|Style over substance|
Automotive woo is the promotion of certain goods and services that ostensibly improve one's driving experience but are not founded in science. Though this fact rarely ever stops the petrol heads from trying it anyway.
 General examples
- Special spark plugs make your car run better:
- Actually, new spark plugs often make your car run better. The correct ones (i.e., the type specified by the manufacturer) make it run best. Proper gapping is also necessary, as too small of a gap or too large of a gap can cause misfiring.
- A quart of magic goo will clean and preserve your engine or transmission, improve operation and fix minor problems:
- Proper engine oil and lubricants work best, and run no risk of engine damage.
- Inflating your tires with nitrogen will
improve your sex lifedo some magical stuff:
- Race tires are filled with nitrogen because the extreme temperatures caused by doing sharp turns at 300 km/h turns water and oxygen into chemical reactives that can degrade rubber; on a normal civilian car that rarely does anything beyond 120 km/h, this effect is negligible.
- For similar reasons, aircraft tires are filled with dry nitrogen. Unless one is in the habit of using friction with the pavement to spin the wheels from zero up to a comfortable margin above aerodynamic stall speed (which is mighty flippin fast in the case of most road vehicles, on the order of space shuttle re-entry speed) the benefit is negligible.
- Air is 78% nitrogen already; pure nitrogen won't help anything. The density of nitrogen is 1.25 g/L, air is 1.2 g/L. For all intents and purposes they are the same.
- Inserting a stamped metal "air twister" into the intake will increase mileage
- Without going too deep into math and engineering reasons, no, they won't. The fact of the matter is, if a $1 stamped piece of metal could increase fuel mileage by any significant amount, every manufacturer would already install them into new automobiles.
- Using premium grades of fuel will increase power:
- This applies if and only if your car is designed to run on premium; in that case, lower octane fuel will reduce your power and economy. In many older performance engines (and even modern very high performance applications), running regular unleaded can cause problems such as pre-detonation, or "knocking". If a car requires, or even recommends premium, it will say so in the owner's manual, and usually on the gas cap as well. Otherwise, "premium" just costs more for no benefit. Odds are, if the car isn't a high performance or muscle car, it's designed for regular unleaded gasoline. Some newer cars recommend premium, but can still run fine on regular unleaded, albeit not at peak performance.
- Send $20 and we'll send you blueprints for converting your car to run on nothing but water!
- You get some hypothetical BS; none of these actually work. You're better off sending that money to the ad underneath it selling instructions for building your own helicopter out of a lawn mower engine, or to the ad above it selling Sea Monkeys.
- A really big exhaust will make it go faster!
- While increasing the exhaust diameter of the entire system can indeed increase power (It is, in fact, one of the first modifications generally carried out by those seeking a faster car), and can even increase fuel economy, simply putting a large muffler on the end of your stock pipe does nothing. Also, once you reach a certain point, increasing your car's exhaust pipe diameter does nothing, at best, and at worst can decrease power - other than supercharged or turbocharged motors, some post-manifold backpressure is necessary for correct operation.
- Our fuel is better than their fuel because it's enhanced with (fill in the blank: some no-knock compound, magic pixie dust, a tiger)... etc. etc.:
- Doubtful unless the additive improves the octane rating, although even this has dubious benefits unless the car is designed to run on premium. One rarely mentioned factor that can improve fuel quality is age. As fuel sits in the tank, condensation increases the amount of water present in the fuel. Therefore, freshly pumped fuel will be of superior quality to that which has sat in the tank for ages. Also, modern gasoline ages quite rapidly, and condenses junk on fuel system components, rendering them inoperable. If a motor is to sit for a while without being run, fuel stabilizers (about the only magical bottled product that actually works) are advised to prevent "varnishing", and the build-up of condensation.
- Detergents are another useful additive which prevent deposits on fuel injectors and valves. All fuel sold in the USA meets a minimum EPA standard for detergent content. An alternative standard developed by BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen known as Top Tier contains higher levels of detergents and such fuel is recommended by these automakers.
