Cars have been an integral part of American culture since Ford released the Model T in 1908. Millions of Americans rely on their cars every day to get to work, run errands, and take the kids to school or practice. And with the need for interconnectivity at an all-time high, cars are just as valuable as ever.
With car culture being so important to the fundamentals of America, Americans have naturally always had a strong understanding of the mechanics of their vehicles. For many, part of growing up was learning how to fix a flat tire or change your oil, but with the new era of speed and convenience, times are changing.
According to a new survey on American car knowledge conducted by The Zebra, America’s knowledge of the mechanics of their vehicles is declining at a rapid rate. The poll asked 4,000 Americans four questions pertaining to basic car knowledge. The questions were if they could correctly identify three car warning symbols; the tire pressure warning symbol, the coolant temperature warning symbol, and the oil pressure warning symbol. The last question asked how long they would wait to take their vehicles to a mechanic after a warning symbol appeared on their dash. Needless to say, the results revealed some interesting facts and figures.
Seventy-three percent of Americans did not correctly identify the oil pressure warning light, which is remarkably poor for one of the more obvious symbols. Most Americans believed the oil pressure warning symbol just meant that their oil was running low or that they needed an oil change, which is not exactly correct. The oil pressure warning light tells you that your oil pressure is low, which could be caused by a few different issues. If you’re taking your car in for an oil change every time your oil pressure light comes on, you may be misdiagnosing the issue and wasting money in the long run.
One in three Americans did not correctly identify the tire pressure warning symbol. Knowing this, coupled with the fact that almost half of Americans wait a month or longer to take their car in to a mechanic, is downright scary. Drivers that not only can’t correctly identify this warning symbol and also wait too long to take their car to a mechanic are putting themselves and others on the road in danger. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11,000 tire-related crashes happen every year.
Forty percent of Americans did not correctly identify the coolant temperature warning symbol. This symbol is probably the most financially risky to not correctly identify. If your car’s coolant temperature warning symbol is on that means your vehicle’s engine is overheating and it doesn’t take long for the engine to sustain permanent damage. Your engine overheating typically results in the engine head warping and cracking, which leads to complete engine failure. Replacing an engine is one of, if not the most expensive, mechanical repair you can suffer as a car owner.
Older generations scored significantly higher on each question and also reported that they would take their car in to see a mechanic within a week, if not the same day the warning symbol came on. Eighteen to twenty-four year olds scored on average 20 percent worse for the three car warning symbol questions with 55 to 64 year olds scoring the best out of the main age demographics. Overall, young Americans are very susceptible to financial risks and general dangers by not knowing basic car warning symbols and waiting too long to address them.
Zachary Kee-Clemmer is a content creator who helped The Zebra conduct this survey. He is an English major from Texas A&M University with a background in creative writing and a passion for the automotive industry.