Do You Know the Truths About These Common Car Myths?

Zoe Samuel

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

There are certain careers that share a strange quirk; people who don't know anything about the field think they're experts in it. Ask anyone who writes for a living, tells jokes or holds any sort of public office.

Mechanics don't usually face this problem. It's generally understood that cars are complicated machines. Even electric cars, which are simpler inside, contain electronics that you need an advanced degree to understand. That's why non-mechanics usually get that beyond checking tire pressure and oil levels, replacing the occasional tire or windshield wiper, or knowing that depending on your vehicle, you can ignore some specific warning lights for at least the first 30 miles, if you're not a mechanic, you don't know enough about cars to make authoritative statements about how they work.

Of course, not everyone is so modest, and some profess to expertise they don't have. That's a recipe for an awful lot of fake facts floating around with very little to challenge them. Add in the fact that Hollywood and media generally tend to make cars and driving look way more exciting than they are by taking liberties with the laws of physics, and it's the perfect storm.

Have you fallen for the commonest car myths? Let's find out!

Are manual transmissions more fuel efficient?

Times change and so does technology. Even a good driver probably won't get more mileage out of a manual car any more.

When you buy a new car, how long before the engine is "run in"?

New cars do not need to be run in. Older cars had to be coddled a little for the first 10,000 miles or their engines might break.

What size car is safest in a crash?

Size doesn't really matter in a crash; indeed, some big cars are worse because they are more prone to roll. What matters is how good the measures like airbags, crumplezones, and chassis strength are.

Which wastes more fuel; idling, or the moment of ignition?

These days, cars use fuel injection. This means that ignition is no more wasteful than idling. Of course, get an electric car and neither is an issue.

Does jet fuel help a regular car perform better?

Jet fuel is a very special mix and much more energy dense. However, it won't help your car. Your car simply isn't built to take advantage of it.

Which brand of car has the nastiest drivers?

It's true; BMW drivers are statistically the most unlikely to let a pedestrian cross. It's not clear if they do everything else unpleasantly, too.

How long should you warm your car's engine on a cold day?

Again, modern cars don't care about this. Once you get the ice off the windows, you can just get going ... as long as the car will actually start.

If you shoot your car, will it really explode?

Don't try this; you'll just ruin your car for no reason. It won't explode, so all you will have is a very silly-looking car.

What happens if you only replace one tire at once?

Nothing happens. If one tire is bad, replace it. Check the others for wear; if they're all good, then carry on!

Which color car is pulled over the most, proportionately?

Red cars are not pulled over more, contrary to popular myth. It's possible people think they are because they are simply more noticeable at the roadside.

Which is better for fuel economy, using the AC or opening the windows?

The AC uses more fuel, sure - but opening the windows creates a whole load of drag. So you might as well be comfortable! There was actually a "Mythbusters" episode about this.

Which creates more drag when driving a truck: tailgate up or down?

The tailgate down actually creates more drag. This is due to the cross-section of a truck as compared to an aerofoil, when in transit.

If you're about to hit a large animal like a moose, why might you accelerate?

This is obviously a ridiculous idea. IF you hit a large object, whether a moose or anything else, then F = ma still applies. That is, since "m" (mass) is constant, the lower you can get "a" (acceleration), the lower "F") force will be. And trust us, you REALLY don't want a moose hitting the windshield.

Can you start a car fire by attaching a wet squeegee to the battery?

Walter White did this in "Breaking Bad," and it works. It's incredibly dangerous; don't do it (even if you are secretly running a meth lab, like in the show).

Can you cause an explosion if you use your cellphone while pumping gas?

Of course you can't do this; there's no mechanism to make it work. However, smoking while pumping gas certainly can kill you and everyone around you, so don't do that. If your hands need occupying, get out your phone.

Does premium fuel make a regular car perform at premium levels?

Cars aren't like people; you can't improve them simply by improving the fuel you power them with. If the car sucks, better fuel will not help, sorry!

Is there a car out there that runs on water?

