Why don't most concept cars make it to production?

Announcer: Go behind the wheel and under the hood on everything automotive with High Speed Stuff from www.HowStuffWorks.com.

Ben: Hello, welcome to the podcast, and as always, thanks for tuning in. My name is Ben Bowlin, and I am a video writer here at www.HowStuffWorks.com. Scott: And I am Scott Benjamin, the Auto Editor here at www.HowStuffWorks.com also, and today we're gonna get to a little bit more Listener Mail.

Ben: Listener Mail, I love Listener Mail. Are we actually going to take a listener's suggestion?

Scott: We are gonna take a few listener's suggestions. Once again, I did this last time as well, and I think we gonna, yeah, we're gonna answer maybe as many as 3 listener mail suggestions today.

Ben: I like what you're saying Mr. Benjamin. You know, they used to call me Ben Multitask Bowlin.

Scott: Well I do it just to knock off some of this extra work I got laying around, so this is a good way to do it. I'm gonna get rid of 3, not rid of, but you know, take care of 3 suggestions here.

Ben: Let's get into it.

Scott: Okay, so from July of this year, also from September of this year, and November of this year. We had 3 listeners who wanted to hear about concept cars.

Ben: Concept cars?

Scott: Yup, concept cars, and basically all 3 of them wanted to know about why is it that concept cars really don't quite make it to production? Why is it that often times they don't make it to production.

Ben: Oh, what a good question.

Scott: Yeah, I thought so too, also why don't they make it to mass production, and why do they lose a little bit of their cool was another one.

Ben: Right.

Scott: We've got one from - actually why don't they make a production list from GL man, and I don't know where GL man is from, but it was one of them, and then we've got one from Gabriel, which was from September. That's the one who wanted to know why they lose some of their cool when they finally do hit mass production because sometimes you see elements of the concept car, and it looks a little bit different, or a lot different when it goes to production.

Ben: Like you might see it on a newer model of an existing car.

Scott: So that was Gabriel, and then Demming also wrote in, and Demming wanted to know what our favorites are, and isn't it a shame that they are not really regularly produced, I guess.

Ben: Oh, it's a crying shame, are you kidding.

Scott: I agree because I love concept cars, and to me that's often why I will go to an auto show, to see the concepts, and I think a lot of people are the exact same way.

Ben: Yeah because you want to see the newest thing, especially when we consider - Now I know I've said it before Scott, and I hate to bring it up again, but - It is true that a vehicle of any sort is a significant investment, even if you're buying an older, used vehicle, you are expecting that you will have it around for a while, and you'll take care of it, and of course, everybody wants the coolest thing possible, so it's really fascinating to be able to walk into a dealership, car show or exhibition of some sort, and see - what was earlier this year or the end of last year, that concept car that had fabric covering it.

Scott: Oh yeah, the -

Ben: It was able to change the shape.

Scott: BMW Gina was it.

Ben: It was definitely BMW.

Scott: The shape-shifting car.

Ben: Oh, man.

Scott: That was cool.

Ben: That was pretty cool.

Scott: The fabric with the motion below it to - did it have a top, or was it - Oh, the doors, I think the doors were unique, too. They didn't have any hinges - They may have hinges within, but there were no seams on the doors.

Ben: There were none visible. When it closed, you couldn't see the seams.

Scott: Really crazy. That was a neat car.

Ben: And so, I completely understand it, but again, I think let's see, Gabriel asked right, why these concept cars lose some of their cool when they go into production. It sounds like what actually tends to happen is that features from the concept cars make it rather than the cars themselves.

Scott: You are exactly right.

Ben: Is that right?

Scott: Yeah, it's not always right, but you are on the right track here, in that it's - I guess we have to explain what a concept car is basically -

Ben: Oh yeah, I'm jumping the gun.

Scott: No, no not much because you'll hear them called show cars. You'll hear them called concept cars. You'll hear them called prototype cars.

Ben: Right.

Scott: Maybe there are even other terms out there, but I'm just giving you the top three.

Ben: The proof of concept or something.

