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Realities and Myths for Seniors: Your Car & Technology

Demystifying car care in today’s advancing technological world.

With each passing day, our many modes of transportation become more advanced. (You can see a photo of me and my bike above, enjoying the Florida sun! Motorcycles have changed a lot over the years, too)

Back in the 1960s, a 1967 Chevy Impala would only have an average gas mileage of 14.4 miles per gallon. This meant it would only have a range of 290 miles on a full tank. Factor in stop and go traffic, the driver’s habits, and other factors and they’d get even less mileage per tank.

Today, the 2017 Chevy Impala can get over 30 miles per gallon. This is due to the technological advances made over the course of fifty years. Factor in the other advances GMC has added to the model, and you’ll notice that some of the truths you held about taking care of cars turn out to be falsehoods. Can you distinguish what is true and what is false about your car?

“I need to warm up my car for a few minutes before driving or else there might be engine trouble.”

MYTH. The best way to warm up your engine is let it idle for around 15-30 seconds. Even in the coldest weather, that’s the average amount of time it takes for your car’s lubrication oil to reach the engine. In a way, warming up your car’s engine for some time means you are likely wasting your car’s oil.

“My tires need to be inflated to the amount of pressure written on its walls.”

MYTH. The number imprinted on the sidewalls of your car’s tires are the maximum PSI (pounds per square inch). You could run the risk of over-inflation if you aim for the maximum PSI, which can lead to blow-outs while on the road. The recommended PSI can be listed on various places of your car, like the driver’s door, inside the glove compartment, or in the instruction manual.

“You should change your oil every 3000 miles.”

MYTH. Back in the old days, this was a highly necessary service. However, it is not a total necessity anymore. Thanks to the advances in engine design, materials used for engines, and lubrications, cars can now go for around 5,000 to 15,000 miles before they need any kind of oil service. This is mainly depending on the type of model, oil, and driving conditions the car is undertaking. Be sure to check your car’s see the recommended maintenance schedules.

“You need to disconnect the battery from your car if you aren’t planning to drive it for a while.”

MYTH & REALITY. When you disconnect power from the car’s electrical system (via disconnecting/removing the battery) you are also erasing the data in the car’s computer memory. As an alternative to this practice, use a charger like a battery tender. This device monitors the battery and keeps it charged while you are out of the house for a long period (like a vacation or any other event).

“If Regular grade fuel is good enough for my vehicle, I should use Premium because it’s better.”

MYTH & REALITY. Sure, Premium grade fuel is indeed better than Regular grade fuel but most cars today don’t need Premium fuel. Those extra charges at the pump may not be worth it in the long run.

Regular grade fuel (87 octane) vs. Premium grade fuel (higher octane) simply refers to the pre-ignition problems that may occur with lower octane fuel. It’s often specified that vehicles that run hotter, such as sports cars, should utilize Premium grade fuel. If your car is designated for 87 octane, opt for a cheaper gasoline.

“When cold weather rolls around it’s time to winterize.”

MYTH & REALITY. Preventative maintenance on your car can help keep it running for many years to come, however maintenance doesn’t have to be dictated by the seasons. While maintaining your vehicle is a must, other than changing into snow tires, your car doesn’t necessarily need mandatory maintenance when winter rolls around.

“In winter months keeping more gas in your car’s tank is advised.”

REALITY. Yes it’s true. Why? Because air carries moisture especially in winter months. Water can freeze and crystallize in your tank if too much accumulates. The more gas in the tank the less air, and the less air means less potential moisture for ice to form. Ice forming in fuel lines can cause trouble and lead to costly repairs. Avoid the drama by keeping more gas in your tank at all times.

“I don’t need a tire gauge. I have a new car and the sensors will do the trick.”

MYTH. Did you know that for every ten degrees of outside temperature change you will lose about one or two pounds of pressure in your tires? It’s highly likely that your modern car, even with it’s advanced sensors, may not register these fluctuations until it’s too late. By the time the light comes on your tires are already lower than you should ever let them get.

Keep a tire gauge in your car and know the recommended tire pressure for your car by reviewing your owner’s manual or inside the driver’s side door. A great place to keep a tire gauge and time to check pressure? In your trunk or glove box and every other time you fill up your car.

“The “Penny Test” will tell you when it’s time to get new tires.”

MYTH & REALITY. Have a penny handy? Stick a penny on it’s side in your tire’s tread, with the “heads” side of the penny showing. Rotate the penny until Abe’s head is upside down in the tread. If Abe’s head on the penny is completely hidden then your tires are fine. If you can still see a part of Abe’s head, it’s time for new tires.

Whether or not Abe’s head shows or doesn’t show is an indication of tire thickness. A worn tire’s tread will usually have 4/32 thickness left, whereas a bald tire is about 2/32 thickness. Today, experts recommend using a quarter instead of a penny. By using George Washington’s head on a quarter the same test will show you whether or not you need new tires. Tread line shows part of Washington’s head? Time for new tires. That’s about 4/32, or ⅛ of an inch.

TireRack.com reports that using a quarter instead of a penny resulted in 24% shorter wet-road stopping distances”.


"Radiator coolant doesn’t need to be changed very often."

REALITY: Radiator coolant doesn’t need to be changed with every oil change, for example. Some think that changing the coolant is needed often, when in fact it really doesn’t need to be. Most owner’s manuals indicate changing the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. If it’s been awhile since you last changed it do yourself a favor and get it flushed for good measure, but regularly? Only 5 years or after 60,000 miles is absolutely necessary.

"Car maintenance should only be done at a dealership."

MYTH. While it’s true that many skilled mechanics are employed by dealerships, they aren’t the end-all-be-all for repairs to your car. Often, dealership mechanics charge more as a result of having to keep higher margins. Whereas, smaller certified shops can still get the job done well but at much lower costs. As long as maintenance items are done regularly and at recommended intervals, per your owner’s manual, these repairs can be done at an auto-repair business. Keep accurate records and receipts just in case of a warranty dispute on a future repair.

Technology: Helping You and Your Car When In Need

In the older days, you’d have to carry a roll of quarters in your pocket to get the assistance you need in case your vehicle decided to shut down in the middle of nowhere. That is if you were lucky and there was a payphone nearby. You’d also have to know if there was a local mechanic and he was open at that time. Otherwise you were in deep trouble.

Today, in the days of ever-growing technology, situations like that are highly improbable. While it is certain that your car can break down in the middle of nowhere, you won’t have to go through the hassle as all your problems are taken away with a press of an app on your smartphone.

Currently, organizations like AAA has an app where its members can instantly request for service in case of an emergency. Some car manufacturers have apps, too. Apps like these can help in other ways aside for emergency roadside assistance.

Many new cars and car insurance plans include emergency roadside assistance. Save the roadside assistance phone number in your phone just in case your app doesn’t work.

These are just a few ways technology has made older vehicle practices obsolete by replacing it with faster and more efficient methods. As time keeps on moving, technology continues to evolve and improve people’s daily activities, including those that involve their vehicle.

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