We all know that servicing your car and keeping it in good condition is important, but there are some things that every car owner should know. When it comes to maintaining your car, there are many misconceptions which, despite even the best intentions, can lead to you spending more than is necessary or even compromising your safety. Here are some common myths about cars:

How often should I change the oil in my car?

The first myth is the one that is the unwritten rule to change the oil in your car every 4 000 – 5 000km. This is in fact untrue – for some cars the oil can last up to about 20 000km. Therefore, you don’t need to stress about oil changes; just follow the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. However, do check your oil frequently – in most cars, by the time the ‘low oil’ light comes on, damage can already be done to the engine. Older cars, and high performance vehicles, tend to use more oil and will require more frequent top-ups.

Does the aircon use more petrol?

There has been much debate about whether to drive with the air conditioner on or keep the windows open in order to save petrol. Using the air conditioner does put more load on the engine, but in modern cars there is only a very slight decrease in fuel economy. Opening the windows rather than using the air conditioner has no measurable difference – although driving with open windows increases the aerodynamic drag of the vehicle.

Recharging a flat battery

Another common myth is that if you jumpstart a car with a flat battery, it will recharge the battery immediately. This is unfortunately not necessarily the case. While a sufficient charge to restart the car in the normal way can be built up in 15 minutes or less, there is no rule: it could take several hours of running the engine to restore the battery. Various factors are at play, including the condition of the battery, the temperature, a potential problem with the alternator (which charges the battery) and just how depleted the battery is. If you do have to jumpstart your car, establish what led the battery to deplete. If you are unsure, a test at a service station will help determine the problem.

Servicing the car

This is an important one. The myth that you have to get your car serviced at a dealership is untrue. As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner’s manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop (as long as the specialist dealer has the correct equipment and knowledge). Be cautious though, as this might impact on the service or maintenance plan of the vehicle, if you have one in place.

Dishwashing liquid to wash your car

It is a myth that dishwashing liquid is a suitable detergent with which to wash your car. Dishwashing liquid can strip off a car’s wax finish, damaging the paint in the longer term. Rather use a car shampoo which is especially formulated to clean a vehicle.

Tyre pressure

Tyre pressure levels are crucial not only for the longevity of your car’s tyres, but also for your personal safety when driving. Check tyre pressures regularly at the petrol station. If you don’t know the correct inflation pressures, look on the inside of the driver’s door jamb or under the fuel filler flap for a tyre pressure chart. If you can’t find one, refer to the owner’s manual.  Always inflate the tyres to the correct pressure for your car’s load situation and tyres. It can be dangerous to deviate from these recommendations, which are optimised for braking, handling and comfort. Correctly inflated tyres also improve fuel efficiency by about 4%.

Brake fluid

You’d think that if the brake fluid in your car is low, topping it up will fix the problem. The answer is no: as brake pads wear, the level in the brake fluid drops slightly, which helps monitor brake wear. If the fluid level drops to or below the low mark, then either the brake pads are worn out or fluid is leaking. Either way, get the brake system serviced immediately. You should also get a routine brake inspection every 10 000km.

For more information on car insurance, visit www.miway.co.za.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)


By Rory Judd, MiWay head of online marketing

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