Scott: But the idea behind them is that it is a test bed for the engineers and designers in that it allows them to get these ideas - it's a free-flowing idea. It's a brainstorm really, that all of these people get together and decide what they're gonna build, what the purpose of this project is. We'll go through the steps in a moment here, but once they know what that is gonna be, then they're able to really just kind of go to the outer limits of what they can do, and that's the cool thing about this, when you see a concept car, you're seeing possibly what you're gonna see on real production vehicles in the future. If not, the entire body, the entire vehicle or new name plates or badging rather, you know, the names of cars. Let's say, well like, okay, this isn't brand new, but the Mustang, remember the excitement that was around the Mustang concept that came back, you know, well the one that we see on the road now, it looks like the throwback version, the retroversion. That was initially a concept vehicle in I want to say 2005. I have it in my notes here somewhere.

Ben: So it actually made it?

Scott: It did, it made - actually it was 2003, the Ford Mustang redesign. Then of course, there's the Camaro that we saw recently as well. That drew a lot of excitement. It gets people buzzing about a certain product, a certain manufacturer.

Ben: I'll tell you what looks like a concept car a few years ago, and I know I am interrupting you, I am sorry, but it has to be said. The Prowler. That look likes a concept car.

Scott: It was a concept car. The Prowler was a concept car in '93, 1993.

Ben: Oh, you're good Scott, you're good.

Scott: I got a big long list here, and that made it into production - someone is again yelling at their computer screen here, but - '96, '97, is I had to guess, '98, somewhere in there. Anyway, mid-to-late nineties, and again, that was just an outlandish car that people thought that they would never produce, Plymouth would never make this car.

Ben: Right.

Scott: They did it. They were able to do it.

Ben: They were able to sell them, too.

Scott: Dodge did the same thing with the Dodge Viper in 1989.

Ben: You're right.

Scott: Do you remember the stir that the Dodge Viper caused in 1989?

Ben: Yes, and I -

Scott: You going to tell me how old you were?

Ben: No.

Scott: You were 3, something like that?

Ben: Yeah, I am gonna just come clean with you here, on the air, I was 34 in 1989.

Scott: Come on.

Ben: I take a lot of vitamins. I do a lot of exercise.

Scott: Yeah, you seal yourself in Tupperware when you sleep?

Ben: I seal myself in - well we don't call it Tupperware because it's a brand thing -

Scott: Oh, understood.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Airtight container of a generic sort?

Ben: Scott, there are a lot of shady people looking for people like me you know, who age so well, so we should probably just not mention it again. I think -

Scott: Well, you're genetic perfection.

Ben: Well, you know, I'm not genetic perfection. Let's not go too far.

Scott: If you were 34 in 1989, I don't have any idea how wold you'd be right now, 54, 54.

Ben: See, you can't tell. It's surprising. This is a toupee. I'm kidding, I'm kidding, but to go back to what we were talking about -

Scott: Oh, thankfully, please do.

Ben: When the Viper did come out, I was actually too young to drive, and I just remember thinking it was a car straight out of a comic book. It looked like a super hero's car.

Scott: Yeah, it was outlandish. It had this big, powerful V10 engine.

Ben: I know -

Scott: Oh, it was amazing. You know, not only that, well, sure it became production in I believe '92 -

Ben: Eventually.

Scott: Eventually yeah, so a few years later. That one even spun spin off concept cars. There was the Dodge Copperhead, which is a very similar design. The Copperhead had a V6 engine, I believe. The Copperhead never really went anywhere, didn't make it, but they then did offer a Dodge Viper that had the Copperhead package, which had the unique coloring, and some interesting attributes that looked like -

Ben: I see. Some cosmetic stuff.

Scott: Yeah, exactly. The Copperhead treatment.

Ben: I think the best way for us to show our listeners here - Rather I think the best way for us to explain to our listeners why there is such a high attrition rate for concept cars, making it through the thought process. Do you think maybe we could go through the steps of making these cars?

Scott: Sure, yeah, we can do that. Mostly it falls onto this - did I say that right? Mostly it comes down to this -

Ben: Okay.

Scott: Something like that.

Ben: It's the bottom line.

Scott: If it fails, well then they can shrug it off as it was a test, and you know, we got some media out of it, we had a vehicle in the show, and our engineers had a good exercise.

Ben: And they get information either way.

