by Pep Sanchez
If you were asked how much water should you drink in a day, the answer would be fast and easy: eight. Or more accurately, eight of 8-ounce glass. Most folks take the “8x8” as fact, or at least reasonable. I mean, wasn’t this a recommendation of the Surgeon General sometime before?
(I’ll get to the car talk so bear with me)
But most nutritionist nowadays will say differently. Without going too much on the science details, minimum hydration will depend on a lot of factors, like your weight, lifestyle, activity level, even the climate where you live.
The point is: life is full of these factoids: assumptions or speculations that are reported and repeated so often that they have become accepted as fact and the automotive world has its own share of these.
(I'm talking about cars now, like promised)
Today we will look into a few popular car care tips, practices and beliefs, see how they became commonplace. and bust them with the truth! (or just know that they need to be taken with a grain of salt).
Part 1 will deal with two of the most common car maintenance topics that all car owners deal with.
Part 2, will cover two other car maintenance terms that made sense decades before but are still in used now.
Let’s dive in to Part 1
The Oil Change.
Most experts say that if there is one engine maintenance job car owners should not neglect to do is changing the oil. Engine oil provides lubricity, absorbs and carry away excess heat, and remove impurities within the engine. But engine oil, no matter how good (whether conventional or synthetic), will eventually get too dirty or cooked, at which point it will start to lose much of its desirable properties.
So how often should you change the oil? Easy again, just follow what's in the service manual of your vehicle. The period of time or number of miles that will mark the time you should do the task will vary with each make and model but it's always spelled out in the owner’s instructions.
But if the engineers have figured it all out and you should take OEM recommendations like gospel, where’s the fallacy there? Well, there’s some wiggle room for interpretation.
Engineers base their recommendations using driving averages. This means that the frequency of your oil change will also depend on your driving, your car and your driving situation, and there will be situations when you'll need to change the oil more frequently, or cases when you'll still be forgiven for a delayed oil change.
If you have an older car model, do almost exclusively city-driving (because the frequent starts and stops stress the engine more), red-line your rpm a lot, have a more complex engine system (like turbocharging or direct injections), or there’s a known long-term reliability issue with your car brand’s engine, -- then you’ll certainly need to do oil changes sooner and more often than recommended in order to extend the service life of your engine
Conversely, if you have a newer car model (especially of a reputable brand in terms of long-term reliability), or you get most of your mileage driving on the freeway (or maybe just the opposite of hardly putting miles at all), or if you are a very conservative driver -- then a larger interval than factory spec won’t do your car harm, at least not in the short term. Following OEM bare minimums is still recommended but all I’m saying is that don’t lose sleep if you found out you missed your scheduled oil change by a few months.
Last point on oil change, engine oil and having your local auto repair shop change your oil is a lot cheaper and more convenient than having your engine repaired, rebuilt or replaced. If you can afford it, change your oil a little more often than required. Your engine will thank you for it.
Premium vs Regular
Does your car need premium gas to run properly? Does premium gas provide better performance benefits over regular gas? Most car owners would think so and we can thank years of effective marketing from our big-name gasoline brands for that.
We’ve heard about the “high-octane engine performance” that premium fuel purportedly brings but what is it all about? A quick talk on what octane rating is in order.
Without going too science-y again: the higher the octane, the more resistant the fuel is to self-ignition when subjected to high compression. This is because a higher compression ratio makes for a hotter air-fuel mix. An air-fuel mixture that prematurely ignites in the cylinders (even before the spark plugs get the chance to ignite the mix) is called a “knock” and it can break an engine. So higher octane fuel is usually recommended for turbocharged or supercharged engines. These systems would need higher octane fuel to achieve their best performance and avoid self-destruction.
On the other hand, numerous third-party tests and even the Department of Energy have repeatedly shown that higher-octane fuel used in engines designed for lower-octane regular fuel (like the naturally-aspirated engines found in most passenger cars) do not bring any perceivable performance enhancements. At best, you’re only throwing money away getting the more expensive premium gasoline. At worst, using the less-flammable fuel would not only reduce performance but some expert also suggest that the unburnt fuel could trickle into the engine oil, diluting the oil, and over time, make the oil less effective. In turn, this would lead to premature wear-and-tear of the engine.
The best fuel-grade for your car is still whatever is recommended by the OEM.
Tomorrow, we’ll shed some light on a few more car care practices that may very well be auto repair and maintenance faux-pas.