12 Automotive Myths and Lies People Still Believe

Hand holding three wooden blocks that spell out lie
Don’t fall for automotive lies | iStock.com

Remember when Frau Farbissina in Austin Powers would scream, “LIES!” every time someone made a disparaging remark? This is how we feel when we hear yet another person talking about how there “ain’t no replacement for displacement” or how oil changes need to be conducted every 3,000 miles in order to keep a car’s engine from exploding.

The internet has given myths and misinformation a new home, with “trustworthy forum sources” replacing common sense and good old-fashioned research. Many people still believe handmade vehicles are superior to robot-built automobiles and that tire compounds don’t matter as long as they fit the wheel.

No one seems to read anymore. And when they do, it always seems like gossip is more of a priority than properly sourced information. On the flip side, some car owners tend to err on the side of caution too much, over-servicing their vehicles and following false maintenance schedules set in place by greedy corporations and dealerships.

Whatever the cause, we feel it’s time to expose a few of the more gregarious automotive myths and lies people still believe. In the autos realm, myths tend to focus on false information passed down generation to generation. Lies, on the other hand, are intentionally contrived to deceive, often to garner a particular reaction or to swindle someone out of some money. Don’t fall for falsehoods, people. Misinformation is everywhere, and here are 12 prime examples of fallacies too many people believe.

1. Aluminum can’t be as safe as steel

Ford F-150 Raptor driving on a dirt road
The Ford F-150 Raptor in its natural habitat | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Other automakers might make jabs at Ford over its use of high-strength aluminum, saying it’s inferior to steel. But there is plenty of proof that states otherwise. After Chevrolet aired a commercial showing the aluminum beds of Ford trucks sustaining significant damage from things, such as empty toolboxes, Forbes did some investigating. “Ford and third-party quality surveys show that more than 99% of F-150 customers have no issues with their cargo boxes,” a Ford spokesman told Forbes.

Forbes reported on an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, showing Ford’s aluminum F-150 was the safest pickup in the segment. During crash testing, the extended SuperCab F-150 outperformed competitive trucks from Chevrolet, GMC, Toyota, and Ram, debunking the myth that the use of aluminum makes a vehicle less safe.

2. Korean cars are crap

Kia Cadenza
The Kia Cadenza is a great example of what a luxurious Korean mid-size sedan can look like | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Many people are still oblivious that some of the best cars on the road today are from Korea. With famed German engineers and designers from companies such as BMW and Audi on the roster at Hyundai and Kia, as well as permanent facilities taking root at places such as Nürburgring, performance and quality have become an integral part of Korean car manufacturing.

Long gone are the days of sub-par reliability, cheap materials, and ugly interiors. Still don’t believe us? J.D. Power awarded Kia the top spot in 2016 for having the best initial quality out of any other automaker.

3. Hybrids are slow

Acura NSX rolls off an assembly line
The Acura NSX gets some dyno time after rolling off the assembly line before heading off to final inspection | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Back when the first-generation Prius emerged on the scene and the original Honda Insight was still powered by a 1.0-liter motor, the claim that hybrids were slow was rightfully founded. But in recent years, this notion has been turned on its head, with electrified versions of the RAV4 and Lexus 450h proving hybrids can indeed be more powerful than their gas-powered counterparts.

Modern hybrid battery systems are lighter, more efficient, and more powerful than ever, translating to more speed. Fortunately, because electricity provides instantaneous energy, the myths surrounding sluggish hybrid speeds have begun to disappear as new technologies come to market.

4. All SUVs are rollover risks

A Nissan Armada sits atop a mountain in northern California
A Nissan Armada sits atop a mountain in northern California | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

It used to be that SUVs offered unrivaled crash protection but were prone to flipping over, regardless of whether they were a Jeep Wagoneer or a Suzuki Samurai. But thanks to modern traction control systems, electronically moderated all-wheel drive configurations, and even torque vectoring, today’s SUVs have almost completely overcome this Achilles heel. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of larger vehicles on the market today that can flip, so don’t expect any guarantees when a massive wind gust hits you at 90 miles per hour.

5. American cars are made in America

Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
A Dodge Challenger Scat Pack with the Shaker Package is always ready to rumble | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

President Donald Trump might be barking about bringing the golden days of American automotive manufacturing back to the states. But until that day comes, Toyota actually holds the reins for most American-made automobile. People don’t understand it’s not just where a car is assembled that grants it American authenticity. It’s from which country its components hail.

The Big Three have a plethora of production plants sprinkled across America. But that doesn’t mean the Focus RS isn’t still being built in Germany, or the new Jeep Compass will cease being made in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico as a global platform. It’s called globalization for a reason. Only time will tell if both American-made parts and vehicles will ever return to their former glory.

6. Higher octane boosts power

Shell Nitro fuel sign
Shell Nitro fuel boasts one of the best top-tier cleaning ratings for engines | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

This is one of those weird gray areas where advertising doesn’t lie, but people don’t fully realize what they are being told either. When an oil company tells you its premium gasoline will “remove performance robbing engine deposits,” don’t expect a neck-snapping response as you leave the gas station.

