5 Automotive Urban Legends

Editorial : August 19, 2008

If you don’t read this blog and forward it to 5 of your friends in the next 24 hours your car will explode. Kidding of course, but odds are you’ve probably received an email similar to that, warning you of the dangers of keeping aluminum foil in your glove box or something equally ridiculous. Not to worry. Most of these are nothing but urban legends about as believable as Bigfoot having lunch with Elvis. So in order to steady your nerves, the team here at National Speed has compiled the five most prominent automotive urban legends on the internet and put them to the test.

1. Not Always Coca Cola. Coke is NOT good for cleaning car batteries. While it may be the king of sodas, Coca Cola does not have magical properties that allow it to remove corrosion. Try Baking Soda and water instead. A few teaspoons should do the trick.

2. Reach Out and Touch Someone. One of the more popular automotive urban legends as of late is the cell phone myth. The rumor says that if you accidentally lock your keys in your car, you can call someone on your cell that has your spare remote, and if they hold the spare remote up to their phone and push the button, it will magically unlock your car. While this sounds good in theory, remote entry devices work on radio waves and your cell phone can’t send the signal needed to unlock the door. So don’t believe the crazy spam emails. No matter how good your cell provider is, it won’t work.

3. Pour Some Sugar On Me. Putting sugar in someone’s gas tank will not have catastrophic effects on the engine! Despite popular belief, the sugar will not harden into cement and kill your car. As proven in 1994 at Berkeley University, sugar does not dissolve in gasoline. However, if someone doesn’t like you very much and you do end up with sugar in your tank, you will need to change the fuel filter and probably remove the gas tank and empty it. Sugar in your tank can be a minor annoyance, but it’s nowhere near the horrible car killing event that movies and pop culture make it out to be.

4. Baby I got Your Number. It is possible for thieves to use your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to make a copy of your car key. So technically this urban legend is true. That being said, most dealerships require people in need of a new key to provide proof of ownership, which thieves aren’t going to have. And while covering or removing your VIN may prevent thieves from making a copy of your key, it creates a new problem in that it’s highly illegal. Bottom line, if you’re that worried about your car being stolen, get an alarm. Or just drive a Ford Focus station wagon and nobody will touch you.

5. Tennis anyone? There’s a longstanding rumor that you can unlock your car by cutting a hole in a tennis ball and squeezing it over the lock. On almost all cars this is complete B.S. and we ruined a perfectly good tennis ball trying to do it. However, on some older model cars that have a vacuum based lock system, it just might be possible. Bottom line: if you desperately need to unlock your car, call a locksmith or find a brick. It’ll look less silly than a tennis ball.