Reality TV isn’t really real. While there are plenty of car shows over the years that feature real cars, real mechanics and real shops, there's always an omission or spinning of truth to make it more appealing to viewers.
Cars are complex mechanisms that require more than an hour to delve into. With limited air time and so much jam-packed into a show's episodes, it’s impossible taking the time to go through many of a car's intricacies. With less education and more sensation filling up time on car shows, viewers are susceptible to adopting general myths about the auto industry.
In the end, it isn’t viewers’ faults they think a car restoration looks easy or have a particular perception when it comes to EVs. While many car shows have an agenda, many of them have sent false messages to viewers by accident.
When cars become the center of a reality show, they go through a controlled process where producers shape footage with the intent of getting the most viewers, not educating the public on how these miraculous mechanical wonders work. No one can really blame the producers or even the casts of these shows though—they’re just doing their jobs and trying to reach as many people as they can. Unless they do that, they’re at risk of the show getting canceled, which doesn’t benefit anyone.
We’re going to look at some of the biggest car myths to come out thanks to reality TV shows. There’s no shame in having once believed these widely-circulated concepts about the auto industry—it's a multi-layered subject that's still teaching experts new tricks every day.
25 If You’ve Seen One Restoration Shop, You’ve Seen Them All
Monster Garage, Counting Cars, Fast N’ Loud—all these shows revolve around a shop restoring cars. The atmosphere is always fun and laid back until the deadline looms—that’s when everyone goes into crunch time. Usually, at the end of the episode, the team gets to enjoy their creation.
Then they do it all over again but with a different project. This formula gives the wrong impression to viewers who assume every auto shop in the real world works like this when really they're all unique and don’t have cameras rolling (Precision Car Restoration).
24 Ice Trucking Is As Perilous As It Looks
Shot in Alaska and parts of Canada, Ice Road Truckers follows those who are willing to brave the harsh landscape in their long-haul trucks. As hooked as we are to the show though, we think it might be dramatizing things a little too much. According to the site Truck Driver Career Information, trucking in those environments is not nearly that exciting.
They even assert no trucker has passed away while on ice roads since 1973. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the show for what it is, it just may not reflect the real job.
23 Subwoofers Are Worth It For Only One Type Of Music
Love it or hate it, Pimp My Ride offered some interesting custom cars. Even if viewers didn’t like what they came up with, it was still fun to make fun of. Seeing cars transform before one’s eyes, viewers might imagine changes they’d make to theirs, many of which long for a new sound system.
There’s a myth concerning subwoofers, and that they’re only good for one genre of music: rap. The site Crutchfield reports that subwoofers are actually great for any kind of music, not just rap, making one wonder where this myth came from.
22 A Restoration Is Guaranteed Money
Reality TV creates assumptions that don’t always reflect reality. Take car restorations, for example. Many of the ones that go through Count’s Kustoms turn a profit. Part of that has to do with having an expert like Danny “The Count” Koker behind the projects. Not everyone has Koker’s skillset though when it comes to restorations.
It’s unrealistic to assume that just because someone restores a car means they’ll get lots of money for it (Storage Seeker). Even if they do an incredible job, there are no guarantees.
21 EV And Smartphone Batteries Are The Same
More than likely most viewers aren’t watching their favorite reality car shows on TV, but instead on their smartphones. Familiar with that device and its battery—when they hear about EVs—they just assume the two are similar. An EV’s battery isn’t like a smartphone’s, however.
Top Gear assures misinformed viewers that a car’s battery has the potential to last longer than the car will. Therefore, the battery in an EV isn't expected to deplete as fast as a smartphone battery will.
20 New Cars Are Immune To Rust
It’s always a thrill when someone unearths a classic car. Whether it’s found in a storage unit in Storage Wars or a scrapyard in Classic Car Rescue, there’s always the potential for rust on cars. As the site Monroe NearSay reports, there’s a myth that only old cars are susceptible to rust.
This may have caught on because it’s what owners want to believe about their new cars. In reality, though, they confirm that rust can happen to any car, new or old.
19 Wraps Ruin The Paint Job
In shows like Monster Garage and Fast N’ Loud, the teams behind the cars find time to have fun with their new creations. One car to come out of the Gas Monkey Garage in 2018 was a cool race car that had an elaborate wrap across it. Some people think that a wrap damages the paint on a car.