Scott: That's right. They get information either way, and maybe an element of that car is good, and it goes on. If it's applauded, you know, the media loves it, the people attending the shows love it, it draws a lot of attention, it appears on magazine covers, etc, then my might push forward with it, and I mean these cars, you gotta remember, they're millions and millions of dollars because they're one vehicle that the company is building. It's not a cheap car to make. Any prototype, any concept car, is one of a kind, and it's all hand formed, hand-made, everything, unless they happen to be taking from another platform, like, they may be using the chassis and the rolling platform, let's say the engine, transmission, you know, the drivetrain from another platform vehicle that they have, and they're building up on top of that.

Ben: Which is done.

Scott: That is done often. That's because it's a money and time saver because to develop a brand new car from scratch takes a lot of effort. I mean, the amount of time that takes - by the time you got to the show that you wanted to attend, if you can make it to that show - you probably wouldn't be able to make it because it would require so much lead time that you probably wouldn't make it for whatever date you are trying to shoot for, and your concept would look dated at that point.

Ben: Right.

Scott: So you know, it's easier to start with a good base. Now big manufacturers have an advantage there, whereas the one off companies, they have a little bit more of a struggle in being able to turn something around q uickly, and being able to fund the vehicle. It's kind of their one shot, and hope it works.

Ben: Well plus, also - Yeah, exactly, that's - dude you're reading my mind because for the smaller car manufacturers, basically everything they design is going to be a concept car until they can somehow leverage it into a production vehicle.

Scott: Yeah, that's right. I'm trying to think of a good example of that, and just off the top of my head I'm thinking of maybe Aptera. They had a vision, they had an idea of what they wanted to do. They built a vehicle. I don't have any idea what that original vehicle cost, but they were then able to shop that around to investors, and make people believe in what they were doing, and now they're getting ready for production now, so they were able to turn that into dollars, and hopefully they will be able to turn those dollars into production, and get the cars coming out of the door.

Ben: So technically, that's one concept car that did make it to production.

Scott: That's one, but there's - actually there are several examples, but most don't make it.

Ben: Right, these are very few exceptions.

Scott: Yeah, yeah.

Ben: Generally to this rule, and maybe another reason why - Well here, let's talk about - we got the steps, right?

Scott: Yeah, we got the steps here. This is - there's just kind of an order of events that kind of have to happen. I'll just give them to you real quickly, and kind of a loose idea of what these involve. You have to figure out first what your audience is, what you want to achieve with this vehicle, what the goal is, and what you're trying to accomplish with it.

Ben: Like we want to sell this car to pirates, only pirates.

Scott: Yeah, sure. Pirates only, yes. Yeah, great idea, yeah.

Ben: Yeah, maybe this my application for Ford right now.

Scott: Perfect, yeah, good work. This is your best. Brainstorming - then you go into where the group kind of gathers together. We do that here for ideas for articles, podcasts, whatever, so you just kind of throw around ideas, and you choose whatever works the best, or what everybody agrees would be a good idea for what you decided in the first case, which is what do you want to accomplish with this design. Then you go into a sketching phase, where they draw it out, either on paper or its CAD design, or you know, there's a lot of different ways to do this now, so the sketches are the next step because that's not terribly expensive. It's still expensive, but not terribly expensive. You have your designers working on it, and still at this point, even a lot can change. They can say, I hate that, let's get rid of it, let's start again. This isn't what we thought it was gonna look like, scrap it and start over, or they can say I really like that, but change this.

Ben: Sure.

Scott: And there's a lot of that throughout this entire process. I mean it changes, I would guess, right up until the point where they are putting together the final show vehicle.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: The next step is a modeling stage. The modeling stage is where they make either scale models, which can be put in the wind tunnel, and tested, just like a normal full size vehicle can. There can also be clay models, which can also be scale, which is usually the way they do it first, for this model stage, and then there is also a tape model, which is chart paper that's on the side of - Like on a wall. I don't know if you've seen this or not maybe in photos of design studios. They have a - it's like a big piece of graph paper on the wall, huge, and they do a full scale tape outline of the vehicle on the wall, so you get a feel for the height of the vehicle, the dimensions of it, what the body is gonna look like, but it's two-dimensional. It's very flat, again just tape on paper, on graph paper, and this can be changed, and moved around so that you know, you can decide if you want bigger wheels on that car or you want the fender flares to go just a little bit higher, or lower, the roof line, everything. Any aspect of that profile of the car you can change at that point. So again, there's just constant change, or continuous change throughout this whole process. The next step, and there's only six here really, but the full-size clay model. You've probably seen cl ay modeling before.

