How much do you know about your car – and what’s good (and bad) for it?
Take this quick quiz and see!
* Regular vs. premium gas?
Some cars require premium; others merely recommend it.
Which should you use?
If your owner’s manual says the engine requires premium fuel, it means is designed to deliver the rated horsepower (and fuel economy) using premium. But you can use regular (and mid-grade) without hurting anything. You may notice a slight dip in fuel economy – but it’s not likely this will be enough to offset the 20-40 cents more per gallon that premium will cost you ($3-$6 more per tank, assuming a 15 gallon fill-up).
As far as horsepower: Yes, your engine – if it’s a “premium fuel only” engine – will make less than the advertised maximum, as the engine’s computer will alter certain parameters (such as ignition timing) to adjust for the lower octane fuel. But unless you’re doing time 0-60 runs or testing the engine’s maximum output on a dyno – it is not likely you will notice any difference in real-world/everyday driving.
Conversely, if the engine was designed to run regular unleaded – which is lower octane, not lower quality – and you feed it premium (higher octane fuel) all you’re doing is burning up money and wasting fuel, as the engine will deliver lower fuel economy and you’ll be paying 20-40 cents more per gallon.
* Are “high-performance” tires better than standard all-season tires?
If by better you mean lasts longer, you definitely do not want high-performance tires (often marketed as “sport” or “summer” tires) which wear much faster. Not uncommonly, 50 percent faster than all-season tires. They are also usually noisier, awful in the winter and tend to make the car’s ride noticeably harsher.
On the other hand, if you fit your car with performance tires, it will feel more agile; steering response will be sharper, the car will be able to take corners at higher speeds without losing grip (or the tires squealing) and stopping distances will be reduced.
Which of these attributes you value the most will help you decide which tire type is the one for you.
* Should you let your car “warm up” for a few minutes in the morning before driving off?
The answer is – no!
Cars built since then are all fuel-injected and fuel-injected cars don’t have chokes (as the older, pre-’85 cars with carburetors did) and so are ready to drive as soon as you start them up. Prolonged idling only wastes fuel and actually increases the time it takes for systems such as the heater to begin working.
It’s still good policy to drive gently for the first five minutes or so, though.
While modern engines are pretty much ready to go as soon as you turn the ignition key (or hit the starter button), other driveline components – such as manual transmissions, axles, wheel bearings and so on – will still be grateful to you if you take it easy until they warm up a little.
* Should you run the AC in the winter?
For two very practical reasons. The first is that by turning the AC on when it’s cold, you will cause lubricant to circulate within the AC system, which will keep internal seals pliable and keep the refrigerant from leaking past those seals. Which will improve the odds that – come next summer – you will not find out that your AC system is blowing nothing but warm air, because all the refrigerant escaped over the winter.
The second reason to turn on the AC is to help dehumidify the interior – specifically, the windshield. If your car has automatic climate control, the AC will do this (come on) automatically but if your car has manual AC it may be necessary to manually push an “AC” button to get things going – so you can see where you’re going.
* Is oil “just oil”?
The answer is – no!
Use of oil that doesn’t meet the specs can lead to mechanical problems that will not be covered by your car’s warranty. This should put into perspective saving a few bucks on a case of “on sale” oil.
Also: be sure to use only oil filters that meet the manufacturer’s requirements. A below-spec filter can really cause problems – and those problems would also not be covered by the warranty.
Tip: If you have your oil changed by a non-dealer be sure to check that they use the right type of oil and filter (and that it is listed on your paperwork). And be sure to check the dipstick yourself after they are done – and before you drive away. Some quickie-lube places have been known to over or under-fill the crankcase – which can have catastrophic consequences.
* Are drive-through washes safe?
While there may still be a few of the old-school car washes left that use brushes to scour the dirt off your car (and with it, the paint) most modern car washes are “brushless” – they use fabric strips that kind of mop the dirt off, very much as you would if you were washing the car by hand. They have the additional advantage of using high-pressure water in great abundance to get most of the heavy dirt off without even touching the finish.
Drive-through washes also usually offer underbody spray – either standard or extra. This is worth doing – and worth paying a little extra for – if you live in a state where road salt (which accelerates rust) is used in the winter time.
It’s a lot easier than trying to do the same thing on your hands and knees with a garden hose!
If you value independent media, please support independent media. We depend on you to keep the wheels turning!
Our donate button is here.
If you prefer to avoid PayPal, our mailing address is:
721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079
PS: EPautos stickers are free to those who sign up for a $5 or more monthly recurring donation to support EPautos, or for a one-time donation of $10 or more. (Please be sure to tell us you want a sticker – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)