Movies and television can have a bad effect on reality. Numerous websites are filled with stories of how the “lifesaving” techniques showcased in fiction can actually be harmful in real life. For example, firearm fans constantly complain of the misconceptions of weapons thanks to movies and TV. And utomotive fans are no different.
Even before the Fast and Furious movies premiered, movies were presenting cars doing things that are almost impossible in real life. For the most part, viewers know what’s fake or not and are willing to accept some stuff that is pretty impossible. However, a lot of things that movies present about cars have somehow been accepted as fact by viewers. These can range from some of the wild stunts to the simple mechanics of how cars work.
For the most part, most viewers are smart enough to distinguish fiction from reality. Sadly, many are not (especially younger drivers) and assume what they see in a movie can be done just as well in real life. This can lead to damaging your car or even yourself while attempting some of these moves. There’s also how it makes things harder for other drivers who have to put up with these antics.
At times, movie stunts can be funny and embarrassing for folks who believe these things are possible. Other times, things can be a bit more serious. As amazing as it seems, here are 20 car myths people believe thanks to the movies and how some folks have trouble telling fact from fiction.
20 A Long Abandoned Car Can Be Good as New
Even in a movie about living dinosaurs, this was very unrealistic. In Jurassic World, two kids find a Jeep that’s been sitting in a jungle lab for the last twenty years. With just some new gas and transistors, the thing is up and running in minutes. Lost did much the same, too, when Hurley ended up getting a VW van in a jungle going with just a bit of work. There is no way a car exposed to the elements that long can be whipped into shape with anything less than a month in a serious body shop. The engine and exhaust will have rusted over, the tires long melted, and countless other issues formed. A wreck becoming ready to go with minor work is pure fantasy.
19 The Only Thing Damaged is the Bodywork
Here’s one of the wildest breaks from reality that movies make with cars. A car will be seen taking a huge jump or going down a hill and landing hard on the ground. It might shake a bit but it will go right on with no problems. Even if a car takes some hits to its body, it’ll be ready to drive at high speeds. This ignores how such jumps and crashes would cause everything from blown-out tires to cracked suspension and these things can wreck a car instantly. Even a minor fender-bender can leave some serious engine issues. Movies do push how a car can run fine—when mechanics can attest that even a pristine automobile can be a total wreck internally.
18 Drifting Makes Your Car Go Faster
Obviously, the worst offender for this is the third Fast & Furious movie, Tokyo Drift. For a brief time, the fad grew of sending a car drifting through a turn, moving sideways to take a curve better. The movies present it as a move that helps increase speed wonderfully. This ignores the very real fact that drifting actually slows your car down. It’s the reason it never caught on in actual racing because it gives the chasing cars a terrific chance to catch up and overtake the leader. Yet the idea that drifting increases speed still holds with drivers who don't know any better.
17 Any Car Can Be Driven the Same
This existed a while before the rise of racing movies, yet F&F and its knockoffs have made it more popular. The idea has grown that any car can be driven like any other—regardless of make, model or engine and that a high-performance racer or a powerful all-terrain vehicle can be handled exactly the same. The comedy Blockers has a pack of parents chasing their kids in an SUV. One asks, “What would Vin Diesel do?” as she sends it skidding around on the road at high speeds. The movie cuts to them all standing by the car in a ditch and complaining about how unrealistic those moves are. Unless the car is specially designed for it, never treat it like a racing machine.
16 Mixing Fuels is Fine
This has become a new constant in the various Fast knockoff films. The owner of a car will boast of how he’s mixing in some super-fuel to make it amazingly fast. This can range from nitrous oxide to what amounts to rocket fuel. It always transforms even a sleeper car into a high-speed machine. Contrary to belief, nitrous really isn’t that dangerous and the problem isn’t that it will hurt the car. The problem is that mixing up fuels often does nothing to improve a car’s performance. It takes more than just gas to make a supercar; it’s the engine performance. Even the best fuels can do nothing to improve a low-grade engine so mixing fuels really won’t make your car much better.
