7 Winter Maintenance Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Don't believe everything you hear or read. Understanding these 7 maintenance misconceptions will help you be better prepared for winter this year.

Myth #1: Modern Furnaces Are Maintenance-Free

This myth stems from modern furnaces requiring less maintenance than their predecessors. But “less” doesn’t mean “none.” Annual inspections by a licensed furnace technician are still essential for reliable heating performance and long furnace life. Even if you have a newer furnace, you need to change your furnace filters as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Myth #2: Paint Only at Room Temperature

This used to be true, but today’s best latex paints can be applied in temperatures as low as just a few degrees above freezing. If in doubt about a particular type of latex paint, read the label to double-check. Today’s top 100 percent acrylic latex paints are usually quite cold-tolerant.

Myth #3: One Viscosity of Motor Oil Is Fine Year-Round

This may or may not be true, depending on where you live and on the technical specifications for your vehicle. The fact is, if you dig deep into your owner’s manual, you’ll often find that the ideal viscosity of motor oil differs from season to season.

While you can use one type of multi-grade motor oil all year in any vehicle, investigate changing grades if your region has more than a 100 degree spread from winter lows to summer highs.

Myth #4: Modern Cars Don’t Need Rustproofing

This myth is true only if you intend to sell your new vehicle after a few years, and don’t care about the environmental costs of a vehicle that needs to be junked sooner than necessary.

Modern vehicles, in areas with harsh winters and salted roads, will develop rust. But an annual spray of rustproofing oil can make body and frame rust a non-issue. I live in the rust belt and my 1990 Ford F-150 remains rust-free because I spray it every year.

Myth #5: Plug-In Electric Heaters Are Efficient

This myth is promoted by less-than-honest electric heater manufacturers based on information presented out of context. All forms of electric resistance heaters are usually the most expensive sources of heat, so don’t be fooled by pleasant sounding nonsense like “costs only 25 cents an hour to operate!” That sounds cheap, yes. But over a month that one electric heater could add $100 to $180 to your utility bill while only heating one room, at best.

Myth #6: There’s No Point in Turning Down the Thermostat

Sure, your home heating system works hard to bring room temperatures back up after being turned down. The thing is, you still save heating energy if you turn down your thermostat when you can.

Why? The cost of heating your home is determined by the price you pay for energy and how much energy your home loses. Because heat loss is proportional to the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the cooler your home, the less the temperature difference, and the less energy will be lost. That, in turn, lowers your heating bill. That’s why the lower you keep your house temperature and the longer you can keep it down, the more energy you’ll save.

Myth #7: My Old Furnace Works Fine

Well, just because that 20- or 25 year-old fossil still heats your home doesn’t mean it’s working fine. The main issue is efficiency. A new furnace can often pay for itself long before it’s old because modern options use so much less energy than old furnaces.

Then there’s reliability. The older a furnace, the more likely it is to suffer catastrophic failure, like a cracked heat exchanger. Better to replace a furnace when you have time to choose wisely, rather than rushing to accept whatever the furnace company offers because you need heat now.