More than $700-that's what the average household spends a year on car maintenance. Consumer Reports says certain myths can lead people to do the wrong thing-and that can cost you.
Its auto experts have this reality check so you can be sure your money is being well spent.
"When it comes to maintaining your car, misconceptions abound that could lead you to spend more money than you need to, and even compromise your safety," said Consumer Reports Jon Linkov.
Myth #1: Your engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.
Linkov says, "Despite what oil companies and quick-lube shops say, that's usually not necessary."
The reality check: Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles can go 7,500 miles or more. Stick with your owner's manual for your vehicle's service schedule.
Myth #2: If your brake fluid is running low, you should just top it off.
Linkov says, "If your brake fluid level drops to or below the Low mark, something could be wrong with your brakes. So topping off the fluid could mask a BIG problem."
Reality check: Get your brake system inspected immediately.
Myth #3: After a jump-start, your car will soon recharge the battery.
"It could take hours of driving to restore your battery's full charge," says Linkov.
Reality check: Have your battery inspected at a service station to see if it needs more time to become fully charged, or whether it needs to be replaced."
And finally Myth #4: Dishwashing and laundry detergent make a good car wash.
"It's not worth using dish detergent to save money, because you could damage your car's finish!" said Linkov.
The reality check: Use car-wash liquid instead.
Another bit of advice from Consumer Reports-don't inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire's sidewall0that the maximum pressure the tire can safely hold-not the manufacturer's recommended pressure.
The correct tire pressure is usually listed on the doorjamb, in the glove compartment, or near the gas cap.