For many of us, it was our father, or maybe mother, who taught us to drive and the basics of automotive knowledge. As times have changed, there are 7 mistakes to avoid if a Baby Boomer taught you to drive.
To be fair, the wisdom they shared with us was based on their experience and what they had been taught by the previous generation of drivers. Some of that information was outdated when they learned it, and even more of it has expired from practical use since. These are a few of the things that my dad shared with me and that I passed onto my unsuspecting kids improving everyone’s automotive knowledge overall.
Let your car warm-up
Your Pop may have told you to let your car warm-up at least 5 minutes before taking off to drive. Warming the engine was necessary when he was driving pre-fuel injection cars. Back in the automotive stone-age, cars had mechanical chokes that closed off part of the air intake to the engine. Choking the engine made it run richer for cold temperatures as the car motor warmed. If the car wasn’t allowed to warm a few minutes, it could stall, especially on acceleration. Modern cars use electronically controlled fuel injections systems. They automatically calibrate the fuel mixture precisely for any temperature. Thus, it is no longer necessary to take the time to warm a cold motor. The time it takes for your smartphone to sync is enough of a wait. So add this to your list of 7 mistakes to avoid.
The exception to this is if you want to allow it to run long enough for the heater system to work. Even this happens much faster than in the Old Man’s time.
Pump your brakes on wet roads
Anti-lock brakes first appeared in the 1980s and became more widespread and commonplace through the ’90s. The car your Dad or Grandpa learned to drive on didn’t have them. It was necessary to pump the brake pedal during hard stops to prevent the brakes from locking up and causing loss of control. The pumping action applied and released the brakes. Thankfully, today almost every car on the road has automatic anti-lock braking, ABS, that does this job for us. If you want to experience anti-lock brakes, find a straight, wet road with no traffic and hit the brakes hard. The car will shudder and shake but stop in a straight line. Thankfully, technology and advancements in auto safety put this as one of 7 common mistakes to avoid.
Turn off the AC to start the car
Were you told to turn off your AC and everything else before you start your car? This helped lessen the load when starting the dumb cars that your father drove. Why? Back then, all the accessories were connected to the ignition switch and turned on while you tried to crank the engine. The added electrical and mechanical load had to be overcome by the battery and starter. Of course, batteries and starters then were not as powerful as they are now. Today, when you turn the key to start or push that button, you are telling a computer that you would like to start the engine. That computer turns off any unneeded accessory while the starter motor does it work and turns them back on once the engine achieves a stable running rpm. So don’t worry about the AC, just turn the key and go.
Change your oil every 3000 miles
If your Dad considered himself any kind of a car guy, you have heard him say, “Change your oil every 3000 miles!”. He was right 20 years ago. However, like everything else in his life, this has changed right alongside our automotive knowledge. Automotive engine technology and oil formulations have improved greatly. Most newer cars recommend changing oil between 7500 and 10,000 miles on the normal maintenance schedule. Of course, if you use your car under severe conditions, as defined in your owners manual, that interval will be shorter. Many synthetic oils claim much longer service intervals, but it would be wise to check with your car dealer to see how that would impact your warranty.
Turn your AC off to get better gas mileage
It seems to make sense that if you turn off something that draws as much power from your motor as the air conditioning system, you will get better fuel economy. There was a time when this was true, like when your Grandpa was driving. It is not true today, under most circumstances, but why this is one of the common 7 mistakes to avoid. Air conditioning systems have improved, of course, but a bigger reason for the change is aerodynamics. Look at the cars your parents drove in their youth (yes they were once young). The cars of that era were big boxes on wheels. Now, look at the car you drive. It is more like an arrow than a box and can cut through the air much better. When you turn the AC off and open the windows, the change in airflow creates more drag on the car than the air conditioning. At any cruising speed, you will see better economy with the windows closed and the AC running.
Remove a battery cable to see if your alternator is charging
ABSOLUTELY NOT! When Grandpa drove cars with old-fashioned generators, this worked. Since the advent of computers on our cars, this can be an expensive mistake to make. Computer systems depend on the battery to establish and maintain a baseline voltage. When you remove the battery from the system, the alternator can go into wide open charge mode and fry a bunch of electronic stuff that is designed to run on a steady 12 volt supply. Your battery provides a reservoir of energy and a stabilizing buffer for the electrical system. Think of your car’s battery as its electrical system mother, keeping peace and providing order for the chaos around it.
Be a good neighbor and jump-start their car
In your Pop’s day, it was common to find jumper cables in the truck of a lot of cars. The neighborly thing to do was help a person in need of a boost to start their car. Unless you connected the cables backward, there was little chance of damage. Things are not as simple today. One inadvertent spark of electricity can damage one or both of the cars involved in this kindly intended act. Believe it or not, that small spark you see is hundreds of volts strong coursing through a system designed for 12 volts. It can blow the brains out of computers and modules that cost big money to replace. A better way to jump-start a car is with a portable battery pack. These are inexpensive, small, and rechargeable. If you are a kind soul, who wants to continue being a good neighbor invest in a good portable jump box.
Things change, and our automotive knowledge base needs to be updated to match. Just as we no longer have to be sure to have a quarter in our pocket in case we need to make a phone call, avoid making the 7 mistakes and you’re already ahead of the game.
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