To an amateur (like me), auto maintenance sometimes seems like a dark art. If you ask ten different people a question about a cabin air filter, you’ll get eight different answers and two confused stares. A lot of the car-care information bouncing around in the public discourse is outdated and even plain wrong. I would tell you to read your owner’s manual from cover to cover and refer to it faithfully, as it contains the best information for keeping your car in great shape. But you probably won’t do that. So, here are a few common maintenance myths.
Change your oil every 5,000 kilometres
If you asked most people 10, or even five years ago, they would probably tell you to change your oil every 5,000 kilometres. But that’s not really the case anymore. But our engines, and the oil they use, are constantly improving. Most cars use partially synthetic oil and many use full synthetic oil. These products last far longer than conventional oil. The engines using them are more efficient, too. Considering all of these factors, how often should you change your oil?
Well, as with most aspects of vehicle maintenance, it’s best to trust your owner’s manual. It will give you a good recommendation – often around 7,500 kilometres. If you’re using full synthetic oil, it will be closer to 10,000. Although, you must remember that driving habits affect those estimates. If you have a lot of cold starts, accelerate aggressively, drive quickly, or drive through dust and smog, you will need to change your oil more frequently.
You should Idle your car to warm it up
Look outside your front window on a weekday morning in winter and you’re bound to see a few ice-encrusted vehicles idling in a cloud of exhaust. Some of those vehicles will idle for longer than it takes to commute. Old wisdom used to support this kind of behaviour. That’s because old engines needed to warm up before reaching peak efficiency – especially in colder conditions. Modern engines, however, don’t require prolonged idling.
In extreme cold conditions, you should only idle your engine for roughly a minute. Beyond that, idling provides no benefit. Moreover, its detrimental to the environment. As long as your windows and mirrors are clear, you’re fine to begin driving. It’s the best way to warm up your engine. Just don’t accelerate hard or drive too quickly right off the start.
Idling will recharge your battery after it dies
We’ve all suffered from a dead battery once or twice. And, after receiving a boost, we’ve all been told to let the car idle for around 30 minutes to let the alternator recharge the battery. Your engine idles at low RPM. The power generated is insufficient to recharge a dead battery. If you want to recharge your battery, your engine should be running at 2000 RPM. That’s most easily achieved by driving at highway speeds.
However, no amount of driving will restore a dead battery as effectively as a multi-stage battery charger. These inexpensive devices are designed to restore your battery to maximum capacity, they monitor the health of your battery and actively adjust the current to guarantee the best charge. An alternator cannot do this, and will never properly recharge your battery. So, if you’re worried about the health of your battery, invest in a proper charger.
You should fill your tires up to the number on the sidewall
Some people fill their tires to the air pressure listed on the sidewall of their tires. This is wrong. That number is the maximum pressure under which the tire can support your vehicle’s load. Instead, you should heed the tire pressure number listed in your vehicle’s door jamb, your tire manufacturers pamphlet, and (unless you’re not using recommended tires) your owner’s manual. This air pressure has been tested to deliver the best braking, handling, fuel economy, and safety.