Common car myths – busted!

At SVG Motors, we know buying a car can be intimidating and confusing. That’s why we take the time to treat you like family and walk you through every step of the process; we want you to be comfortable and have a great experience! But once you’ve bought a vehicle, ownership can sometimes be just as confusing! It’s for that reason that we’re busting some long-held myths so you can be confident in your new ride.

Myth #1: Red Cars Get More Speeding Tickets

Red cars have traditionally been known as cop magnets. The theory is that the bright attention grabbing color causes police officers to notice the vehicle more readily than other colors.

Research: Despite red cars having a bad reputation, the research from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) shows red cars don’t receive more tickets than neutral colored ones. The truth is that there are behaviors and even vehicle models that contribute to the likelihood of being ticketed. The IIHS complied statistics from the past few years and learned that the following cars received the most tickets in the United States:

  • Hummer
  • Scion tC
  • Scion xB
  • Mercedes CLK63 AMG
  • Toyota Solara
  • Mercedes CLS AMG
  • Scion Xa
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Audi A4
So what behaviors are likely to get you pulled over? Avoid these maneuvers and you’ll probably have a cop-free day:
  • Driving faster than the cars around you
  • Being the lead car in a speeding chain
  • Using poor manners while driving (switching lanes often, cutting people off, tailgating
  •  Poor vehicle maintenance (broken taillights, missing license plates, etc.)
  •  Impatient driving (honking at other drivers, making obscene gestures at fellow drivers)

Conclusion: BUSTED. Red cars are not more likely to get ticketed; driving behavior and even vehicle type are the main motivating factors for officers to pull you over.

Myth #2: Using a cell phone at the gas pump will cause an explosion

By now, most people have seen the email and Facebook posts warning you not to use your cell phone while filling up, including the grisly photos of burnt gas station equipment. Believe it or not, the supposed originator of this report was Shell Chemicals. The initial report stated, “A driver in Indonesia suffered burns and his car was severely damaged when petrol vapor exploded after being ignited by static electricity from the mobile phone he was using.” A quick check on revealed that there were no true facts to back up the report. Later on, Shell denied releasing the original report or subsequent versions of it.

Research: The facts are that there is no conclusive proof that any gas station fire has been ignited by a cell phone. The Petroleum Equipment Institute recently investigated 250 different gas station fires and determined that the majority of incidents were caused by “flare-ups”. They found that that static electricity discharge was the number one cause of the fires.

The safest way to pump gas is to lessen or minimize the occurrence of static electricity discharge. To dissipate static electricity, touch any bare metal surface before fueling.  

Conclusion: BUSTED. While cell phones have been blamed for gas station fires, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that theory. That doesn’t mean that fueling up is risk free, however. To help improve your safety, discharge any static before pumping.

Myth #3: It’s illegal to use the locking latch on gas pumps so you don’t have to squeeze the lever the whole time you’re pumping

There are areas of the United States that have determined locking latches are unsafe to use and have subsequently outlawed their use.

There are multiple opinions on whether this practice is safe or unsafe, though. The lawmakers who instituted this law felt that by allowing the use of the locking latch, people would be more likely to get back into their cars (especially during cold weather) while their car is being filled. As we learned earlier, static electricity is a concern around pumps, and winter time sees most travelers generating more static. The act of moving in and out of a car can generate quite a zap. However, on the other side of the argument is the fact that people are finding ways to hold the latch open when one isn’t present.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute even found that one of the causes of a gas station fire was that a cigarette lighter was being used to hold the latch open. When the tank was full of fuel, the lever turned the flint wheel and created a spark which ignited the fumes and started a fire.

Conclusion: CONFIRMED (partially). In some US jurisdictions, it is illegal to use a locking latch to hold open a fuel pump. This is not the case in all areas of the US, however.

Myth #4: Tires don’t require maintenance.

Many people feel that tires don’t require much attention due to the fact that they’re not “mechanical”. They don’t have any electronics or moving parts, so they feel they don’t warrant the kind of attention an engine would.

The truth is, neglecting your tires can cause you lost savings and expose you to dangerous blow outs.

Research:  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under-inflated tires have a higher risk of damage and failure. Not only will they wear out faster if under-inflated, but faster deterioration can also lead to reduced control of your vehicle, tire blowouts, and crashes.

Safety is always paramount, but saving money is, too! You MPG reduces by .2% for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) your tire pressure drops below the recommended level. By keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, you could save yourself up to 3% in gas mileage, depending on your vehicle and driving habits.

Conclusion: BUSTED. Proper attention to your tires can improve vehicle safety, and maintain good gas mileage.

Myth #5: The service engine light on your dash comes on, meaning it’s time to panic

Check engine lights are designed to keep you informed on how your vehicle is performing and to warn you of potential problems. This doesn’t always mean it’s time to panic, though.

Many newer vehicles have a service engine light that comes on to let you know that the vehicle is due for some maintenance. Maintenance could include an oil change, tire rotation or other benign task. This is nothing to fear and is a part of normal vehicle use.

It is important to note that you should check your oil periodically (before the light even comes on). Many cars use oil, which the sensors cannot measure. The sensors measure how long it’s been since you changed your oil and how many miles you’ve driven, but it can’t calculate if your oil level is low.

While dash warning lights don’t necessarily mean an expensive repair is pending, however, it is important to pay attention to the color of the lights on your dash.

Just as with traffic lights, a yellow light indicates a caution – something needs checked. If you see a red light on your dash, the vehicle is warning you to STOP and do not continue until service is completed.

Conclusion: BUSTED. While the dash lights don’t indicate impending disaster, it is highly recommended to pay attention to them so that you can avoid potential problems.

We hope this list helps you feel more comfortable in your car. If your car ever experiences some unknown “gremlin”, it’s always safest to take it to a mechanic. Knowing where to turn for reliable sources and having a trusted mechanic can ease some of the anxiety of car ownership. The mechanics at all SVG locations are highly trained professionals who are dedicated to treating each customer with respect and complete transparency.

Categories: Service


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