By some estimates, the automotive aftermarket has swollen to a $295 billion-a-year industry. A lot of useful products are being sold at auto parts stores and specialty outlets all over the country. But for every company that sells quality replacement parts and other products for your vehicle, there are 10 pushing magic potions and gizmos that do nothing but pull hard-earned cash straight out of your wallet and place it into someone else’s. We’ve identified five common automotive scams that won’t do anything for your vehicle’s resale value. Avoid these gimmicks unless you like to toss money out the window.
1. Higher-Grade Fuel
Each vehicle is engineered to accept a certain grade fuel as determined by the engine’s compression ratio. If your owner’s manual says your car is rated for regular gasoline and you’ve been feeding it premium, you’re wasting your money. The only difference between the two is that premium has a higher resistance to knock, or pre-ignition, than regular gasoline. While you can run premium in a regular engine, it will neither clean it nor give you any additional power. Meanwhile, using regular in an engine that requires premium could cause serious mechanical damage.
2. Nitrogen in Your Tires
Have you noticed that many tire stores now offer nitrogen as an alternative to compressed air for your vehicle’s tires? The theory behind this practice is that pure nitrogen is less subject to contraction and expansion than the regular air we all breathe, and that inflating your tires with the gas will save you fuel as a result. The truth is, standard compressed air is already around 78 percent nitrogen, and the differences between a tire filled with standard air and one filled with nitrogen are negligible at best. If the service were free, we wouldn’t turn it down, but we wouldn’t pay for it, either.
3. Far-Fetched Fuel-Saving Gizmos
We’ve all seen the late-night advertisements for the air filter that is supposed to save you gallons of fuel or the magic “conversion kit” that will allow your vehicle to run on water. Don’t believe them. By and large, these types of gadgets are a complete waste of money. In the end, it pays to listen to what your parents told you when it comes to things being too good to be true: They probably are. Do your research and trust your gut. Car manufacturers spend billions of dollars each year trying to come up with the next fuel-saving technology, so chances are if you haven’t seen it in the showroom, the bit in the back of the magazine won’t do you any good.
Have you seen the automotive aisle at your local superstore lately? There are more magic potions for car care than there are for restoring hair growth. If you find yourself with a problem such as a leaky radiator or head gasket, don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a magic panacea that will cure it. Most of the time, those products will take care of your problem but have unwanted side effects that could lead to expensive repairs. Bite the bullet and get the problem fixed right the first time.
5. Wheels, Stereos and TVs
If you’re planning on putting money into your vehicle, make sure it goes toward something that will actually make your car worth more at the end of the day. Contrary to popular belief, bolting on a new set of larger, flashier wheels or installing an insane entertainment system won’t bring you any extra cash when it comes time to trade in or sell the car. On the contrary, aftermarket additions such as wheels and stereos can actually detract from the total value of your vehicle. Skip the flash and fix what’s broken on your vehicle before something small turns into larger trouble.