dirty car is less fuel efficient, because of aerodynamic drag. You could also be dealing with rust and other corrosion issues, so just wash your car already.


What color car do cops pull over more often?

Plenty of studies have been done on this very issue, and all of them have concluded that cops are more likely to pull over certain types of cars, like sports models, than specific colors. But really, it's best to not speed, if you're concerned.


What fuel economy benefit do you get by driving faster?

Speeding can actually cost you more in gas. Of course, it depends on your car, what engine is under the hood, and some other things about how you're driving. But there comes a point where going faster chews through gas faster, so slow down and enjoy the savings.


When does a puncture in your tire mean you need a new one?

Most tire punctures can be repaired. If it's in the sidewall, is more than 1/4 in diameter, or the tire tread is too low, you might be looking to buy a new tire instead of fixing the damage.


How early can an engine timing belt break?

You should be inspecting or having someone inspect your engine's timing belt regularly. The fact is it could fail at any time, even if you car doesn't have very many miles on it and isn't old at all. A broken timing belt will leave you stranded, and might lead to a huge repair bill, so don't forget to keep an eye on it.


Which of the following should you not use to gauge if you need new tires?

Too many people have heard about the Lincoln penny test and trust it, but the problem is that gives them a false sense of security. Stick to a quarter, look for the wear bars exposed, or have a tire shop use a gauge to judge how low the tread is on your tires.


What air pressure should you inflate your tires to?

That number on the sidewall of your tires just means the maximum pressure the tires can withstand, not what pressure you should use for your specific vehicle. Check the sticker on the driver's door jamb, look in the owner's manual, or even call the dealer if you're not sure what the manufacturer recommends.


Which of the following isn't a potential consequence of filling your cooling system with water instead of antifreeze?

Some people think that filling up their radiator and the rest of the coolant system in their car with water is perfectly fine. The fact is you need a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water to make everything work correctly. The best way to ensure you get things right is to use bottles where the two are already mixed, taking out all the guesswork.


Overfilling your tires will lead to what?

If you over-inflate your tires, it causes the middle of the tread to wear down faster. You don't really see any bump in fuel economy. Instead, just follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation for tire inflation and you'll be fine.


Driving while using a cellphone is the equivalent to driving while what?

Studies have shown that people who are using their phone while driving actually perform just as badly as someone who's drunk behind the wheel. That might sound extreme, but it proves why you should hang up and drive.


Always putting cheap gas in your car will do what to it?

While it's true that the gas at expensive name brand stations contain different and perhaps more detergents than what you get at a budget-friendly location, thanks to federal standards there's no such thing as "bad" gas anymore. That means you can fill up anywhere and not worry your car won't run well.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!