Ben: Yeah, it's still interesting to me though that they do a full-size in clay. Why?

Scott: Well the idea is that clay is easy to manipulate, easy to take away material, easy to add material.

Ben: Okay.

Scott: It's unlike - let's say if you did it with Styrofoam or something like that - they do that, but that's the smaller models. If you take away Styrofoam, it's a lot more difficult to add Styrofoam to that model than it is to add clay.

Ben: Right.

Scott: You know, I don't even know if you can add Styrofoam to a model once you've done that, so clay just happens to be a material that lends itself to this type of design, so they still do full-scale clay models. Sometimes they cover them with decals, and make them look like real vehicle for photo shoots, whatever.

Ben: Right.

Scott: You'll see them with completely blacked out windows because that's clay behind there, and the thing weighs - It's sort of hollow. It's built on a frame, maybe even Styrofoam and wood, just kind of like a crate almost that it's built on, so it's not solid clay, but it's very, very thick.

Ben: And then?

Scott: And then, the final car. So once they've decided that, you know that they like the design, they have to figure out how they're gonna bring this to reality because the clay is all about shaping the car, and getting it exactly right. When you're actually building the car, that's when you have to get every individual piece figured out, and put together, like how -

Ben: That's a doozy.

Scott: Yeah, exactly. How am I gonna make this unique hood design work? How am I gonna make - Okay, that's a great tailgate, but how am I gonna make the latch that works for that because you know, there's gonna be interference here with this glass.

Ben: And often times they have to take the ideas that have never been done before, and this is the part where they actually do them, where they say okay, we are somehow going to hinge this door to this part of the car.

Scott: Exactly, yeah, and they've got to figure out how the heck am I gonna do that, it's never been done before.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: So the benefit of this stage now that designers and engineers have is the computer-aided design, and there's a lot of different - It's not just CAD, there's a lot of other types of - I mean there's Catia, there's all kinds of different systems that allow you to do this digitally before you actually do a physical model, and that way you can figure out where the interferences are gonna happen. Let's say that hinge doesn't work right, and the body contacts the body in another spot, you can change that before you even make one hinge, so that, you know, it's exactly right when you build it the first time, and that's something that they didn't have in the past. Designers didn't have this in the past.

Ben: Yeah, I imagine that must have been difficult.

Scott: Yeah, it had to have been difficult. I mean look at - we talked about the Mako Shark a long time ago.

Ben: Yes.

Scott: Remember the 1950 - I'm stretching my memory - 1959 Stingray concept?

Ben: Yes .

Scott: The silver car? That car, of course when they came to build in the real car that had to all be built by hand, and they didn't have the additional help of the computer programs that they have now. So that was just trial and error until they got it right, and hopefully they got it right the first, or second or third time.

Ben: And that's where the guy kept coming back and saying, no, change the paint.

Scott: No, that was actually the Mako Shark, right? That was -

Ben: This is the Mako Shark.

Scott: Oh, did I say the Mako Shark? I meant the - I guess the one, the precursor to that - anyway, you're right, that was another concept car that was a couple of years later in '62 I think it was, or '61. The '59 concept, I believe - I have my notes here somewhere. I've always got notes.

Ben: That was the Stingray.

Scott: That was the Stingray, and the - Same thing, Ben, same thing. You're exactly right.

Ben: Oh, thanks, man.

Scott: A lot of that became production as we talked about with it Mako Shark. You're example, the Mako Shark, it became reality in the 1963 Corvette, and you could clearly see where that came from, from that vehicle, so a lot of these happen that way. The Dodge Viper is one, the Prowler is another, the Plymouth Prowler, I got a bunch of them.

Ben: You got a list here?

Scott: Yeah but -

Ben: Let's do it rapid. I want to hear the greatest hits.

