Under the hood: Common car maintenance advice that you should really avoid

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FEATURE — Some myths about vehicle maintenance just refuse to die, and some of them really should, considering the harm they can do to your car.

In this second myth-busting edition of “Under the hood,” I will go over four of the more prolific pieces of misinformation and downright bad advice that are still floating around out there. I hope this helps provide a greater understanding of how to take the best care of your vehicle and maybe save you some money along the way.

1. Excessive tire rotation and alignments

I am all for proactive maintenance of your vehicle. What I am not in favor of is paying for services that are excessive.

In my younger days, I was instructed to rotate my tires every 5,000 miles and to have an alignment at the same interval, or at least every other rotation, so 10,000 miles. The reality is, if your car is well-aligned and the tires are not showing uneven wear, leave it alone.

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I went 65,000 miles on a brand-new car before getting an alignment. It didn’t need one up to that point, so why mess with it? I rotated my tires a couple times, but that was because on a front wheel drive vehicle, your front tires will wear considerably faster than the rear. For those of you curious but too shy to ask why this is, it’s because 80 percent of your braking and 100 percent of your driving force is done with the front tires.

2. Fix-all additives

Walk the isle of an automotive department and you will see a truly staggering variety of additives that claim to fix oil/radiator leaks, clean the internals of your engine to better-than-new condition or cause your six-speed transmission to acquire two additional gears and set your odometer back 15,000 miles.

For heaven’s sake, be careful. Some, and I repeat, some, of these additives are legit. Octane booster can be used in your tank during hot weather if you’re towing to prevent engine knock. Running a quality injector cleaner through your tank once a year is a great proactive step you can take to keep your injectors happy and your mpg up. But adding radiator stop leak to address incontinence in your coolant system is just a bad idea.

If your radiator is leaking, your transmission’s shifting hard or your fuel economy has deteriorated, address the root cause properly and leave the hyped-up performance enhancers to the pharmaceutical industry.

3. Lifetime fluids in your new car

If you plan on selling or trading your car before the warranty expires, then congratulations. You have “lifetime” fluids in your car.

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If, however, you keep your cars a long time like me, then realize there is no such thing as “lifetime fluids.” This is marketing shenanigans from the vehicle manufacturers. Keep all of your fluids no more than five years old and, statistically speaking, you will give your car a much longer life.

Once again, my personal vehicle serves as a testament to this practice. The fact that all my fluids are synthetic certainly doesn’t hurt either.

4. If your oil is dark, it needs to be changed

Not true. This is one that has been around for far too long. Oil gets dark with use. Diesel oil gets ink black. Dark color only shows that the oil is doing its job: holding contaminants in suspension until your next oil change.

Now, chocolate milk-colored fluid on your dipstick, or a strong smell of gasoline or a burning odor, that’s totally different. But oil simply becoming dark in color is no different than what takes place in a mop bucket. The water starts to get dirty, but it doesn’t need to be changed after the first dip.

The only real way to determine if your oil needs to be changed is through oil analysis, something I occasionally do. Absent this method, you can simply follow the recommended drain intervals by your vehicle manufacturer. If you want to take it to the next level, you can run the same synthetic oil I do and go one year or up to 25,000 miles.

Anyone who tells you your oil is dark therefore needs to be changed is showing that they don’t understand how oil works.

Now, go forth with your newfound knowledge and help me combat the epidemic of automotive fake news, and let’s make our cars great again!

Written by ZAK ANDEREGG.

If you missed the previous myth-busting issue of “Under the hood,” you can read it here. And if you have questions about your vehicle that you would like Zak to answer, maybe even in an upcoming feature, you can contact him at [email protected].

Zak Anderegg opened Utah’s first full scale do-it-yourself repair shop in 2009 in Salt Lake City, which was featured on numerous local TV networks. He has also worked with several businesses to help them reduce expenses and improve vehicle longevity through the use of synthetic lubricants and filters. Anderegg currently owns a mobile ATV/UTV service business in St. George. Feel free to reach out with questions about using synthetics in your vehicles and equipment or other questions related to the care and feeding of your vehicle. He can be reached at [email protected].

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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