An electric car can run on wave power if the grid is supplied that way, but that's not water; that's kinetic energy. A certain kind of car can run on hydrogen, though, which is part of water.

How far can you drive on an "empty" tank?

Some cars will do less, but if you're a careful driver you should be able to squeeze up to 30 miles out of an "empty" tank. This is because the gauge is not precise and the engineers figured some of us would try our luck!

Is gasoline cheaper or more expensive in the mornings?

The myth is that gasoline is denser in colder temperatures, thus you get more for your money in the morning. It's nonsense, sadly.

Who designed the first car?

Leonardo wasn't just an artist, he was an engineer. He designed a lot of things, most of which wouldn't work, but his design for a car/tank-like hybrid creation isn't actually that bad.

How many horses are equal to 1 horsepower?

Depending on the horse, a horse is up to 14 horsepower. That's because James Watt, inventor of the steam engine, had a bet with a horse owner that they would only buy his engine if it could beat a horse. Knowing they'd bring a powerful horse, he made his best engine. Still, a really strong horse can exert about 14 horsepower. 1 horsepower is 746 watts.

If you're being shot at, can you hide behind your car door?

Really, really, do not try this. The bullet will go straight through the car. You can hide, but if they figure out you're there and shoot anyway, you're in trouble. Hollywood has lied to us all, we're sad to say.

How fast can a Formula One car drive upside down?

Obviously there's no space for certain pieces of the car, but if you just flip the chassis over, they will work upside down. Don't try this though, unless it's your Formula One car and you have millions of dollars to throw away on a joke.

Which is better to avoid distracted driving: automatic or manual?

It was believed once that manual was worse because it makes you think about the car more. However automatic is actually worse because it leaves just enough brain-space to THINK you can do other things, but not enough to actually do them.

What was special about the inventor of cruise control?

Ralph Teetor, a blind man, was the inventor of cruise control. This makes sense, since obviously if you can't judge distance, it's handy for the car to help out!

Is off-brand gasoline better or worse for your car?

You can economize here. There are some fancy bits and bobs, in terms of supposedly cleaning chemicals, to be found in fancy gasoline but it's not a significant difference.

Which kind of distracted driving is most dangerous, in terms of accidents caused per year?

Sleepy drivers kill the most in absolute terms. However, texters cause the most accidents. This may be because these days, drunk and high driving are both extremely taboo. However, if you see your friend about to drive while too tired to see straight, please, TAKE THEIR KEYS! Call them a cab; they'll thank you after a nap.

How much faster are police cars than regular cars?

Police cars aren't magic. They're also not worse than other cars. The reason they're faster is because police have advanced licenses and practice driving them really fast.

Which is more likely to burst into flames, an electric or a gasoline car?

Gasoline is flammable, but so are batteries. Actually statistically, though, neither kind of car is more likely to burst into flames.

How much more range does your keyfob have if you blip it close to your head?

The key (ahem) is to put the keyfob under your chin. This will use the fluid in your body to amplify the signal. We know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but we triple-checked it and it's actually true!

Under normal driving conditions, which has better mileage, a Prius or a BMW M3?

Top Gear tried to prove that it was the BMW M3, but their test conditions were more akin to racing. Under normal conditions such as you will enjoy day to day, the Prius will kick the heck out of the BMW.

In which direction does a dirty car affect fuel economy?

Yep, it reduces it! It's like barnacles on a ship or hairs on the leg of Michael Phelps; it creates drag.

What bad thing can result from "topping off" your gas tank?

The pump cut you off for a reason. "Topping off" to fill up a bit more will spill fuel into the charcoal canister that's in there to absorb vapor and thus emissions. It wastes time and money, and hurts the environment!

How often do you need to change your oil?

The myth that you need to do this at 3,000-mile intervals is expensive! You really, really don't. Be lazier!

What trick is used to fit all those clowns into a clown car?

There's no trick. You just strip the interior then put the clowns in. If they don't mind squashing up nice and close, you'll get a lot of clowns in there. The real question is, why would you want to? (And the real answer is, because it's awesome.)

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