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Common canards about cars

Which auto misconceptions are true or false?

Turn on headlights instead of hazard lights when driving in the rain.

Turn on headlights instead of hazard lights when driving in the rain.

Idling to warm up the engine – False

When engines still used carburetors, it was imperative to warm up the engine in order expand the temperature-sensitive spring that opens the carburetor choke valve. This lets in more air for a leaner and correct air-fuel mixture. Running it cold could stall the engine since the valve is barely open.

After the complete phase-out of the carburetor in the late 1990s in favor of fuel injection, the need to spend more than a few seconds to warm up your vehicle has become obsolete and even illegal in some countries.

Nowadays, engines have sensors that manage the air-fuel mixture. It will run a little rich on fuel when it’s cold. The only way, and this is key, to get it to optimal operating temperature is to actually drive it.

When idling, a vehicle’s parts and components are forced to work much harder to reach the proper temperature and waste more fuel in the process. Modern motor oils have also been engineered to heat up faster in order to protect essential engine parts right after ignition.

So the next time you start your engine, get it in gear and drive. Just don’t peel out and do donuts immediately.

Turn off engine when refueling – True

It seems like just recently our friendly neighborhood pump attendants brought back the habit of asking motorists to turn off their engine when refueling.

With the intense heat, your reaction may be less than compliant, and not even close to cordial. Not only are they just doing their jobs, they’re also out to make sure you, your vehicle and the entire gas station for that matter doesn’t go up in flames.

As flammable as fossil fuel is, it is actually the vapor coming off the nozzle that’s highly susceptible to ignition. A simple spark coming from something as simple as a hot tailpipe could ignite the vapor and this will cause the fuel to start burning.

Fuels emit vapor even at temperatures as low as seven-degrees Celsius and if it catches a spark from igniters like a running engine or even electricity coursing through your vehicle’s 12-volt power supply, well ‘kaboom’ comes to mind.

Fortunately, modern technology has produced ‘vapor recovery pump nozzles’ that have significantly reduced the amount of vapor emitted during the refueling process, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your part.

Besides, cities like Makati (Ordinance No. 2005-062), Baguio (Ordinance No. 14) and Vigan (Ordinance No. 9) have approved local laws that specifically state that it is prohibited to ‘refuel vehicles while engines are still running’ and a pump attendant ‘may refuse refueling customers who fail to follow the herein safety regulations.’

Cars today are soft – False

People wax nostalgic about how their old automobiles were better because of how they kept form even after a minor collision. Vehicles nowadays, they say, are substandard because of how ‘wrecked’ they look after a fender-bender.

These areas that seem weak and deform easily are purposefully engineered structural features called ‘crumple zones,’ which are meant to redistribute the forces involved in a collision to minimize bodily harm on passengers.

Isaac Newton’s law of inertia states that when a vehicle makes contact with a tree at 80kph, passengers inside will continue moving forward at the same speed and direction. Unrestricted by a seatbelt, they will come in contact with the dashboard and windshield at an exponentially higher force due to gravity.

In order to lessen the injury sustained by passengers, their inertia must be drastically reduced by outside forces.

This is where ‘crumple zones’ come in. By collapsing and absorbing majority of the impact force, the car is slowed down and the momentum of the passenger is decreased. This results in much lower impact speed. It may not prevent injuries but think about how much better heavy bruising feels like compared to a dislocated shoulder.

The next time you complain about how flimsy your vehicle is, think about how these ‘crumple zones’ take one for the team so that during a collision, you won’t have to bounce around — because unlike a pinball, sticks and stones will break your bones.

Turning on hazard lights in the rain – Are you crazy?!!!

Hazard lights are meant to warn other motorists that your vehicle is ‘hazard’ on the road, so unless your vehicle is disabled (flat tire, breakdown, etc) or stationary (although you technically shouldn’t be parked illegally on the road), turning it on while moving in traffic is highly irresponsible.

Like a virus that goes around during the rainy season, more and more motorists are getting infected with the urge to turn on their hazard lights during a heavy downpour.

Activating the hazard lights disables the turn signal lights of most vehicles. This means motorists behind you will be unable to tell if you’re switching lanes or turning a corner.

As one friend commented, ‘I couldn’t tell if they were going left or right!”

So instead of increasing the safety factor of your current commute, motorists with their hazard lights on in the rain increase their chances of getting into an accident every minute of the drive.

If you want to increase your visibility in near zero-visibility conditions, do what you do when it’s pitch dark, otherwise known as nighttime driving, simply turn on the lights (headlamps), genius.