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6 Car Myths That Cost You Money Every Year

#3. Get Regular Engine Tuneups

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The Myth:

Engine tuneups help keep your car running at peak performance and should be done regularly by your mechanic to extend the life of your engine. If you don't get a full tuneup every six months, your vehicle will fold into itself and implode. And is there anything worse than that? The sudden absence of a useable car is like waking up one morning to find that your wallet's been stolen and you've suddenly lost access to both of your feet just below the ankles.

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"Can't go on ... six feet too much ..."

The Reality:

Most "engine tuneups" are just an expensive way to get your spark plugs and air filter replaced. You see, old cars had a lot of different components working in a precarious balance. Things like ignition timing, idle adjustment and air-fuel mixture all needed to be within a certain range to operate optimally. Getting a knowledgeable mechanic, or a drunken uncle who "swears he 'members how to do this," to tune these things on a regular basis prevented your engine from getting too far out of whack.

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"No, I said 'beer.' What the hell am I going to do with that?"

Today, however, everything is controlled by your car's computer and can't actually be changed at all without buying a new chip. While it's probably prudent to have a mechanic check your car every 50,000 miles or so to gauge the state of your spark plugs, belts and fluids, and to make sure that raccoons aren't nesting in your turbo booster, your engine's computer can handle the month-to-month: It checks everything millions of times per second anyway, making fine adjustments and tweaks automatically for best performance.

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"Human extermination sequence: Activated."

#2. Winterize Your Car

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The Myth:

Due to the brutal conditions that winter months put your car through, many mechanics recommend you bring it in for winterization so they can replace your fluids with cold-weather-resistant ones. You're also going to need new fuzzy dice; the pink ones are only for summer. They got some blue winter dice in the back, but they'll run you about two hundos. Better safe, though, right?

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"Got a nice parka we could install on your hula girl if you don't mind payin' the extra."

The Reality:

With the exception of putting on snow tires and adjusting your tire pressure, your car is ready to go. This myth is another carry-over from olden times when men were men, women were sexy steak dispensers and engine oil was a lot simpler than today. For example, it used to be that you used one grade of oil in the summer and another during the winter. That's because oil gets thicker when it's cold and thinner when it's warm. So a summer oil (like SAE #30) would be too viscous during the winter, and a winter oil (like SAE #5) would be too thin for the summer, necessitating you to change oil with the seasons.

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"We're gonna need a bigger cap to fit all of that on there."

Nowadays, oil is designed to function in both summer and winter, because some genius fluid engineer at some point figured out that seasons are things that just keep happening. That's actually why modern oil grades are hyphenated, such as 5W-30. That means it works as both 5 and 30 grade oil (the "W" stands for "winter" and not "weight," as is popularly believed). As for engine coolant, unless you're living pretty far north, even summer coolants are rated to -34 degrees Fahrenheit. And if you find yourself saying, "Well, it gets way colder than that here," you need to shut up. Not because you're wrong, or bad, but because talking uses breath, and breath is heat escaping your body. The only way you'll live to see another beautiful Sasketchewanese sunrise is to conserve that warmth in grim, grim silence, friend.

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Seriously, just pack your shit and move to -- oh. OK. Hey, never mind us; you do your thing.

#1. High-Octane Gasoline Is Better for Your Engine

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The Myth:

Using premium or super-grade gasoline will give you more power and better mileage, and make your engine run smoother. Think about it: paychecks, simultaneous sexual partners, amount of successive fights you've won against crocodiles -- bigger numbers are always better.

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Fuck off, kid. Nobody likes a smartass.

The Reality:

With the exception of a small percentage of automobiles that require high-octane fuel, using plus or premium-grade gas won't do anything for your car. High-compression engines like those found in sports cars require high-octane gas, but not for the reason you might think, which is to go from "fun" to "funnest" as fast as possible. It's because those engines like to squeeze the gas and air in a super tight piston-driven bear hug, and the gas can sometimes get too excited and prematurely explode inside the engine (presumably while muttering shameful apologies into its shoulder). When this happens, it causes a phenomenon known as detonation or "knocking." Even though the engine tries to reassure the gas that it's perfectly natural and isn't anything to be ashamed of, it still wouldn't mind if the gasoline got a little help with its "staying power," which comes in the form of higher octane ratings.

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Wait, what were we talking about again?

The vast majority of cars, however, use lower compression engines, so knocking isn't an issue with regular gas. Using higher grades won't make your engine run smoother, won't give you more power, won't improve your gas mileage and sure as hell won't make everybody in high school who makes fun of your hand-me-down Geo Metro sorry. The octane rating is purely a measure of how well the gas will resist knocking and has nothing to do with energy content.

In fact, as many gas stations now add 10 percent ethanol to their gas (pure ethanol sports a beastly octane rating of 113, but actually has 34 percent less energy than gasoline), the overall octane rating is usually two or three points higher than what the label says anyway; i.e., 87 gas is actually closer to 90 with 10 percent ethanol added. That means that even if your highfalutin, special-needs engine requires 89, you might be able to use 87 rated E10 in total safety. Plus, that way, you'd be stickin' it to The Man, who keeps tryin' to tell you what numbers you can and can't use. Who does he think he is, The Count? You go ahead and stick your 87 octane right in his craw and pump it until it goes "click."

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Or do what we do, and just kind of taunt your car with it. It learns respect that way.

When Chris isn't trying to look under your hood, he writes for his website and tweets.

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