The site Riveting Wraps confirms that this is a myth though, and in fact, a wrap can protect the car’s paint (as long as it’s already in good shape).
18 Modifying Burns More Fuel
Some people assume the worst when it comes to tuning vehicles. They believe that any modifications will only impair a car. There’s a myth going around, as Total Serbia notes, that going through with a mod can accelerate how much fuel a car goes through. The same source notes, however, that as long as it’s done properly, there’s a way for owners to use even less fuel.
The viewers who buy into these myths have been making their own assumptions while watching too many reality TV shows.
17 Only 100% Carnauba Car Wax Is Worth It
Shows like Cuban Chrome highlight cars getting awesome touch-ups. One episode featured a 1957 Chrysler getting a new paint job. Those who know a thing or two about paint jobs may have heard about waxes with carnauba. There’s a myth going around, according to Truck Trend, that wax containing 100 percent carnauba is superior compared to those with less.
They set the record straight though in saying that waxes using synthetic polymer is actually a better way to go opposed to carnauba.
16 Restorations And Refurbishments Are Interchangeable Terms
The casts of reality car shows know what they’re doing and talking about when it comes to automobiles. Due to editing and the limited air time though, they may not have time to explain things, such as the difference between a car restoration and car refurbishment.
According to the site Precision Car Restoration, between the two, a restoration is generally more labor intensive. That involves taking a car apart and practically building it from scratch again. A refurbishment is the equivalent of adding modifications to an already used car.
15 Have To Lose Climate Controls To Modify Sound System
Pimp My Ride featured some awesome sound systems. Many viewers might’ve looked upon them with envy, but never did it to their own cars because their climate control integrated directly with the radio, and they were afraid of those features going away. The idea that they’ll lose those is a myth, however.
As the site Crutchfield points out, factory sound processors offer tuners a workaround so they can still make changes to their sound system without sacrificing climate control. Reality TV shows don’t tell the entire story.
14 EV Batteries Don’t Last Long
A show like Top Gear features a lot of electric vehicles. If there’s one thing viewers can expect, it’s that the hosts will always give their honest take on it. Viewers might get the wrong impression though based on their opinions. Thankfully, Top Gear’s official website clears the air on some myths surrounding EVs.
The idea that the battery will always feel like it’s getting low shouldn’t be a concern for buyers since many can go up to 200 miles before owners have to plug them in again.
13 Body Kits Help Cut Down On Fuel Consumption
A show like Graveyard Carz, which features Mark Worman and the team fixing up cars, exposes viewers to a wide range of restorations. It’s the kind of setting one is likely to see a body kit. These can really make or break a car depending on how it looks. There’s an idea going around that these can also help save on fuel costs.
Yet according to The Shop Magazine, aftermarket body kits are really just for changing the car's appearance more than anything else.
12 Car Restorations Are All About The Benjamins
A show like Counting Cars is popular today because it revolves around an appealing concept: buy cars and make them look better than ever. Viewers can’t get enough of Danny Koker acquiring rides and seeing what he and the Count’s Kustoms team is able to pull off. The key that comes afterward is being able to flip the vehicles and make some dough in the end.
What many viewers don’t realize though is that restoring cars should be about making it a hobby, less the profits (Precision Car Restoration).
11 Original Restorations Means All Original Parts
There seems to be some confusion about what the term “original” means in terms of car restorations. That may be thanks to many of the car reality shows on today. The blog Storage Seeker confirms that a restored car doesn’t necessarily need to have all the original parts for it to bear the coveted "100% original" title.
They point out that someone can even swap out the interior fabric for something else and still call it “original," at least when it comes to cars in the United States.
10 EVs Lack Performance
Since viewers see so many episodes of Graveyard Carz, Monster Garage and Counting Cars where the casts restore older vehicles, they assume all new vehicles are inferior. The casts on those shows talk about how great the performance is on the older cars they work on. What about new EVs today though? Do those really provide owners with an inferior driving experience?
Top Gear’swebsite makes a defense of EVs’ performance, emphasizing their acceleration as a major appeal to these fuel-efficient vehicles.
