The motorised misconceptions

Today’s rant is being flung in your general direction from the dizzy height of my high horse where I aim to slay many motorised misconceptions thought up by automotive ignoramuses. Feel free to validate any of these claims with your local petrol head or grease monkey.

Engine run-in period

I’ve often been reassured that today’s modern engines are built to more exacting standards and have been run in before they reach us consumers. However; I can’t bring myself to thrash a new-born motor unless it has at least 1,000 to 1,500km on the clock.

I guess a spirited driving style can’t hurt but I fail to see how redlining an oven-fresh engine can do anything but long-term harm. I’ve only ever witnessed one catastrophic engine failure and it happened within the first 2,000km of the vehicle. Your call, buddy.

Maxed-out speedometer

This is pure schoolboy stuff. Just because it the last number on a speedometer is 240km/h doesn’t mean the car will actually do 240km/h. Very few cars will max out their speedo’s, especially today where parts sharing and cross-range standardising has created a new economy of scale. ‘Pardon the pun.

Green cars are unlucky

M’kay. I think blue Smarties are poisonous.

Highest is best

This one usually gets to me when I’m stuck behind a very smelly Polo on an incline. Your highest or tallest gear (i.e. fifth or sixth) is not the fastest, especially uphill. Unless you have a monstrous engine or you’re traveling in excess of 200km/h, you may want to try a lower gear.

Smart cars are unsafe

I mean, have you seen how SMALL they are? Let me guess, you also think a 4×4 is one of the safest cars to drive, right? Bwahahahaha… oh dear. Oh deary me. Have you ever thought of braking distance, slalom/swerving speeds and center of gravity? Of course you haven’t, you’ve never heard of them.

The smart fortwo, to give it its proper name, is a wonder of modern transportation. It has no bonnet and hides its engine, passengers, tiny boot and everything else behind glass and replaceable plastic panels which are fixed to its impenetrable safety cell.

That silver metal cage thing is more solid than any bull-bar and your friend Youtube will demonstrate how it brushes off concrete barriers and Mercedes S-Classes with ease. The smart is one of the safest cars on our roads and because it’s quite modern and clever, it’s safer than:

A Polo Vivo, Toyota Tazz, pre-2001 C-Class, Citi Golf, most older Hondas, pre-2002 Corollas, pre-2002  BMW 3-Series, pre-1998 5-Series, early Hyundais and Kias, pre-2002 Corsas, etc. Please visit and prepare yourself for a mild heart attack.

Only buy a car with motor plan

This is a tricky little so-and-so. Cars have become quite reliable but there are conspiracy theories (some of which I may or may not subscribe to) that modern automobiles are engineered to only last a certain time. Perhaps this time even corresponds with the motor plan and warranty…

Whatever the case may be, I think motor plans are a great idea because they give the new car buyer some peace of mind while helping the used buyer with extra confidence (remainder of plan) or extra bargaining power (expired plan). They also guarantee business for the dealer’s workshops.

So will your car explode after X number of years? Highly unlikely. And if it does, may I suggest you support a different brand next time? More probable is the eventual expiration of certain parts; yes, some may have an engineered lifespan but others simply can’t go further (brakes, clutch, hoses, etc.).

That means you should take a good look at the price and availability of spare parts as well as labour rates and a dealer’s reputation, with or without motor plan. And one last thing – read the fine print to see what your plan covers, not all of them are equally comprehensive.

Seat belts are for sissies

If you don’t like seat belts, I can respect that. You probably don’t like condoms or helmets either. Whatever. Should you drive an old car devoid of seat belt reminders and airbags, you’ll be fine in a crash up to about 25km/h. After that, you will need medical attention or a morgue.

If your car has an airbag and you’ve somehow fooled the seat belt nanny, a decent head-on collision will be slightly fatal for you. As you fly into the steering wheel at high speed, the airbag will explode into your face, neck and chest at much, much, much higher speed. Nice knowing you.

I can, like, stay in the fast lane at 120km/h

No. For the love of all that’s holy, no. Keep left, pass right.

The Ford Focus is the best-handling car in its class

Rubbish. This, along with a few other nuggets, is what I call Clarksonitis. If JC says it, it must be true. It may or may not have been true when he said it a few years ago but nowadays I’d award that prize to the Renault Megane. And don’t forget, he owned a Focus and most Brits love their Fords.

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