Busting the common car maintenance myths

Amy Bairstow
Amy Bairstow
Busting the common car maintenance myths

Every man and his dog seems to have a tip to keep your car running like a dream. Sometimes, though, these maintenance tips are as useful as a spoiler on a street sweeper. We previously covered some commonly shared car myths, and today we’re busting the most common car maintenance myths you might’ve come across.

Let’s debunk!

Myth #1: Car batteries need to be replaced every couple of years

This is a persistent myth that simply isn’t true for most modern car batteries. A battery’s lifespan can vary depending on factors like the charging system and the climate. Driving patterns will also have an effect on lifespan. For example, if you take frequent short trips this may not provide enough time for the battery to recharge. However, most modern batteries will last significantly longer than just a couple of years.

Typical lithium car batteries could give you anywhere between three and six years of performance with proper maintenance, while it’s now standard for EV car batteries to come with an eight or even ten year warranty. So we call this one busted.

Myth #2: You should always disconnect your car battery if you’re going away

While this used to be standard practice when storing a vehicle, the introduction of electronics has made this tip a little more complex. In modern vehicles, disconnecting the battery can result in a loss of settings in the engine control unit (ECU). The results can range from losing radio preferences, to changing how the car drives and performs.

As an alternative, you can fully charge the battery before storing the vehicle and either ask someone to run the car regularly or use a trickle charger to maintain the charge. In some cases, it might still be worth disconnecting the battery for longer periods of time. As they say, YMMV (your miles may vary) depending on the make, model and situation.

Myth #3: Electric vehicles don’t require maintenance

Dude, where's my engine?
Dude, where's my engine?

While it’s true that EV owners can forego lots of the upkeep that comes with an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), there is still some maintenance to factor in. You can forget about spark plugs, air filters and timing belts with full EVs, which can save you a pretty penny over the car’s lifetime. However, there are still elements to maintain such as cooling systems, braking systems and electronics.

As such, EVs will have either annual or kilometre-based servicing schedules - similar to ICE vehicles.

Myth #4: You need to replace all your tyres at the same time

Once more, there’s a bit more complexity behind this common maintenance myth. Your best tyre replacement schedule will of course depend on wear and tear, which tends to occur unevenly on many cars. The best bet is to keep an eye on your tread (and the tread wear indicators), and find a trustworthy tyre service who can advise you when it’s time to replace your tyres.

Getting your tyres rotated and balanced regularly can help you get the best from your tyres and optimise your grip on the road surface. It’s also important to inflate your tyres correctly. Speaking of which…

Myth #5: Tyres should be inflated to the number on the side of the tyre

This is another car maintenance myth that’s…ahem… a little tyred. The numbers you see on the tyre’s sidewall are the maximum inflation pressure rather than the recommended inflation pressure. Overinflation is bad because it can lower traction, wear tyres unevenly and ultimately cause dangerous blow-outs. Instead, check for the recommended pressure on the placard which will be located on one of the front door openings. This typically indicates the cold tyre pressure, so it’s best to inflate your tyres before you’ve been driving for long.

Myth #6: You need to regularly top up your blinker fluid

This is plain and simple, a fool’s errand prank and a beloved dad joke. This long-running gag has been the bane of many a new car owner. Ditto any suggestions for fresh elbow grease or left-handed screwdrivers. So if your friend, family member or - even worse, your mechanic - tries to suggest you replenish your blinker fluid, just smile knowingly and ask if they've also got a nice bridge to sell you while they're at it.

Myth #7: Maintaining a pre-owned car costs more than maintaining a new one

It doesn’t take long to realise this isn’t a given. Of course, running costs vary wildly based on the make, model and year of your car. A used Mazda 2 is unlikely to cost as much to service and repair as a brand new luxury drive, for example. Some of the important maintenance factors to look at include service costs, fuel efficiency and type, the costs of parts, and insurance premiums. So don’t rule out buying pre-owned if you’re looking at a new set of wheels, because you could actually save yourself a bundle.

To wrap things up...

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