Winter Car Care Memes, and The Cost of their Consequences

Use Boiling Water to Quickly De-Ice Your Windshield

Stupidity, silliness and sarcasm power numerous parts of the internet, and that’s especially true when it comes to the great big universe of internet memes. These funny images with sassy text overlays are everywhere, and like many folks, you probably can’t stop looking at them.

If you’re a person of the internet, you’ve probably seen a recent proliferation of memes that purport to offer questionable-looking winter car care advice. Created to prey on a special kind of stupidity and cluelessness while making the rest of us chuckle, giggle or even chortle vigorously, these hilarious tips are incredibly stupid, and good for a laugh.

Trouble is, in the wrong hands, they’re pretty dangerous. After all: we all know the internet is frequented by a significant population of people who will take them seriously.

Don’t take these seriously, though. Because that would be dumb, and you could get hurt.

Here’s a look at some popular winter car care memes, and what to expect if you fall for them.

Use Boiling Water to Quickly De-Ice Your Windshield

Use Boiling Water to Quickly De-Ice Your Windshield

The Gist

You’re crafty and efficient, and ain’t nothing gonna slow you down on an icy morning. Since scraping ice from your windshield is for peasants, you’ll follow this meme, and be one of the smartest people on your Facebook feed.

Likely Outcome

Kiss your windshield goodbye, especially if there’s already a chip or crack in it. Slowly heating your windshield with the defroster is fine. Quickly heating it will likely cause damage. Instantly heating it with hot water will cause it to split, crack or even shatter completely. The nutshell? Hot water, applied to a frozen windshield, will almost definitely result in catastrophic windshield failure. Do you like exploding glass? If not, keep on using a scraper like the rest of us.

Cost

Follow this meme’s advice, or share it with your friends and family, and anyone who follows it will be looking at a $250–$500 replacement bill for a new windshield. You’ll also need a new windshield if you follow another popular meme, which suggests you attach sandpaper on your wipers to grind off the ice.

Add Antifreeze to Your Brake Fluid to Prevent Freezing

Add Antifreeze to Your Brake Fluid to Prevent Your Brakes From Freezing

The Gist

Frozen brakes are scary. So you’d best put some antifreeze in your brake fluid to keep the fluid from freezing up, so your brakes will work as expected, even in extreme cold, okay?

Likely Outcome

Read this not once, not twice, but thrice: you should never, EVER put anything into your brake fluid reservoir other than brake fluid. Brake fluid doesn’t actually freeze, and if you add engine coolant, or antifreeze, to it, awful things will happen very quickly.

What sort of things?

Mechanic John Kennard replied, “Are you nuts?!” while laughing hysterically when I asked him what would happen if someone put antifreeze in their brake fluid, and he needed to sit down a moment to think. “At the very least, the water in the antifreeze would get into the brake lines, and since water compresses, and brake fluid doesn’t, you’d have your brake pedal go right to the floor with little to no stopping power.”

So you’d render your braking system non-functional at the very least, barring any reactions between the chemicals in each fluid, or the chance that antifreeze could damage the lines, seals or other components in your braking system. This meme is more full of crap than the dog park after the snow melts in spring – and following it could get you injured or killed.

“This is a really, really stupid idea. Are people really this stupid?” said Kennard, who is unfamiliar with internet memes.

Cost

If you manage not to head-butt the nearest piece of highway infrastructure with your front bumper because of the loss of your braking system, you can expect, as a bare minimum, to need your full brake system flushed, refilled and bled – at a cost of several hundred dollars. Damaged seals and the associated replacement of the master cylinder and calipers could easily double or triple that amount.

Spray Your Brake Rotors With WD40 to Keep Them From Sticking

Spray Your Brake Rotors With WD40 to Keep Them From Sticking in the Cold

The Gist

Damn sticky brakes, always sticking in the cold. In this meme, it’s advised that you apply some WD40, or some other lubricating oil, to the rotors to fend off brake freezing.

Likely Outcome

First, kiss your stopping power goodbye. Brakes need friction to do their job, and lubrication eliminates that friction. Want to see what it’s like to hit the brakes and have, literally, nothing happen? Follow this charmingly moronic advice. If you’d rather live, be sure not to.

Cost

Assuming you avoid a (likely) crash the first time you try to stop, you’ll be looking at a new set of brake pads as a bare minimum. As pads are somewhat porous, they’ll absorb the WD40, effectively infecting and ruining them. Your brake rotors may require attention or replacement, too.

Mechanic Paul Kennaley comments, “Yeah, don’t do this. This is a really stupid idea, and you could cause an accident, get hurt, or worse. Plus, your brake pads will be completely toast.”

Lower Your Tire Pressure for More Traction

Lower Your Tire Pressure for More Traction

The Gist

To give your ride more grip on snow and ice, release some air from each tire, which makes your tires stick more to the road, like for traction and stuff.

Likely Outcome

Um, no. Always use whatever tire pressure is specified by your tire, or vehicle owner’s manual. In some cases, like if you’re stuck, releasing air pressure in certain types of tires can provide a little more grip at low speeds, though you’d best refill the tires immediately after. Lowering your tire pressure and driving will cause impaired handling, rapidly accelerated tire wear, and reduced safety.

Cost

This depends on how much you lower the tire pressure, and how long you drive that way. Drop the pressure a few pounds per square inch (psi), and you’ll wear your tires out faster, but they’ll still survive a while. Do like some versions of this meme suggest, and drop the pressure drastically, to, say, 5 psi, and you’ll ruin the tire within a dozen kilometres or so, because it will be visibly flat.

