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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a myth can be defined as a widely held but false belief or idea. Some myths are outdated ideas that continue when people do not update themselves with the latest information. Others can be complete fallacies that are perpetuated because they “sound” right. Without further ado, we take a look at 5 common car myths and the explanations and solutions for them:
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1. Old cars should not or cannot use synthetic oil. This is a prevailing myth that may have been true decades ago when oil-makers did not pay attention to seal compatibility which could have caused brittleness or even leakage. However, assuming a well-formulated blend, you can use synthetic oil. Engine oil consists of 2 things: Base oils & additives. If you remove the additives from base oil, synthetic base oils are superior due to the man-made properties it has over mineral oils. They will always perform better under heat and get you better fuel consumption and keep your engine cleaner in the long run. The smoothness of the engine is also a nice bonus.
2. Using a higher octane fuel will always make your car faster. In Malaysia, petrol uses an octane rating called RON (Research Octane Number). RON is derived from the comparison of a fuel’s performance to a mixture of iso-octane and n-heptane. For example, if a fuel is found to perform in a similar way to a mixture of 95 per cent iso-octane and 5 per cent n-heptane, it is given the rating of RON 95. However, a fuel’s octane rating only determines its capability to withstand heat before pre-ignition. If your car was never designed to run high octane fuel, you will not gain much from using higher octane fuel as the engine is already running at maximum efficiency at the recommended fuel. The engine will run smoother and cleaner because RON 97 is refined to a higher quality than 95, but not measurably faster.
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3. Tap water is okay for engines. In general, tap water is horrible for engines because of the impurities it may contain. The minerals inherent in tap water (depending on your tap water’s purity) can result in iron block engines rusting slowly over time due to the chemical reactions it produces with iron. Besides that, the minerals can harden and clog your radiator. Coolant will slow the rusting down due to its rust inhibitors, but it is always recommended to use distilled water and coolant. Besides, distilled water is pretty cheap at most hypermarkets.
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4. Old cars are safer/stronger than new ones. This is also another myth that’s been around or a while. Older cars may seem stronger due to the use of thicker, heavier parts when automakers did not have the knowledge or materials we do today. Older car designs were not created to dissipate energy from a crash the same way modern cars are. Modern cars are designed with specific crumple zones that are designed to absorb the impact of a crash, dissipate the inertia, and send it away from the cabin area so that the shock of the impact (especially to occupants) are lessened. Besides that, newer technology such as well-fitted airbags help to mitigate the shock of a crash even more.
5. Modifications have no appreciable benefit to a car. Generally, most people’s ideas about modification tend towards those they see in movies like “Fast and Furious” where cars are just modified for speed and throw comfort and fuel economy out the window. This can be true if you’re planning to win races, but for the everyday driver, small modifications can help your car guzzle less fuel and gain more power. For example, most modern cars use in-car computers to control fuel combustion by the engine (also known as electronic control units or ECUs). Most modern cars’ ECUs can be reflashed (updating the programme) so that the engine is optimized to run more efficiently than fresh from the factory. The reason why manufacturers do not already do this is so that their cars will comply with fuel and emission standards. However, once you have your car and if the warranty period is over, you can choose carefully selected modifications to increase the longevity of a car (better oils, oil coolers, transmission coolers), as well as to gain fuel economy (engine reflashes, drop in filters, exhausts, specific economically-designed tires) which enable your car to run better. You can even get better braking performance by upgrading your brake components so that braking is smoother. Better yet, these modifications are all reversible if you want to sell the car off as a stock car.