5 years ago

Debunking Automotive Myths

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Some have developed over decades, whilst others have become myths only as technologies have changed.

But the common ingredient in all the myths is that they’re wrong... ranging from air filters, to exhaust back pressure, intercoolers for turbo's, and a few in between. 

Myth 1: Changing the Air Filter Improves Performance

This myth has been fuelled by heavy advertising over a long time. ‘Release that power! Get rid of that restrictive factory air filter! 10 kilowatts there for the taking!’ And so on.

The trouble is, unless the car is very heavily modified – eg 50 per cent more than standard power – then the air filter provides very little restriction to the intake.

In fact, if you measure the full-throttle pressure drops (ie restrictions) through the intake system of a car, you’ll find that the air filter usually makes up only about 10 per cent of the total restriction. That is, 90 per cent of the restriction of the intake is NOT the air filter!

The other thing about changing the factory filter to something non-standard is that you embrace the very real possibility that the filtration (ie the catching of rocks) will be poor. You can be pretty well certain that the factory element will actually work well as a filter!

Don’t waste your time changing the factory filter in a near standard car. Instead, improve the flow into, and out of, the airbox.

Note: good quality factory replacement filters (eg from companies like Ryco) are fine: they’re made to OE standards.

Myth 2: Front-Wheel Drive Cars Don’t Handle​

Bizarrely, this myth has been around for decades. Yet it’s now eons since a front-wheel drive car (the Mini) outright won major motor races and rallies, and since that time, plenty of front-wheel drive cars have out-handled their direct rear-wheel drive opposition.

Let me put the myth differently: if you’re a bad driver, you might find that you can be faster around corners in a rear-wheel drive car than a front-wheel drive. For anyone who is competent, FWD vs RWD is a non argument.

Now you might well argue that some FWD cars don’t handle very well. Of course! That’s just like making the point that some RWD cars don’t handle very well. But it’s another thing altogether to suggest that for ‘real handling’ you need RWD.

If you’re one of the ‘old school’ that deeply believes that RWD is somehow much superior, perhaps get into a good handling FWD and do an advanced driving course so that you can learn how to drive a FWD properly.

Me? I don’t care whether it’s RWD, FWD or AWD. There are lots more important aspects of a car that affect its handling than which wheels are driven.

Myth 3: Timid Driving is Safe

Many people believe that aggressive drivers are dangerous: they push hard, go too fast, are unforgiving of others’ mistakes, and are discourteous. And I think that’s right – these people are dangerous drivers. But the opposite does not necessarily apply – that timid, hesitant drivers are safe.

Often they are not.

It’s not unusual to see a timid driver waiting to cross a busy main road from a side street. They wait and wait and wait, frustrating those stuck behind them. Furthermore, the drivers on the busy road are puzzled too. Why didn’t the other driver come out when there was sufficient gap? Will they drive out right in front of me? Are they about to come out now? Should I brake in case they do make a last-minute dash for it?

And uncertainty breeds danger.

The same applies at roundabouts, when overtaking on a country road, when joining a freeway, even in car parks. In all cases, aggression is bad – but hesitancy and timidity can also be dangerous.

Read more about intercoolers, exhaust backpressure and hyrdogen fuel cells on the next page.