9 Modifying The Car Is Saying Goodbye To The Warranty
Someone tunes in to Misfit Garage; they see the crew—formerly from Richard Rawlings camp—blazing their own trail, working on cars of their own. Suddenly it hits the viewer—why don’t they tune their own car? Then a dark cloud emerges over their plan. They think if they tune their car, it could nullify their factory warranty. This, however, is a myth.
According to Total Serbia, as long as a factory or authorized tuner is behind the job, they don’t have to worry about losing out on their warranty's benefits.
8 Barn Finds Always Look Good
Shows like Barn Find Hunter are entertaining because it shows what treasures lie in wait in the most unexpected of places. It doesn’t always paint an accurate picture about barn finds though. According to the blog Storage Seeker, barn finds in real life tend not to be in as good of shape as they’re presented on shows.
More than likely, the cars that get stored away become neglected thanks to the original owner never considering it could ever run again.
7 4-Way Speakers Are The Way To Go In All Circumstances
When faced with a car restoration, tuners have plenty of choices to make. When it comes to a car's sound system, as the site Crutchfield points out, some audiophiles prefer a 2-way speaker over a 4-way speaker. There’s a myth though, according to the same source, that 4-way is always the way to go.
In one episode of Pimp My Ride, there’s a 1987 Chevy Blazer with an insane sound system, but one that’ll lead viewers astray when it comes to this debate.
6 There Aren’t Lots Of Ways To Charge EVs
Electric cars aren’t really that popular on TV shows where they restore cars. Shops tend to take older cars from decades ago that already offer lots of performance on their own. That can lead many viewers to believe misconceptions about EVs today. Many might find EVs stressful simply because of the reliance on a charging station and therefore, assume they're a headache.
The official website for Top Gear begs to differ though, noting that there are 15,000 stations across the United Kingdom for owners to charge up their cars.
5 Automakers Skip Tuning Because It Extends The Vehicle’s Life
There’s a misconception about whether tuning a car is detrimental for it. With so many shows revolving around modifying cars, many viewers wonder whether all the cars they make are of inferior quality. Total Serbia reports that many support this theory by saying if it wasn’t bad to tune a vehicle, then they’d ship it that way to dealerships.
Those who believe this concept though don’t realize that automakers are making vehicles as cheap as possible without compromising quality, so tuning it would go outside the budget they've allocated for production costs.
4 Have To Go Without Safety Features To Change Out The Radio
A similar point from earlier reflected on viewers thinking they might forfeit climate controls if they swap out the car's radio. The same goes for safety features, which the site Crutchfield notes can remain intact when working on a sound system, even if it's connected to the car's built-in radio.
They report there’s an adaptor that carries over the security features. Just because the show doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. More than likely if there’s a car-related challenge, someone’s already found a solution.
3 There’s Nothing Left To Do After Completing A Restoration
Car restorations entail lots of effort and time. Since shows like Counting Cars and Monster Garage have experts working on cars, they make it look easy, even when they make mistakes. Actually doing a restoration in real life can be a whole different experience.
Precision Car Restoration gives some insight into what it’s really like and claims that when someone successfully finishes restoring a car, the work is far from over. The next step is preserving it, which requires more work over time. They just don’t show this part as much on reality TV.
2 EVs Are More Expensive Than They’re Worth
Shows like Fast N’ Loud and Graveyard Carz are into restoring vehicles, especially old muscle cars. These stand in great contrast to the majority of cars dominating the market today, especially electric ones. That can influence viewers into believing common myths about EVs, such as blowing out of proportion how much they cost.
According to Top Gear’s official website, there are money-saving perks to owning an EV—at least in the United Kingdom—like free parking and even grants that help the owner save thousands of dollars.
1 Modifying Leads To Engine Woes
Tuning a car revolves around improving its performance or exterior. A show like Diesel Brothers on the Discovery Channel modifies diesel trucks and turns them into insane machines. When someone modifies the engine, there’s potential for it to deteriorate faster.
Total Serbia reports, however, that this happens only when it’s done wrong. It’s a myth when viewers watch a show and think that a car’s engine is toast simply because they’re finding a way to get more horses out of it.
Sources: Truck Trend, Precision Car Restoration, Monroe NearSay, Storage Seeker, The Shop Magazine, Total Serbia, Riveting Wraps, Top Gear, Truck Driver Career Information, Crutchfield