15 You Can Drive in Anything
It should be a no-brainer that if it’s raining or snowing hard, a driver should just pull over and wait it out. Too many movies make it appear as if a hard rain does little to affect someone’s driving. The recent film Hurricane Heist actually has car chases in the middle of a massive hurricane, which is completely ludicrous. There’s also how cars are shown easily handling roads covered in oil or ice at any speed. Some even go so far as to have a car literally aflame and yet it can still be driven (see the opening of Fate of the Furious). Too many accidents can be caused by people thinking a car is somehow immune to the elements rather than beholden to them.
14 Most Cars Can Handle Any Terrain Without Problem
This is one myth that just refuses to fade away. The F&F movies were among the worst, especially in Fate of the Furious, where a fleet of cars actually drove over an iced up lake. Even low-action comedies show how simple sedans, vans, or other cars can easily drive across grassy fields, hard dirt roads, muddy trails, and other terrains with no issues. Watching a Ferrari handling terrain that would challenge a 4X4 is laughable and yet folks think it can be done. The result can be some serious tire damage as well as damage to the undercarriage of the car. And that’s without mentioning the dangers of doing it at high speed.
13 Downshifting Does No Damage
This was a myth that existed long before the F&F movies came along but it’s become popularized by them. It’s practically a prerequisite that in any racing film, drivers will be shown shifting gears constantly. That includes how they’ll be at high speeds then downshift, which supposedly aids them in taking tight curves and other obstacles. More than a few mechanics can attest to the dangers of being at a high speed then shifting to a lower drive. It really does little to aid the performance as the constant shifts can damage the engine and transmission. It’s good for drama, sure, to enhance the excitement of a big race scene. Yet, in reality, constant downshifting does more harm to your car.
12 Overhauls Are Fast and Easy
Reality TV is just as guilty as the movies for pushing a car makeover as a quick thing. Several race movies will have a crew manage to totally overhaul a car literally overnight. It gives the impression it takes less than a dozen people to turn a car that’s a literal wreck into one ready to take to the race track—in just a few hours. Even a fully trained, top-notch Indy crew would be hard-pressed to handle car damage in anything less than a day. Just fixing engines and most of the inner workings would take too long. A full body repair job can run weeks or more. Movies love to play with time and promulgate the idea that any car repair is a quick fix.
11 Flips Are Constant
Even the biggest F&F fans have to crack up about how the laws of physics don’t seem to exist for these movies. To be fair, they're not alone and numerous movies will have a car hit something and then go flipping through the air. Now, this can happen in real life, as some police dash cameras can attest. However, it’s nowhere near as easy or constant as in the movies. It takes a huge combination of speed and velocity to get a couple of tons of metal to go so high in the air. Movie crews use special launchers to get those cars sailing so much. It’s a great sight for a flick but it’s hardly an everyday occurrence.
10 Wheelies and Burnouts Can be Done Anywhere
The F&F movies have really pushed this as a “reality” that drivers accept. One race has Dom doing a burnout and a wheelie right at the start of the race to intimidate his opponents. It does look cool and makes the car look impressive—too bad it can’t really be done. It takes a lot of traction to do a wheelie but a burnout causes a car to lose traction. Doing both at the same time from a parked position is pretty much impossible. Indeed, race movies make wheelies and burnouts something that can be accomplished with ease when real racers state that not only is it tough to pull off but it can downright dangerous.
9 Hotwiring Is Easy
Maybe once upon a time this was true, but no longer. Movies and TV shows make hotwiring look so easy, you’d think car thefts would be more commonplace. All someone does is crack the steering wheel, take a few wires, twist them together with a spark, use a screwdriver and bam, the car starts easily. The issue is that, even with older cars, it’s not so simple and might end up actually harming the engine in the long term. More importantly, given the advancements in engines, it’s nearly impossible with some models today. Unless you’re dealing with a specific older model, you’re better off using a key.
8 Overdrive Equals Light Speed
The F&F movies really love to push this idea. A character will already be going at high speeds and will declare, “Time to put it into overdrive!” They toss a gear, mash down on the pedal, and it’s as if the car has turned into a hyperjet. The reality is that going into overdrive is one of the worst things you can do because kicking it into overdrive is lowering the engine RPMs to just enough to keep the vehicle moving at speed for maximum efficiency. If you’re already going as fast as you can, hitting it into overdrive just saps the speed. Plus, it can affect the car’s control, which makes it a move to avoid, not relish.
