3 Common Car Myths You Can Bust in Your Mechanic Program

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There are a whole lot of myths surrounding cars, like the one about jet fuel making a car more powerful (it won’t) or that police cars are secretly capable of going superfast (they aren’t). One of the great things about becoming an auto mechanic is that you finally get to learn the ins-and-outs of how vehicles work, which means you’ll be able to start busting some of the most common car myths.

Here’s a look at three of the more audacious and persistent myths out there that you’re bound to hear at least once during your auto mechanic career, but which are entirely (or at least mostly) false.

People in Auto Mechanic Programs Know that Sugar Won’t Destroy an Engine

The sugar-in-the-gas-tank myth goes like this: if you put sugar in a car’s gas tank, the sugar dissolves in the gasoline, which then carries it to the engine. There, the sugar heats up like caramel and forms a nasty sludge. Finally, once the engine is turned off, that caramel sludge cools down and hardens, at which point your engine is completely ruined.

It would take a lot more sugar than this to cause even minor problems for a vehicle
It would take a lot more sugar than this to cause even minor problems for a vehicle

Sounds plausible, right? Well, not so much. For one, sugar doesn’t actually dissolve in gasoline, which means that even if you were to pour sugar into the tank, the filtration system would prevent it from getting anywhere near the engine. Sugar could clog the fuel filter or injectors, but that’s an easy problem to fix. If you poured a lot of sugar in, then the very worst that could happen is that you would need to get the gas tank removed and cleaned. It’s still not a good idea to put sugar in the gas tank, so hopefully you don’t encounter anybody during your auto mechanic apprenticeship in Cambridge who has had this prank done to them. But while getting a gas tank removed and cleaned is definitely annoying, it’s still a lot better than the outcome this myth suggests.

No, Running a Vehicle in Reverse Will Not Rewind the Odometer

Thanks to the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you’ll probably hear a lot about this myth during and after your auto mechanic program. In the movie, Ferris Bueller tries to hide the fact that he and his friends have been joyriding around Chicago all day in his friend’s father’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. To do that, Ferris puts the car up on blocks and lets it run in reverse until the odometer rewinds just far enough that there’s no proof of their shenanigans.

Despite what Ferris Bueller may claim, putting a car in reverse won’t trick it into rewinding
Despite what Ferris Bueller may claim, putting a car in reverse won’t trick it into rewinding

While odometer tampering is a very real problem, putting a car into reverse isn’t going to achieve it. For one, most cars built since the early 2000s use digital odometers, which take a lot more to trick than just running your wheels backwards. Even the mechanical odometers that came before, however, had mechanisms that prevented this little trick from working.

Putting a Potato in the Exhaust Probably Won’t Ruin the Car—But It’s Still Not a Good Idea

The potato-in-the-exhaust myth has a grain of truth to it. The myth goes that if you put a potato in a car’s exhaust pipe, the fumes will become blocked up in the engine, which will prevent fresh air from entering. That, in turn, causes the engine to stall (or, in some cartoon versions, to completely explode).

In theory, this myth sounds like it could be true. A car’s engine does need a continuous supply of fresh air or else it will stall (although, rest assured, it will not explode). The only problem is that if you put a potato in the exhaust pipe, the pressure will often just spit it back out. It’s possible that if you had a potato that was shaped perfectly to the dimensions of the exhaust pipe and was really stuck in there tight then it may do some damage, but we don’t recommend trying to find out.

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