Consumer Reports: Car repair myths

February 4, 2010 6:06:25 PM PST
More than $700 dollars, that's what the average household spends a year on car maintenance. But, Consumer Reports says certain myths can lead people to do the wrong thing, and that can cost you.

Its auto experts have this reality check so you can be sure your money is being well spent.

Consumer Reports puts a lot of cars through tough tests at its auto track.

And Consumer Reports' Jon Linkov has heard a lot of car-care myths that need a reality check.

"When it comes to maintaining your car, misconceptions abound that could lead you to spend more money than you need to, and even compromise your safety," said Linkov.

Myth number one: Your engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

"Despite what oil companies and quick-lube shops say, that's usually not necessary," said Linkov.

The reality check: Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles can go 75-hundred miles or more.

Stick with your owner's manual for your vehicle's service schedule.

Myth number two: If your brake fluid is running low, you should just top it off.

"If your brake fluid level drops to or below the Low mark, something could be wrong with your brakes. So topping off the fluid could mask a big problem," explained Linkov.

Reality check: Get your brake system inspected immediately.

Myth number three: After a jump-start, your car will soon recharge the battery.

"It could take hours of driving to restore your battery's full charge," said Linkov. Reality check: Have your battery inspected at a service station to see if it needs more time to become fully charged, or whether it needs to be replaced.

And finally, dishwashing and laundry detergent make a good car wash.

"It's not worth using dish detergent to save money, because you could damage your car's finish!" exclaimed Linkov.

The reality check there: Use car-wash liquid instead.

Another bit of advice from Consumer Reports, don't inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire's sidewall.

That's the maximum pressure the tire can safely hold, not the manufacturer's recommended pressure.

The correct tire pressure is usually listed on the doorjamb, in the glove compartment, or near the gas cap.

Also be aware, you don't have to go to a dealership for regular maintenance in order to keep the vehicle warranty valid.

As long as maintenance is performed on the schedule specified in the owner's manual, the work can be done by at any auto-repair shop.