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Warming up your engine and other car myths debunked

Friday - 12/27/2013, 9:16am  ET

WASHINGTON - If you let your engine warm up several minutes before taking off -- particularly during this time of year -- you might want to rethink it.

Warming up your car is on the list of 9 Car- Care Myths You Should Ignore, compiled by Consumer Reports and MSN Autos.

Below are the myths they found:

  1. Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. It's not usually necessary, despite what oil companies and quick-lube shops claim.

  2. Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire's sidewall. There is a pounds-per-square-inch figure on the side of the tire. And that is the maximum pressure that the tire can safely hold, not the automaker's recommended pressure. That figure is usually found on a doorjamb sticker, in the glove box or on the fuel-filler door.

  3. If the brake fluid is low, topping it off will fix the problem. Brake wear can be monitored two ways. As brake pads wear down, the level in the brake-fluid reservoir will drop a bit, and if the fluid level drops to or below the low mark, then either the brakes are worn out or fluid is leaking. If that is the case, then either way, get the brake system serviced immediately.

  4. If regular-grade fuel is good, premium must be better. Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade fuel. Using premium in cars won't hurt, but it won't improve performance.

  5. Flush the coolant with every oil change. Reality: Radiator coolant doesn't need to be replaced very often. Most owner's manuals recommend changing the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. Of course, if the level in the coolant reservoir is chronically low, check for a leak and get service as soon as possible.

  6. After a jump-start, your car will soon recharge the battery. It could take hours of driving to restore a battery's full charge, especially in the winter.

  7. Let your engine warm up for several minutes before driving. This was the advice for old-school cars but not so much today. Modern engines warm up more quickly when they're driven. And the sooner they warm up, the sooner they will reach maximum efficiency.

  8. A dealership must perform regular maintenance to keep your car's factory warranty valid. As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner's manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop. And if you're knowledgeable, you can even do the work yourself. Just keep accurate records.

  9. Dishwashing and laundry detergents make a good car wash. Detergent can strip off a car's wax finish. It's suggested instead to use a car- wash liquid, which is formulated to clean without removing wax.

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