• Pete

The Problem With Driver Education And Inaccurate Technical Information

Updated: Sep 22

Are we teaching them to drive or teaching them to be mechanics?

At the risk of offending some people, we need to discuss the problem in driving education and automotive journalism of false and or inaccurate information being published as factual. I read an article recently from a Drivers Ed website which stated that modern cars only take 30 seconds to warm up. This is completely false, obviously.

It would be in everyone’s best interest to “stay in their lane” as far as what is taught depending on what qualifications and or experience a teacher has. I don’t say this from an egotistical perspective but instead I say it from a perspective of, keep it simple and don’t complicate things. They want to learn to drive so teach them to drive. Knowing how a vehicle works before operating it certainly helps a driver to understand better how to control it, but most times students are already overwhelmed enough with trying to learn and remember all of the traffic rules and laws. In my opinion, a new driver should be focused on shoulder checks, speed control, and intersections. Especially left turns on solid green lights..

The below video is the type of outdated content a person will mostly find when looking for anything drivers ed related on YouTube.

Understanding Car Crashes (How is this still on YouTube?)

I’m not quite an expert, but I do have about 5 years experience as a Diesel truck mechanic and the credentials to go with it. When I search for videos or written content online related to driving, I am only able to find videos from 10 years ago in which a person is wearing Khaki pants and talking about down shifting a manual transmission or adjusting a belt tensioner, or my favorite one of all, “pump the brakes if you’re sliding”.

Smith System – Foul Weather Driving


Let’s clarify some technical data that hasn’t changed. All vehicles come with ABS brakes so there is no reason for anyone to be teaching new drivers to pump the brakes when sliding, unless it’s an absolute last resort. The ABS systems in all vehicles are far superior to the skills of most drivers so if anything, new drivers should be taught about how the system works to prevent sliding and why they can rely on it in an emergency.

Car Handling – Grip, Oversteer & Understeer explained by Tiff Needell

Kick Down Cables (really?)

I’ve read some articles and even textbooks that teach students that they must ensure that the kick down cable for their transmission or the accelerator pedal cable is, adjusted properly. I owned a 1989 Pontiac Firebird when I was 20 years old (2000 -ish) and it had a kick down cable. But, we haven’t had these types of cables for many years, maybe even decades in vehicles. All modern vehicles use Drive-By-Wire systems so that is what should be taught if one is teaching about technical systems. There are zero mechanical adjustment required to these electronic systems.

Adjusting Belt Tensioners

There are lots of text books and blogs that advise new drivers to adjust their belts. As with many other technical systems in modern vehicles, belt tensioners are no longer adjustable. Instead, they are spring loaded and sometimes referred to as “auto tensioners”.

Example: This article is full of false information and was written by a driver ed website:

“Warming Up Your Car: The Right Way to Get on the Road in Cold Weather“

“Step 3. Let the engine run for 30 seconds – That’s all it takes in most vehicles that are 30 years old or newer. If it’s extremely cold and your vehicle is covered in snow or ice give it a minute or two longer to warm up.”

“Step 4. Start slowly and take it easy for the first 5-15 minutes – A long period of idling your car can be bad for your engine. What will help is remembering to start slowly and take it easy on the gas pedal for about 5-15 minutes when driving in cold weather. Otherwise, you could stress out your engine before it’s had time to reach its normal performance levels.”

“The Truth about Warming Up Your Engine – Do you really need to warm up your engine for several minutes before getting on the road? It’s commonly believed that, in cold weather, you need to warm up your car for several minutes before you begin driving in order to reduce wear on your engine.”

“Warming Up Modern Day Vehicles – Today’s modern vehicles use electronic fuel injectors that can detect cold weather and will release extra gasoline into the gas-air mix to compensate for the evaporation problem. That means the engine should be ready to go as soon as it begins running. So by idling your car, you’re just releasing extra gas into your engine without getting any use out of it. “

It doesn’t take 30 seconds to warm up an engine. It takes much longer. Although all engines require a varying amount of time to warm up, there is no combustion engine in the world that can warm up in 30 seconds.

After stating that it takes 30 seconds to warm up a modern day vehicle, they then advise drivers to take it easy on the gas pedal for 5-15 minutes to ensure the vehicle has reached it’s “normal performance levels”. What does that even mean? They said it takes 30 seconds to warm the engine now they say it takes 5-15 minutes for it to reach “normal performance levels”. If the engine is warm then the car is at its peak performance level.

Then they go on to say that there is no need to warm up your car in cold weather because it’s a waste of time and fuel and does nothing to prevent engine wear. You should absolutely allow your vehicle to warm up for a few minutes in cold weather as this will be much easier on the engine and prevent wear. Car engines, like most mechanical things, do not like cold weather.

They say that electronic fuel injectors can sense temperature. A fuel injector is a fuel injector, not a temperature sensor. A temperature sensor is a temperature sensor.

Then they say that the fuel injectors release extra gasoline into the combustion chamber to compensate for the “evaporation problem”. Gasoline – Does – Not – Evaporate. Where did this “Drivers Ed” website obtain this technical information from? How are they allowed to publish this completely false information?


Quality YouTube Channels For Learning To Drive

Understanding how automotive systems work is valuable when creating a safe driver. However, it is not essential. Teaching new drivers to trust these systems so that they can stop focusing on them and concentrate more on driving would be much more constructive than teaching them about mechanical systems that no longer exist. There are however, some really great Youtube channels out there with quality information.

Example of an excellent driving channel: ‘The Safe Distance To Stop Behind A Vehicle’

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