 Specific examples
 Energy Polarizer
In 1986, Australian motor racing driver Peter Brock unveiled a device called an Energy Polarizer, which consisted of a black box containing a sliver of crystal surrounded by magnets, with promises it could improve the fuel performance and handling of any car which uses it. Despite no scientific testing of it, Brock claimed it worked through 'aligning the molecules' of the car, and began fitting the device to all Holden Dealer Team specials. Other benefits claimed by the device included absorbing road shocks more completely and quietly, to reduce overall vehicle noises - both inside and outside - to achieve greater efficiency of the power train and steering systems, improving the engine and suspension performance and to create a more pleasant environment for the driver and passenger. On the eve of the 1987 Australian Touring Car Championship, Brock was ready to release a new car called the Brock Director. A GM based Brock car with the device as standard. With the Energy Polarizer failing to deliver any improvements in efficiency as promised, Holden refused to have anything to do with it, and after many threats from GMH to withdraw all support from Brock and the Mobile Holden Dealer team if he went ahead with the release of the car, Brock released the Brock Director February 1987. On 23rd February 1987, Holden withdraw all support to Brock and the Brock Special Vehicles empire was gone along with his reputation. An Energy Polarizer is also included in the modern throwbacks; however, this is just for posterity.
 Fuel economy
A common form of automotive woo is fuel economy woo: devices that claim to improve fuel economy. It becomes more common during temporary spikes in prices of fuel (1974, 1980, 2008). Most vendors of these products also claim an increase of power "up to" some percentage.
- Magnets on your fuel line will improve economy
- Little coils in the fuel line will improve economy
- A magic pill in your fuel tank will improve fuel economy
- Adding "HHO gas" (from an underhood electrolyser) to the intake will improve economy
- Homebrew "water injection" devices to add to your carburetor were promoted during the late 1970s "energy crisis", in such magazines as The Mother Earth News. The fuel economy improvement from these is so negligible, why bother? Water or methane injection is actually used in some high powered turbo or supercharged cars, as well as a number of WWII aircraft engines, to cool the charge in the cylinders, but people doing this are not concerned with efficiency so much as getting the maximum power out of their motors without blowing them up.
 Techniques that work
"Hypermiling" is the obsessive-compulsive practice of utilizing driving techniques to maximize fuel economy. While unlike any of the above this does improve fuel economy, sometimes radically, it can result in some dangerous driving practices. Hypermilers tend to be nuisances on the road, especially if they aren't paying attention to anything but obsessively trying to squeeze as much kilometreage as they can out of that last drop of petrol. Truck drivers are sick and tired of you four-wheelers drafting right behind them, so cut it out already.
There are much less expensive ways to improve fuel economy that don't demand any modification, nor any dangerous driving practices. Most of these are free:
- Check tire pressure regularly. It's harder to drive with limp tires than firm ones. Also, low rolling resistance tires do cause a measurable increase in fuel efficiency, however this comes at the cost of traction. They would be fine in a dry climate with no snow, but if you have heavy rains or serious winters, the small fuel savings are not worth sacrificing the potentially life saving traction.
- Keep your engine "tuned" with appropriate maintenance intervals, and run the lightest oil weight your climate and engine can handle. A good synthetic will allow you to run a lighter weight oil and not blow up your motor. This can help your engine remain efficient at converting fuel to motion. This is a slight increase, but 5W-30 costs no more than 10W-30.
- Drive slowly. Basic physics states that it takes more energy to accelerate to a higher speed, and the power required to overcome air resistance increases as the cube of velocity. Assuming you don't drive too slowly, you'll be safer, as well.
- Use the pedals gently. Accelerate slowly if possible, and get out of the lower gears as soon as possible, while down shifting as little as possible. You don't need to pass everyone, and the world won't end if you lose 5MPH going up a hill. Coast down and brake gently if possible (instead of keeping the throttle pressed until you're barely at the intersection).
- Older cars with flimsy brakes often required some engine braking. This doesn't happen anymore, but some people still have the habit.
- Do not carry excess weight in your vehicle. Basic physics also dictates that lighter objects take less energy to accelerate to the same speed.
