Car Myths Debunked

You’ve probably heard lots of car myths while you were growing up, whether they were passed down through generations or simply myths that everyone just accepts as true. One of the most enduring car myths out there is that cars should be started in the winter with their engines warm, but the science behind this urban legend doesn’t really add up. With a little help from your friendly neighborhood mechanic, we’re going to debunk some other common car myths below so you can make informed decisions when it comes to taking care of your vehicle.

Turning on the air conditioner is better for fuel economy than opening the windows.

There’s a common myth that running your car’s air conditioner is better for fuel economy than opening up your windows. But it’s not true, according to Edmunds. It may be more comfortable, but rolling down your windows lets in cool air and will help you get better gas mileage in hot weather. If you need to get used to driving with the windows down, try starting with a trip of 10 minutes or less at first—the noise and wind can make longer drives unpleasant until you get used to them.

You get more for your money when you fill your gas tank in the morning.

I’ve always been told that I get more gas for my money if I fill up in the morning, rather than when my tank is on E. At first glance, it seems to make sense—you’re getting a full tank of gas instead of an empty one. But there are two factors working against you here: fuel efficiency and physics.

Off-brand gas will hurt your car.

One of those car myths debunked is that using off-brand gas can hurt your car. The myth may have come from a time when consumers had trouble distinguishing among different brands; today, most gas stations offer a variety of grades, so there’s less concern about accidentally buying something terrible. Some off-brand fuels are even better than their popular counterparts, and they generally cost less.

Electric cars are more likely to catch fire after a crash than conventional cars.

We’ve been hearing about this myth for quite some time. Electric cars, because of their lithium batteries, are harder to extinguish if they catch fire, but they do not combust more frequently compared to gas powered ones. Data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), and government recall data from indicate that in 2020 for gasoline models, including hybrids that gain 100% of their energy directly from gasoline combustion in the engine. Considering gasoline cars along with hybrids (which also require gasoline), you are looking at over 215,000 fires in comparison to 52 for electric vehicles.

Premium fuel makes your non-premium car run better.

The Federal Trade Commission has stepped in, saying that a higher octane fuel may not improve performance. In fact, a car that requires premium fuel might damage an engine designed to run on regular. If your car doesn’t specifically say it runs on premium fuel, it can handle regular—and save you some cash at the pump while still giving you great performance. If your owner’s manual says it requires regular, premium will not give you more miles for your money either. More expensive gas isn’t purer or cleaner than the regular version. It is less combustible, which makes a difference for powerful engines, but has no effect in your car.