Scott: Well, here's some that didn't make it. I mean, there's like a 1997 Mercedes F300 LifeJet, which is a three-wheel tilting machine thing. It looked like a motorcycle kind of, with a full body around it.

Ben: Oh, wow.

Scott: Let's see, of course the Camaro made it, which is now. There was the Ford Refl3x in 2006 that kind of looked like a Chrysler Crossfire, a little bit of that vehicle.

Ben: Yes, yeah.

Scott: And the E, the second E in reflex was a 3, some kind of weird name, Refl3x.

Ben: I remember that.

Scott: The 1998, T-Rex, was it Dodge? I think it was Dodge -

Ben: That's a 3-wheel as well, right?

Scott: That was six wheels.

Ben: Six wheels.

Scott: Six wheels. The T-Rex - Oh, you know what you're thinking of? You're thinking of the motorcycle car, right?

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Oh, I'm talking about a truck. It was this huge truck that had 6-wheel drive, two wheels in the back, and they weren't like the - I guess they call it a Dooley design, where they're side-by-side. This was one wheel in front of the other one, so if you looked at the profile, there were two wheels in the bed of the vehicle, and then one up front, you know, where the standard -

Ben: That's interesting.

Scott: It was really cool. It had, I think it was 500 horsepower, and it had a 26,000 pound towing capacity, and again, it had six wheels or three per side, so it was an enormous work truck.

Ben: It's a behemoth, geez.

Scott: It was huge, it was really huge. Of course, the Caliber was a concept car at one time, and that's kind of the next generation Neon. That became reality. The Nitro was one. Mag names RT8 was a concept at one point.

Ben: Really? I didn't know that.

Scott: Chrysler 300C was a concept at one point.

Ben: Wow.

Scott: I've got a lot of Chrysler here because that's the site that I went to, and I'm familiar with that brand, but Ford and GM have just as many, and there's you know, concepts coming from Toyota and Honda, all over the place. Every manufacturer does concept cars. Some do it with a little more style than others, like Citron. Citron has amazingly, just beautiful, beautiful concept cars. They're gorgeous, but they look so outlandish, and they're just so out there, that the likelihood that they'll become production is very slim. You can just kind of tell when you look at a vehicle, if it's going to happen, or if it has a chance at making it or not, how close to production is it when it is a concept car.

Ben: Exactly, that's exactly it because I was thinking of this as well while we were talking about the different cars that have and have not made it from the limbo of concept to actual mass production, and one thing is very interesting is often times, the absolute favorite outlandish - and I think that's a perfect word for it - The absolute favorite outlandish concept cars are never gonna make it into production because it's a huge risk to try, and get the - Let's see, you threw out the number a couple million or something like that -

Scott: Like 15 million or something like that.

Ben: Right because we're at a point where we are realistically not building something to sell it, but building something to prove to ourselves that a concept works, or that we can give our engineers a sandbox, really -

Scott: Sure, yeah.

Ben: And so if - here's a good example - Saturn had one called the Flex. I'm sure a listener will correct me, it was like the Flex Wheel or Flex Fire or something - The main thing that I remember about this concept car is that it had a clamshell trunk, a clam-shell. Excuse me, my Tennessee is coming out, and so one half of the trunk could open independently of another half.

Scott: Really?

Ben: Yes, and that's a cool idea, I love the idea, just for ease of use, but the problem is, they're never gonna be able to sell that for realistically because there are new parts that are involved -

Scott: A lot of new parts.

Ben: Right, and there's not really an infrastructure for it, and every time, I think that every time a concept car is defeated, or ends up being one of those fallen soldiers on the way to production - okay not every time, Scott, that's not fair, the majority of the time it is because there is not a way to produce at a reasonable price point because of the parts involved or something, or it's just too much of a risk to throw an entire factory behind it, right?

Scott: True, true, and you know, you make a good point that a lot of times they do end up as these fallen soldiers on the way to production, that's a good way to say that because the pieces may make it unattainable, maybe make it something that they just can't do, but a lot of times it's just public opinion, press opinion, and you know, just saying that I just don't like it. For whatever reason, it doesn't strike my fancy, or it's a bad design because - Like the one that you're describing right now, what I thought of initially was well, there's another seam right in the middle of the car, that you know, can leak -

Ben: Right. That's a good point.