- Buy smaller, lighter vehicles with manual transmissions; again, lighter object, same acceleration, less energy used, and manual transmissions don't have an energy-dissipating torque converter.
- Some newer automatic transmissions, however, give better fuel economy than their manual transmission counterparts, so your mileage may vary (literally).
- Buy a newer model vehicle if possible, as developments in engine technology are delivering ever greater efficiency with no impact to the performance (And perhaps more importantly, safety) of the vehicle.
- Get a manual transmission car. The manual not only gets better mileage (though not so much now as in the past), but is faster, lighter and less prone to break. And once you get the hang of a manual it's a hell of a lot more fun than an automatic. They may increase the cost of your insurance, however, as drivers inexperienced with manual transmissions are at risk of rolling backwards on hills when proceeding from a stop.
- A note on hybrids. Hybrids are not bad. They do get good mileage, and have been proven to be as reliable as your standard internal combustion only car. However, the prices are higher and it is unlikely you will make up the costs in fuel savings over the life of the car. If you want to help the environment, hybrids are a reasonable option, but if you simply want to save money, a diesel, or a very small, light car is a better bet.
- There are plans out there for a way to set up a variable resistor in series with a mass air sensor, to make your engine run much leaner when not requiring much power. This is only for the technically proficient.
- And, the last, most effective thing you can do (in a car, anyway): Carpool. Having a passenger doubles your "people miles/gallon", or halves your "litres/100 km-people". Two passengers triples pm/g, and so on and so forth.
- Buy a bike, or walk. You don't need a car to go two blocks! And the more calories you burn, the more beer you can drink without getting chubby.
- If you're moving your living quarters to another place, find a place that is close to civilization. It's far more ecological and economic when you can just walk to the grocery store than when you have to drive 10 kilometers to get to the nearest supermarket.
 Fun questionnaire
1. A six-foot fiberglass spoiler on the back of your car makes it:
- (a) faster
- (b) slower
Take your time. Answer in this footnote:
 See also
- ↑ Holowater.com: Peter Brock Energy Polarizer
- ↑ Modern VL
- ↑ Bankrate.com: Best mileage: Automatic or manual?
- ↑ Recycling of the hybrid battery when the car reaches the end of life phase can cause significant environmental damage if not done correctly
- ↑ The entire purpose of a spoiler (really a 'wing') is to use forward motion to create down force, which thus slows the car down. This is a good thing in many race situations, where the high powered, light weight cars would quite literally fly off the track due to air building up underneath them, in the absence of any countervailing force. However, on the road, a large spoiler is unnecessary, being as most cars cannot reach the speeds required for it to be effective, and even the few that could would be endangering their driver, the driver's license, and everyone else on the road by driving at such irresponsible and excessive speeds. While they're all called spoilers by most people, really a spoiler sits flush on the back of the car and deflects air upward, spoiling the airflow from tumbling down behind the car immediately and creating a bit of drag force. A 'spoiler' that allows air underneath it is actually a wing, with a cross section upside down compared to an airplane wing. Just as an airplane wing (with the trailing edge lower than the leading edge and the bottom relatively flat compared to a rounded top) creates lift when moving through the air at high speeds, an automotive wing with the trailing edge higher than the leading edge and the top relatively flat compared to a rounded bottom) does the opposite, pressing down on the back of a car. A race car wing is precisely engineered in a wind tunnel to provide an exact level of down force due to this wing profile, matching the car's specific aerodynamics and tire adhesion. A street wing is designed to look cool to those who like that sort of thing. If you are a professional racer, by all means, put that spoiler or wing on. It may save your life. If you're a boy racer revving your car at stop lights, save your money. This goes double if you have a front wheel drive car like a Honda Civic. In the unlikely event your aftermarket wing actually did create any downforce, this would cause the front end to lift slightly and lessen the grip of the front wheels. You know, the wheels that account for your steering and about 70% of your braking power. It should also be noted, however, that on some roads where the speed limit is "how fast you can go", basic ground effects can go a long way to improve stability at speeds in excess of 160 km/h.