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These common car maintenance myths are no longer true

What mom and dad taught you may be outdated
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Posted at 12:07 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 12:07:20-04

As we head out on summer vacations, many of us check the oil and look over the car before we go.

But some car maintenance tips that mom and dad taught us, that we've assumed for years, are actually just myths. That's according to a new AAA report called Debunking Common Myths about Car Maintenance.

Russ Zolnowski manages a AAA auto center. He says seven car care myths that are no longer applicable these days are:

  • The 3,000-mile oil change

"With today's newer vehicles, that is simply not true," he said, adding this is myth number one. "You can go 5,000 to 7,000 miles, and within some cases as much as 10,000 miles, with synthetic oil." (But be sure to check your car's handbook.)

  • Car batteries last at least 5 years

That is myth number two, and no longer true with all of the battery-draining electronics in modern cars. Think of the cell phone charger, multi-speaker radio, and GPS mapping you are using.

It is one reason that AAA tow trucks keep very busy these days, Zolnowski says.

"Batteries are good for three to five years, depending on the weather," he said, suggesting that by the third year, you should have your battery checked during an oil change.

  • You must get oil changes at the dealer or you void your warranty

This long-running myth, number three, is pushed by many dealers and extended warranty companies.

But Zolnowski said, legally, they cannot require you to get all oil changes at the dealer who sold you the car.

"As long as you have information and proof you have had the work done, the manufacturer will not hold that against you," he said.

But it's important to save every oil change receipt, he said, in case you have to prove to the warranty company that you did not skip regular maintenance.

A missing oil change receipt can void a warranty.

  • A tire is worn out when you can no longer see Abraham Lincoln's head on a penny

Zolnowski says a lot of people still go by grandpa's suggestion to use a coin in the tread, to see if your tires are good.

But that advice, myth number four, can leave you with dangerously worn tires, which might hydroplane in a rainstorm.

"If it's down to 2/32, you are really starting to lose all the traction," he said.

Zolnowski said to use the built-in tread wear bars, not a penny, and replace tires when the wear bar is close to the actual tread.

But he said to be sure to keep rotating them regularly, so the front tires don't wear out too fast from all the turning. That one myth is actually true.

  • Finally, myths number five, six, and seven: That you no longer need to change brake fluid, transmission fluid, or coolant in newer cars

You do, when your manufacturer recommends it. That is usually anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 miles.

And that way, you don't waste your money.

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