An engine’s performance is rarely synonymous with how much power a car kicks to the pavement, so all you 93-octane fanboys need to calm down and read the facts. Recent studies prove cheap gas will damage your engine, and an occasional tank of top-tier premium can be used in place of a fuel system cleaner. But one thing is for sure: Constantly running premium in a car that doesn’t require it only increases your monthly spending.

7. AWD makes you invincible to the elements

all-wheel drive symbol
Having all-wheel drive on your car doesn’t guarantee it will drive in the snow | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

How many times have you seen a 4×4 stuck in the snow or an all-wheel drive vehicle beached in the sand? Even with power hitting all four corners, poor tire choices, aging suspension components, minimal traction settings, and extreme ice can render a vehicle useless.

Drivers often believe that 4×4 features will make them unstoppable. In actuality, they’re still at Mother Nature’s mercy. So regardless of whether you are behind the wheel of the latest symmetrical all-wheel drive Subaru or a differential-filled Ford Raptor, remember there are always limitations to what you can do.

8. V6s can’t be as powerful as V8s

The surprisingly potent 2.7-liter Ford EcoBoost V6 engine
The surprisingly potent 2.7-liter Ford EcoBoost V6 | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Thank you, Ford, for helping to dispel V6 myths. Although quite a few Japanese automakers tried desperately to boost interest in twin-turbo technology in the 1980s and 1990s, it was the Blue Oval that got this advancement to stick. Yes, the GT-R is awesome, and the new NSX is astonishing. But people still don’t believe they can match a big-block V8.

The second-generation Ford GT harnesses 647 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque via a mid-mounted V6. And they aren’t the only ones replacing V8 engines for more efficient, smaller substitutes. Ever since Nissan announced the birth of variable compression engines in 2016, we’ve wondered whether the V8 will someday become obsolete. Turbo and hybrid advancements support those musings.

9. Horsepower is more important than torque

A Nissan 350Z drag car does a burnout at the race track in Cincinnati, Ohio
A Nissan 350Z drag car does a burnout at the race track in Cincinnati, Ohio | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Jay Leno said it best: “Horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races.” And the man is right. For decades, Americans have been duped into believing myths that extreme horsepower numbers win both bragging rights and drag races. But it’s actually torque they should be praising.

Having a ton of twist on tap to seamlessly feed into top end thrust is one of the main reasons why cars, such as the Chevy Camaro SS, rocked our world in 2016. Don’t buy into the myths that high horsepower will always make you fast. More often than not, those types of engines will benefit primarily during interstate action.

10. Luxury cars are unobtainable

Three Land Rover Discovery vehicles parked in a forest
Land Rover Discovery | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

This is a ridiculous misnomer that needs to be buried permanently. Luxury vehicles from Rolls-Royce and Bentley aside, there are many affordable options out there if posh amenities deserve to play a part in your daily driving routine. Take the Land Rover Discovery, which starts at just under $50,000 and comes loaded with all kinds of interior touches and off-road accouterments.

But obtaining high-end amenities doesn’t necessarily constitute having to go with a luxury brand either, a fact that cars, such as the Kia Cadenza and Mazda CX-9, are quick to illustrate. Hand-carved Japanese Rosewood trim pieces, diamond-quilted Oxford leather seats with temperature controls, and full safety suites that are on par with the most prestigious nameplate can all be had for well under $50,000 nowadays. Read some reviews, test drive some cars, and don’t automatically assume a European hood ornament equals expensive — or that it offers more than what non-luxury brands are bringing to the table.

11. Don’t place car batteries on the ground

A Braille carbon fiber car battery
A Braille carbon fiber car battery waits to be swapped into a custom vehicle | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Modern batteries are encased in a special kind of polypropylene plastic that doubles as an electrical insulator. Once paired with the latest advancements in seals and vent systems, it virtually eliminates electrolyte seepage and migration. Interstate Batteries has a great write-up on the subject, saying all those old myths about not leaving your battery on a concrete floor are now completely irrelevant. The days of wooden battery cases, glass jars, and porous rubber structures are long gone. Hopefully myths about ruining batteries this way will someday disappear, as well.

12. Conduct oil changes every 3,000 miles

Rag covered in oil with tools
Changing your own oil will save you lots of money | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

For decades, we were told our cars required oil changes every 3,000 miles. Because engine oil serves as both a lubricant and a coolant, erring on the side of caution was the general rule of thumb. But as time has advanced, so too have the fluids we put in our cars, the filters we attach to them, and the engines that rely upon both.

A report by Edmunds claims many Americans still rely upon this “outdated 3,000-mile oil change commandment,” wasting untold millions of dollars annually on unnecessary oil changes. Advancements in synthetic detergents and filtration engineering means there’s no need to pull that drain plug as often anymore, with many modern vehicles safely hitting the 5,000-mile mark on a single oil change.