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Car Myths Debunked For Good

Does more horsepower always equal more speed? Are lifetime fluids really for a lifetime? These and many more car myths debunked.

The Ever Changing Car Myth

With thousands of vehicles to choose from, numerous decades and eras, and technology changing faster than it ever has before, it’s no wonder that so many car myths prevail today. Add in the fact that drivers seem to be less and less interested in driving skillfully and it’s easy to see why people still fall for things like the old blinker fluid trick. Nevertheless, we’ve compiled five car myths we think most people, even some car people, still believe. Let’s take a deep dive into debunking some of the most hard-to-kill car and driving myths around.

Horsepower Makes For The Faster Car

KTM X-Bow RR - ktm.com
KTM X-Bow RR - ktm.com

The fastest drag racers on the planet can travel a quarter of a mile in just under four seconds. Much of that speed comes down to the 11,000 horsepower being pumped out of its supercharged engine. Beyond specialized usage cases like straight-line speed, fast comes down to a lot more than simple horsepower.

Today, many cars have more than 500 horsepower, and yet they aren’t always the fastest. In 2012, a car called the KTM X-Bow RR lapped the famous Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 25 seconds. That’s notable because it did that with just 355 horsepower. That time is faster than the 2009 Chevy Corvette ZR-1 with its 638 horsepower that completed the same lap in 7:26. How could a car with nearly twice the horsepower be slower? Weight, aerodynamics, and suspension play a large role too. The Corvette weighs more than 3,200 pounds while the KTM tips the scales at just 1,800. The point? Horsepower matters, but it’s not as important as most believe.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Burn Hydrogen

Hydrogen is famously flammable and considering how plentiful it is around the Earth, it seems to be a no-brainer when it comes to sustainable fuel. Nevertheless, the process that takes place in a Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) car is far more complex than simply burning the Hydrogen itself to create power.

HFC vehicles actually don’t burn the hydrogen at all. Hydrogen happens to be the perfect molecule to use in a fuel cell. Using an anode and a cathode, the hydrogen has its protons and electrons separated. That separation and the flow created as a result provides the electric motor with power. There are some big benefits to HFC vehicles too, including a quick refill time, no batteries, and quiet operation.

Lifetime Fluids Are Truly Lifetime

Pouring transmission fluid
Pouring transmission fluid

Brands like BMW, Ford, and Toyota all tout lifetime fluids in components like transmissions or power transfer units. That sure sounds like a fantastic solution to that a long-held problem, expensive maintenance. Still, it seems that in practice, “lifetime” might not be what most think of when they hear that word.

BMW for example rates many of their transmission fluids as having a “lifetime fill” of fluid. The truth of the matter is that BMW only covers them up until 100,000 miles. Interestingly enough, ZF, the company that builds the transmission for BMW, rates the “lifetime” transmission fluid at 8 years or 50,000 miles. Ford, Mazda, Toyota, and others have similar stories for similar components as well. Buyers should always do their research to be sure that their components stay in tip-top shape when it comes to fluid maintenance.

Electric Vehicles Catch Fire More Than ICE Vehicles

EV with battery pack
EV with battery pack

This is a car myth that’s probably newer than any other on our list and of course, that’s in part due to the fact that electric vehicles are a fairly recent development (but are they?). Nevertheless, like many car myths, this one has a seed of truth to it that might be the cause for its growth. When an EV catches on fire and the battery is a part of that fire, they tend to be much harder to put out. That means that the fire lasts longer, damages more of the car, and is often much more highly publicized.

Internal combustion cars are actually more likely to catch on fire according to a study by Tesla using data from the US Federal Highway Administration. This is most likely due to the fact that many car fires can be fairly brief and inconsequential. When batteries get involved in fire, things can get hot and stay hot for a long while. It’s not confined to cars either. Many will remember all the cell phone fires associated with faulty batteries just a few years ago.

Electric Cars Are A New Thing

1996 GM EV1 - media.gm.com
1996 GM EV1 - media.gm.com

Electric cars have actually been around for a long time. Many may remember the GM EV-1 of the mid-90s. It was the first mass-produced electric vehicle from a major manufacturer in the modern era, and it wasn’t too bad either. Depending on how it was outfitted, the GM EV-1 could go anywhere from 55 to 105 or so miles on a single charge. Of course, it was famously killed off by the company when they recalled all of them and destroyed them.

Before the EV-1 though, many car companies tried electric cars when the automobile was just becoming a part of life for those at the turn of the century. The Baker Electric was invented and sold to the public more than 100 years ago. It was actually Thomas Edison’s first vehicle. President Taft bought one as well and the company had plans to invest in electrified infrastructure to support their products. Nevertheless, gasoline-powered vehicles ultimately won the battle and the rest is history.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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1 Comment

  1. David Geist October 6, 2021

    The myth of the 10,000 or 15,000 mile oil change is likely the worst followed by the “i can only use 0w-20” myth.
    ALL oil regardless of how much you got suckered into paying collects moisture, gasoline, and acids and how often you need to change it depends on your climate, driving conditions, and driving style NOT some random number cooked up by Greenpeace an the EPA.
    So yes some vehicles still need to change oil every 3,000 miles.
    While most can go up to 5,000 miles.
    And the one viscosity myth also needs to go away since as always you need to use the right viscosity for YOUR climate and driving conditions.
    Those who live in the snow belt may indeed need to use a 0w-20 or 5w-20 oil in the winter months then go back to 0w-30 or 5w-30 in the summer.
    Those who live in the hot southern states and deserts may need to run a 10w-30 year round in that same engine.
    The oil printed on the filler cap is only to meet the EPA fleet mileage requirements and is NEVER the best oil to use in all climates and driving conditions


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