Replacement cost? Think $600 to $800, maybe more, depending on what you drive. Be sure to take a selfie with the tow-truck driver too – since you’ll need a tow to the shop, as you’ve only got one spare.

Open Your Radiator Cap After a Drive to Release Pressure and Prevent the Steam From Freezing

Open Your Radiator Cap After a Drive to Release Pressure and Prevent the Steam From Freezing

The Gist

After a good long drive in the cold, you want your engine’s cooling system to release steam, which could otherwise freeze and cause problems. What the?!

Likely Outcome

Simply, this meme is designed to injure people. Do you like skin grafts? If not, don’t do this. You’ll let extremely hot steam and liquid out of your vehicle’s pressurized radiator, which will, at least, make a total mess, and at worst, leave you with severe burns to your hands, face, and any nearby appendages.

Cost

The cost, in money, of opening your radiator cap immediately after a drive is relatively small – you’ll need some floor-dry to sop up the puddle of coolant, and a bit of coolant to top your radiator back up. The bigger cost will be to your skin, which will be painfully burned by the escaping steam and liquid. At least you can update your twitter profile picture to show off your cool new face, once the bandages are removed.

Winter is Too Cold for Coolant: Fill Your Rad With Water Instead

Winter is Too Cold for Coolant: Fill Your Radiator With Water Instead

The Gist

This mesmerizingly stupid advice uses a play on the word “coolant” to make a “convincing” argument (for the really, really stupid), that you should drain your vehicle of coolant, and replace the radiator’s contents with straight water, for the colder months.

Likely Outcome

Mechanic John Kennard was laughing hysterically. “Where are you getting these?!” he asked. “You’d ruin your engine. Plain and simple. With straight water, nothing stops the freezing. And water expands when it freezes – meaning you’ll get a cracked block and all sorts of other problems. Are people doing this?? Why are people doing this??!”

Translation? Follow this meme if you want to instantly ruin your engine on a cold night. Otherwise, always run the factory-prescribed coolant, in all seasons, even the cold ones.

Cost

This one’s pricey. Crack your engine block by filling it with straight-up water, and you’ll need an engine rebuild with a new block, which is pricey, or a straight-up new engine, which is even more expensive. You’ll also need a tow to the shop, new fluids, and replacement parts to fix any number of other engine components damaged by freezing. You’re well into the thousands of dollars range to repair this sort of damage.

Loosen Your Lugnuts for Winter so They Don’t Freeze in Place

Loosen Your Lugnuts for Winter so They Don’t Freeze in Case You Get a Flat

The Gist

You’re a clever motorist. You know what’s up. Frozen lugnuts? Not for you. So, follow this advice, just in case you get a flat tire, and need to change it on the roadside. Backing the nuts off will prevent them from freezing annoyingly in place – sounds legit, yes?

Likely Outcome

Do you like surprises? This fascinatingly dumb idea, in any likelihood, will cause your vehicle to dispense with one or more of its wheels as you travel down the highway. Best of all, it could happen within minutes, within hours, or two weeks later. In any case, the resulting wheel loss will instantly eliminate your ability to control your vehicle, cause a loss of steering, probably make you crash, and could injure nearby motorists or pedestrians.

Cost

The stupidity tax is strong in this one: you’re looking at a few thousand dollars if you don’t crash, and many thousands more if you do. If you’re lucky enough to lose your wheel(s) without an impact, you’re looking at new brake rotors, and some new body parts, and probably a new wheel and tire, as a bare minimum.

Car Taking Too Long to Heat Up? Connect Your Battery Terminals With a Wrench

Car Taking Too Long to Heat Up? Connect Your Battery Terminals With a Wrench

The Gist

This meme is optimized towards a specially enhanced and elevated level of stupid: since, unlike some of the others presented here, there isn’t even a tiny bit of logic to the idea whatsoever. The idea, dumb as it is, is that short-circuiting your battery somehow helps your vehicle to heat up faster. This is incorrect, obviously.

Likely Outcome

Do you like fireworks and cool noises and burns? If so, go ahead and connect the battery terminals under your hood with a metal wrench. You’ll instantly be treated to a lot of neat popping, buzzing sounds, a shower of sparks, and possibly even a really cool new tattoo on the part of your hand that’s holding the wrench. Consider putting some popcorn kernels in your pocket, so you have a warm snack after you’re electrocuted. Congratulations: you’ve just shorted your battery out, likely burned yourself, and may have damaged various electronic systems in your vehicle, in the process.

Cost

Barring any clothing singed by the sparks, or any burning of your hands, the cost of following this particular advice can vary widely. With any luck, you’ll remove the wrench at the first sign of sparking, and there will be no lasting damage. Leave it in place, possibly confused about the flashing lights and sound effects, and you may need a new battery – especially if your battery explodes, which is a possibility.

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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard is a native of Windsor, Ontario – though he’s called Sudbury his home for the past 20 years. Justin is a full-time auto writer, consultant and presenter of EastLink TV’s AutoPilot. His work can be seen weekly in numerous outlets across the country. When not writing about the latest new models and industry trends, you’ll probably find him fixing his 1993 Toyota MR2 GTS.
Justin Pritchard

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  • margaret

    i never heard this my entire life but from you. totally senseless

  • Nunya Bidness

    Hilarious!! Thanks for the laugh! 🙂