Car Care Myths Debunked

By Angela Monroe - February 3, 2021

Car Care Myths Debunked

There are so many tips and tricks when it comes to car care. 

Here are a few car care myths debunked:

1: Old headlights need replacing

Old headlights need replacing

You would have seen older car headlights with a yellowish fade. This is UV damage from the sun and can be easily fixed. Not only does it make cars look much older and in worse condition than they may be, but it also reduces vision at night.

Instead of replacing these faded headlights with expensive new ones, simply use a headlight restoration kit. There are even home remedies like extremely fine-grit sandpaper, car polish and even metal polish.

Typically, the older and more damaged the headlight surface is, the more thorough the restoration required. After you bring your headlights back to life, make sure to protect them with a film so that the sun damage doesn’t reoccur.

2: High-octane fuel is an expensive gimmick

High-octane fuel is an expensive gimmick

Saving money on petrol is a great idea. In fact, there are many ways to drive fuel efficiently and doing so can really add up dollars saved.

Common unleaded fuel options in Australia are 91, 95 and 98 octane ratings. The cost increases with the octane rating.

In a nutshell, the higher the number, the ‘cleaner’ the burn and more resistance to burning too early inside your engine it has. As there are many different car manufacturers, engines, driving styles and opinions, octane ratings are often a grey area.

It’s generally considered that a cleaner burn from a higher octane rated fuel can leave less carbon build-up compared to lower quality, cheaper fuel. Additionally, the more controllable burn offered by high-octane fuel results in a smoother running engine, especially for performance cars.

High-octane fuel also protects against engine knock. This is when air/fuel mixtures ignite without the sparkplug’s consent. Or more simply, pockets of fuel in the engine ignite when they’re not supposed to. This causes unwanted vibrations – knocking.

Check-in your owner’s manual or with a qualified mechanic, but many motorists report a smoother idle and more kilometres out of a tank when using premium fuel. If it’s safe in your car, do some experimenting with the KMS per tank to see what fuel works best for you.

3: You can wash your car with shampoo and detergent

Shampoo and detergent

Another grey area, car wash liquid. Some people prefer to use other household products like dishwashing liquid, shampoo or other detergents to wash their cars. 

Depending on the product, this can leave smears on your car or worse, degrade and eat away at your car’s clear coat. This can increase the risk of paint fade and may result in you needing panels repainted

Detergents have to be pretty tough when tasked with removing grease and burnt food stuck on dishes, the ‘power’ is often overkill for a car.

Car wash liquid manufacturers know this and make their products safe. Avoid any risk by using dedicated car wash liquid and clean water to wash your car.

Use a ceramic coating to protect your car’s paint even further.

5: Turning on the heater can cool the engine down

Turning on the heater can cool the engine down

Is your car suffering the classic summer breakdown: overheating? It is possible to slightly cool the engine down by turning on the heater.

This means when you see your engine temperature gauge going up, you turn on the heater inside the car and it blows some of that heat out. It’s true and can be a temporary solution – albeit, not a very nice one.

Using the heater on a hot Aussie summer day isn’t fun – or even very safe, so always make sure the windows are open. Ideally, you’d see your temperature gauge rising, turn on the heater with the windows down and, if possible, limp home or at least pullover.

Driving an overheated engine can burst radiator hoses, warp cylinders and the engine head gasket can crack – aka, a blown head gasket. Your check engine light will have a field day. The result is expensive repairs or thousands of dollars for replacing the engine. 

6: You can put water in your radiator

You can put water in your radiator

The green or possible blue liquid in your car’s radiator is coolant. It’s usually visible in its overflow reservoir when opening up the bonnet.

The coolant’s job is to flow around your engine and remove heat. It gets pumped through a series of hoses where it picks up engine heat and then onto the radiator where it cools. That’s why cars have radiators at the front – to benefit from the airflow needed to cool the hot coolant inside.

Coolant doesn’t have ‘special cooling powers’ over water but it does have two main advantages:

It’s formulated to boil slower and at a higher temperature than water.
This means that if your engine is cold, on a winter’s morning, for example, water will heat up too quickly and possibly damage engine parts as they change from cold to hot too quickly. If you’ve even seen ice cubes crack when you put them straight from the freezer into warm water, you’ll get the idea.

This is coolant’s biggest brag. The main reason for using coolant over water is that coolant will not corrode your engine. Remember, coolant flows through your engine to take heat away and this means flowing over hot, metal engine parts. 

Clean, distilled water may come close but coolant is formulated specifically for the job. 

If your car is extra low on coolant, topping it up with clean, distilled water may be a temporary solution and allow you to get to a mechanic safely.

Car Care Conclusion:

Car Care Conclusion

While there are many home remedies and quick-fix solutions for car care, they may do more damage than you realise.

Detergent to wash a car: just as you wouldn’t wash your dishes in a car wash, different chemicals are designed for different purposes.

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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