Most American adults can drive, but that doesn’t mean we understand everything about our cars.
And it turns out, much of what we think we know is totally wrong.
For the purposes of education, we’ve compiled 15 common car myths.
Some are outdated, some are misunderstandings, and one or two are dangerous.
They’re all total bunk.
1.Manual transmissions offer better fuel economy than automatics.
This used to be the case, when automatic transmissions were relatively new. But recent advances in the technology (like the continuously variable transmission, which offers an infinite range of gear ratios) eliminates the advantage of manuals, and in some cases puts automatics ahead.
2. You can make your car much more powerful by filling it with jet fuel.
Definitely not — in fact, your gas-powered car won’t go anywhere at any speed if you put anything but gas in the tank. Conventional car engines can’t combust kerosene.
Last year, a fuel delivery service accidentally delivered kerosene jet fuel to a New Jersey gas station. Some cars were filled with the fuel, and promptly stalled.
3. A bullet to a car’s gas tank will lead to a big explosion.
A common trope in action movies is the moment where a well-aimed shot turns a bad guy’s getaway car into a flaming wreck.
Discovery’s “Mythbusters” proved that in real life, bullets go right through the tank — without fire. There’s no ignition, and no explosion.
4. Turning on the air conditioner is better for fuel economy than opening the windows.
This one’s harder to pin down. Mythbusters found an SUV with open windows will go farther than one with the A/C on. Consumer Reports looked into it, and found that A/C leads to a “slight decrease in fuel economy,” but recommend using it anyway, to keep the driver alert and comfortable.
For the final word, we looked to a 2004 study by GM and SAE. It found that for both sedans and SUVs, at a variety of speeds, turning the A/C on (at medium power) gobbles up more fuel than driving with the windows down.
5. Using your cell phone while pumping gas can trigger an explosion.
I was once scolded by an aunt who was convinced that my checking my email while she filled her gas tank would engulf us both in fire.
The Federal Communications Commission investigated “rumors” that a wireless signal can ignite fuel vapors, and concluded: “There is no documented incident where the use of a wireless phone was found to cause a fire or explosion at a gas station,” and “scientific testing, however, has not established a dangerous link between wireless phones and fuel vapors.”