One of the reasons why Lyft, the app-based transportation company that’s up in arms over regulations set by the Seattle City Council, encourages its drivers to sport a pink mustache on the grill of their vehicles is for safety. However, according to one car expert, those bright decors can actually cause serious damage to a car while on the road.
Lyft, which allows everyday drivers to shuttle passengers around town, uses the pink mustaches to “give their cars more personality and demonstrate their participation in the Lyft movement.”
“It helps break the ice and leads to many smiles along the way,” the company notes on its website. “It also provides passengers with a quick and safe way to identify their rides, so they feel comfortable stepping into your car.”
But according to Jim Leonard, a service advisor at an independent car repair shop in Bellevue, Wash., using the pink “carstaches” could actually cause temperature problems.
“If [the mustache] replaces the over-the-air intake of the grill of the car, it’s constructed in such a way air can’t pass through it,” Leonard said. “If this blocks the air intake to the radiator, it could cause the engine to overheat.”
He added that the engine could be seriously damaged if the temperature of the coolant in the radiator continues to go up.
Leonard also worries that the mustache, which attaches to the grill with rubber-coated wires and twist-ties, would cover the front license plate in some cases. According to the Washington State Patrol, a license plate must be “affixed to the front of the vehicle and kept clean so as to be plainly seen and read at all times.” However, Lyft does advise drivers to keep the license plate visible.
Though Lyft recommends drivers to put their mustaches on the grill, some have opted for the dashboard instead. Heather Scherrer, who became a Lyft driver this past August, hung the mustache on her car for only about two months. But she became worried about potential damage, and on top of that, people were also trying to pull the decal off of Scherrer’s car.
“When I heard from other drivers that they had overheating issues, I realized it could happen to me,” Scherrer said. “That is what ultimately made me start using it on the dash. Secondary to that, I was concerned that the clips and twist ties would rub against the paint.”
Silas Lindenstein, 40, became a Lyft driver this past June. The mustache hasn’t caused any damage to his car so far, though he’s definitely heard of others who have experienced problems with their engines overheating.
Lindenstein said that he’s careful when attaching the mustache, which is made from acrylic faux fur, polyester stuffing, and polyester fabric, so that the front license plate can be seen clearly. But like Scherrer, he prefers to use the mustache on the dashboard instead.
However, car experts still see problems with dashboard placement.
“It could also block the line of sight from the driver who is driving the car,” said Leonard, the car expert.
Leonard said that for some car models, the mustache could also block air from going out of the vent and into the car if placed on the dashboard.
Both Lindenstein and Scherrer said that Lyft has never forced them to use the pink mustache on the grill. But Lyft also never notified drivers of any risks.
“I typically put up [the carstache] as I’m approaching the passenger,” said Lindenstein. “Once I’m there, I take it off as I’m driving… Safety is always my number one.”
San Francisco-based Lyft, which just raised a $250 million Series D round and announced plans to expand its service across the greater Seattle area, did not respond to requests for comment. Mustache manufacturer Carstache also did not respond.
Vowel Chu is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.