7 It’s Easy to Ride on the Outside of Cars
This is a myth that’s led to a lot of real-life injuries. Movies showcase how it’s very easy to simply hold onto a car from the outside and ride along. Whether on the hood or the rear, it’s as if a character has magnetic hands to hold on with. The truth is that it’s pretty hard to get a grip on a car traveling even thirty or forty miles per hour and it's all too easy to be tossed off by a simple curve. The worst is when characters cling to the undercarriage. In real life, that would leave them prone to injury from dust, potholes and other debris. That’s without mentioning that it’s foolish to be that close to the exhaust.
6 Cars Are Excellent Cover
Now and then, a movie will play it realistically and show a car with lots of damage. Yet it remains a staple that during an action scene, all someone has to do is duck behind a car and they’re safe. There may be sparks and ricochets but for the most part, a car is great cover. As the Mythbusters proved, a car’s body is nowhere near as tough as people think it is. Projectiles would easily pass through the body, especially the doors. If someone were to ever find themselves caught in close-quarters combat, they’re better off just trying to run than assuming a car offers terrific protection.
5 Angry Braking is Perfectly Okay
It’s become a staple of comedies that two characters are in a car talking when one drops a surprise comment. The driver will slam on the brakes to bring the car to a full stop before demanding to hear that again. “Angry braking” may be safe in the movies but in real life, it can be a serious strain on the car. That’s not to mention the obvious issue of a car right behind you not being able to react in time to your sudden stop. It plays into how movies play off looking in the rear seat as no big deal. In reality, unless it’s vital, slamming on the brakes is something that should always be avoided.
4 Going Off a Cliff Causes an Explosion
This isn’t just the movies but a constant on TV shows, as well. A car goes off a cliff, takes a few hits on the way down, and, when it finally comes to a stop, it explodes. This is something else the Mythbusters tested to discover it just doesn’t happen. Maybe one time in fifty, the gas tank may spark but otherwise, all one gets is a mass of broken metal. Amazingly, the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was realistic when Bond knocks a bad guy’s car off a cliff and it doesn’t erupt. Even if a car is literally ablaze, a fall of a cliff won’t blow it up but it’s a car movie myth that refuses to fade away.
3 Any Car Can Become a Battering Ram
For the most part, in various action movies, a car is shown easily smashing through windows, a huge gate, a fence, or just about anything else in its way. Even a small sedan or motorcycle is shown as capable of crashing through any obstacle with ease. All one needs to do is go to any body shop to see how even a small fender-bender can cause massive damage to a car’s body. Sometimes, a comedy will have the drivers ramming a gate or fence and the car gets smashed up. Yet, thanks to scores of action films, too many drivers assume any car can become a battering ram without receiving much damage.
2 Anything To A Gas Tank Causes An Explosion
The comedy Last Action Hero has an over-the-top movie cop brought into the real world. When he fires at a car, he’s surprised that it drives off because in his world, they usually blow up. That’s a nice shot about how movies love to showcase that a single projectile turns any car into a danger. The Mythbusters made this a standout test for one of their shows to illustrate that if fuel was that easy to ignite, it couldn’t be used in an engine. They fired several rounds right into the gas tank of a car and while it had a minor fire from the sparks, there was no explosion. Thus, drivers shouldn’t be worried because a car explosion isn’t that common an occurrence.
1 Gasoline Lasts Forever
Whenever a post-Apocalyptic movie or TV show airs, cars are rare but still used. The Mad Max franchise emphasizes the constant use of cars and how gasoline is a precious resource. The problem is that gasoline is actually a refined product, meaning it can go bad quickly. It takes a long process to convert pure oil into gas and those resources wouldn’t be available if society were to collapse. It degrades, meaning there’s no way a car sitting around for months on end would have usable gas in the tank. Even using a fuel stabilizer just puts off the inevitable. Thus, if the movies were like reality, Max Rockatansky would be going around on a bicycle.
Sources: TV Tropes, Jalopnik, and Mythbusters.