Scott: There's another thing - point where water can get in my trunk, but I'm sure that wasn't the case. They probably designed it so that it was water tight, and of course, you know it had a good sealing system, but I don't know, there's always gonna be something that someone is gonna knit pick over, and maybe they would say, like it's a good thought, maybe we can incorporate that into a different part of the car, like maybe we can turn that up on its side, and use that for the door design, the way they overlap, or however that worked, I don't know, public opinion plays heavily into this.

Ben: Sure.

Scott: This is a funny example - I'm almost done really, I promise. In 1997, Pontiac had a concept car called the Rageous.

Ben: The Rageous?

Scott: The Pontiac Rageous.

Ben: Okay.

Scott: And I happened to be there at the press thing, or whatever, I worked there, and one of the press people said the funniest line that I may have ever heard at a - I still remember this all the time - He said - It was called Rageous because it was supposed to be outrageous, right? Pontiac Rageous was for outrageous right? -

Ben: Oh my God, wow, wow.

Scott: So the guy says, they shouldn't have called it the Rageous, they should have called it the diculous, and I thought that was a perfect line -

Ben: The diculous.

Scott: Yeah, instead of being the Rageous, it should be the diculous, and right away you knew what he was talking about.

Ben: It's like that Homer Simpson card.

Scott: Oh yeah, yeah, well, the Homer.

Ben: The Homer.

Scott: The Homer, yeah, that's - It was - I don't know if the -

Ben: Was it really diculous?

Scott: Oh it was, yeah.

Ben: Wow.

Scott: Whatever - I could see it when I was there, I saw it.

Ben: That's funny.

Scott: You know, not to disparage them or anything, that was just another shot, you know, it's another attempt at - and who knows, maybe there are parts from the Rageous that made it into other Pontiac production vehicles, I just don't know because it may be something really, really subtle that eventually made it into production that people did like, where the design was great.

Ben: Right, exactl y, sure.

Scott: So that happens, it happens a lot.

Ben: And that's a good positive place for us to put this because the answer to the question about why these cars may lose their cool, why they have such a difficult time getting to production is that they actually do make it in different parts. They partially make it because they're sort of a mixed tape of concepts, and some of these concepts, like some songs on a mix tape, are things that people enjoy listening to, or using - this analogy is confusing me. I think I'm talking myself into a corner.

Scott: That's all right, I'll get you out of it, here.

Ben: Yeah, yeah, get me out of it.

Scott: It's true that there are a percentage of these things sometimes make it through. It's not always all of them, and when you look at a car on the Auto Show floor, you can almost see it, and there are some a little more outlandish than others, but you can kind of tell which ones are nearly production-ready. I mean, some of the cars when they come out for their unveiling, some of them are pushed out. You know, they don't have an engine, they don't have an interior, they're just a shell of a car, and it just rolls out, and I've seen cars pushed out onto the stage before. I've seen others make it out on the stage under their power, and have to be pushed back, but I've also seen them pushed because they don't have an engine, they don't have a transmission, they don't have anything.

Ben: Right, just the body.

Scott: No interior, just the body. Then there's another stage where they have an interior, it looks like a real vehicle, you know, they've put their designers on the interior as well, another good exercise for them to determine what to do on the next vehicle, but maybe it doesn't have an engine. Then there's another step, where it has everything, it's a fully operational concept, and it's built on another platform probably because that's a really expensive one to make right there. When you're starting something from scratch, unless that is gonna be your next production vehicle, and this is a -

Ben: For sure.

Scott: This is something that you've really gotten behind with millions, millions and millions of dollars, and this is in development, this is gonna happen.

Ben: I've got a perfect way for us to end this, and maybe go into some more Listener Mail.

Scott: Oh, great.

Ben: Okay so, I wasn't just pulling it out of thin air when we were earlier talking about the steps to get building concept cars - another thing that can happen, that can stop a concept car from getting to production is just like you said, public opinion - Somebody who has maybe been with a concept project for two years or something, all of a sudden in the showroom smacks their forehead, and goes holy crap, pirates use boats, why would they want a car? You know what I mean? There's this fundamental misunderstanding of an audience.

Scott: I would hope that somebody caught that earlier, but you never know. Things like that slip through -

Ben: You never know, you never know.

Scott: You never know -

Ben: The Edsel kind of flew close to the sun like Akiris.

Scott: Yeah, very good, very good. You brought it complete full circle there Ben. I'm impressed.

Ben: Thank you. I hang out with a pretty impressive podcaster -

Scott: Who's that, the guys from Stuff You Should Know?

B en: Well, you know, they're cool too, they're cool too. I was talking about you, trying to throw a little positive energy your way.

Scott: I'm blushing.

Ben: Do you want to do some Listener Mail?

Scott: I would love to do Listener Mail.

Ben: Okay, we'll keep this pretty brief, but John from Toronto writes in, and he raises some great points Scott. He says, and I think this is more of a question for you - He says a while back we were talking about maintenance and oil changes - You talked about changing your oil every 3000 miles, or 5000 kilometers because he's Canadian, or 6 months. What's with the 6 month date. When you start to use your oil, does it start to breakdown on its own? For instance, if it takes 9 months to drive 5000 kilometers, is that bad? So that's what he's asking. So it sounds like he is basically asking if he doesn't drive 3000 miles in 6 months, should he still change the oil?

Scott: I've always heard 3000 miles or 3 months, but that's the oil manufacturers.

Ben: And so -

Scott: And so yeah, you gotta take that, and you also have to read your owner's manual. It's usually a longer period of time between oil changes, but yeah, there is a time limit. There is a mileage limit, or a time limit, and whichever you arrive at first. It's like a warranty.

Ben: Right, right.

Scott: It's mileage or time, so yeah if it has been 6 months, you need to get it out of there, just clean it out. It's just the sediment, or whatever - I don't know what - if it starts breaking down on a molecular level or what happens there, but there is a time limit on it. You don't want to run old oil in a car. It's just a bad idea. Really, I don't know exactly the reason why that is, why the time limit, and again, maybe it's just to sell oil. I'm gonna have to investigate that a little further, but honestly it's always paired with a time limit as well. The best thing to do is call the manufacturer, and find out what the recommendation is for the time limit on your oil because they may say bring it in of course because they want to sell you an oil change, but get a reason why, talk to the mechanic and say, why is it that I have to change it every six months even if it is just sitting in my garage. A lot of people have weekend cars, that never get to 3000 miles in a year even, and they may have to change the oil twice. It's just what you do.

Ben: That's a good point. I'm sorry -

Scott: Oh, no, I was just gonna say that the duration of time, and the distance is a lot greater if you start looking into semi-synthetics or full synthetic oil, so I'm thinking that you know, maybe there is something with the standard organic oil that does breakdown a little faster than the semi-synthetic or the full synthetic oil.

Ben: What a good point.

Scott: It makes sense, right. I mean, I think you can even stretch - don't quote me on this, but I thought that I've heard numbers as high as 15,000 for synthetic oil, 15,000 miles.

Ben: What's really interesting is that John also points out that he's been reading that in Europe they don't change their oil nearly as often, so it's every 10,000 to 20,000 kilometers.

Scott: No kidding?

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Really, so that's 6,000 to 12,000 miles on organic oil.

Ben: He does not specify the kind of oil, but I think that's what you're talking about.

Scott: I bet that oil is black when it comes out of there.

Ben: I imagine so.

Scott: I would think it would be, but if they're pushing it that long, then save a few bucks.

Ben: I guess that's it for us today, but what a good topic to leave this on. For any listeners, do you guys think that this oil thing is an exaggeration by oil companies, do you think it is a good idea to run a car that long without oil, or are there any other popular rules of thumb about cars that you would like to hear us answer?

Scott: Run it without new oil. Sorry, I had to jump in because it's a bad idea to run a car without oil anytime.

Ben: Right, right.

Scott: I'd be real interested to know about the time consideration, and why is it 6 months, why is it 3 months, I'd be interested to know that, so if anybody knows, hit me with it.

Ben: And what's that E-mail address?

Scott: That E-mail address is HighSpeedStuff@HowStuffWorks.com.

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