Automotive expert: Lyft’s pink mustache could damage cars

silasCar

Lyft’s pink mustache has not caused Silas Lindenstein’s car to overheat yet. Photos by Vowel Chu.

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.”

Jim Leomard explains the potential damages of the Lyft's mustaches.

Jim Leonard explains the potential impact of Lyft’s mustaches.

“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.

illustration

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.

Photo via Lyft

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.

  • Mike

    Depending on the design of the car and where the mustache is located, it can do more than block the air flow to the radiator. It can also block airflow to the transmission cooler or even the air intake to the manifold blocking airflow to run the engine.

    I’ve seen the mustache covering the front license plate, which violates WA state law.

    Putting it on the dash will obstruct visibility, defrosting of the windshield and also have potential to obstruct the airbag, which can be a fatal problem for the passenger up front.

    It’s basically common sense and up to the driver to do what’s right. I think it would make more sense to have a new idea for a ‘sign’.

    • Kary

      It could also affect the operation of the air conditioning.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Axtually Lyft drivers put the moustache on the dashboard so that they can quickly grab it and throw it in the trunk if they have an accident. Most of these cars are cuting corners by running around with non-commercial insurance. The moustache would give the driver’s insurerance company the evidence they need to deny a fraudulent claim.

  • John71

    Watch now the clueless Lyft drivers get all concerned over the possibility of their ‘stash’ blocking the grill….while at the same time, they frantically drive all around crowded cities using their car for business with just a personal insurance policy.

    Once those Lyft drivers get in an accident, proper air intake will be the least of their worries. Don’t drive these cars unless you have a commercial insurance policy in your hands..Wake up people.

  • Actual Lyft Driver

    Google “Lyft magnet ‘stache” for an easy answer to the concerns raised here. Lyft drivers know license plate laws and where best to display the mustache for their car. Each of the 30 cities where Lyft operates has a Facebook group and frequent driver meetups. We discuss the best tips and tricks (including mustache modifications and dashboard mustaching) for getting passengers around safely.

    • Mike

      Well, apparently not all Lyft drivers do know the laws, that or they don’t care. I’ll be sure to snap a pic next time for you.

      • John71

        Yeah, Lyft drivers talk about following laws regarding keeping license plates visible. What they DON’T do is disclose to their personal insurance provider they are driving for Lyft. No, big deal, that’s only insurance fraud. Looks like some laws they follow, others they don’t.

  • Guest

    Actual mechanic here.. this is a totally stupid article. If the mustache actually blocked airflow to the point of overheating then the cars temperature gauge would indicate this plus the cars fan would kick on. All modern cars are tested to run in extreme temperatures i.e. in Death Valley as well as extreme cold.
    While the mustache would block some airflow I doubt it is enough to be of any significance and again, if it was the car would indicate this.
    Meanwhile, I see the taxi morons are still flaming away. Guess what? No one cares, go away.

    • Guest

      Truth: it depends on the car, and you don’t sound like much of a mechanic if you think circumventing part of a car’s airflow has no effect. Those cars tested in Death Valley? Did they block the airflow? How well does the car’s fan work when you block the grille? And you should well know that internal combustion engines, once they’re started and warmed up, generally run better in cold weather. There’s a huge difference between August in Texas and January in Seattle.

      There are many people who never look at their temperature gauges, just trusting that everything will be ok until it’s too late. They’re the same sort of people who don’t worry about proper insurance and haven’t done the math on what it actually costs them to run a taxi service with their personal car.

      Like all the others, your best argument is to call people who disagree with you “morons” and say “nobody cares”. Guess what? I am not a moron and I do care. I am not a taxi driver, never have been one, never will be one. I just don’t like rich companies coming here from California, breaking the law and lying about it, cheating naive drivers, and trying to destroy businesses that already exist here. How is that possibly good for Seattle?

      • Ryan Parrish

        Because they use a smartphone app, obviously :P
        Everyone knows it’s all good as long as you’re a “technology” company.

      • Guest

        I’m not sure what the point of your post is. Unless you put a piece of cardboard over the entire opening it isn’t going to be an issue. The Lyft mustache looks pretty porous to me and obviously if it was causing overheating you’d have already heard about it.
        This means that cars with the Lyft mustache are operating within their normal temperature range i.e. there’s no issue.
        Sorry, but that’s the end of the story regarding.

        • Another Guest

          “…obviously if it was causing overheating you’d have already heard about it. ”

          Well, you’re actually reading about it now. Two drivers mentioned in this article said they’ve heard about it. I’m sure if you’re in one of the Lyft driver group, you will hear more about it.

        • Kary

          It doesn’t look porous at all. The back is seemingly nylon or something similar. What do they make out of that material? Windbreakers!

    • Kary

      Apparently this experienced auto mechanic has never run into a car that doesn’t have a temperature gauge.

    • J Mat

      Yeah this article is clearly an attempt to panic people away from using Lyft’s successful new service. Another thing not even mentioned here is that if you go above 35 on highways or freeways, the ‘stache flips up, allowing ALL the air to go into the vent. And most cars, like mine, have a hood slanted enough so the stache doesn’t block any visibility whatsoever. Lyft provides hands free phone holders to all drivers to put in legally approved areas of your dashboard (in CA it’s left of the driver’s wheel). Better than most CA drivers. In fact, with a passenger in the car, the LAST thing you’d want to do is look at your phone and cause them to question your safety. When you’re on the clock, you take safety seriously, more so than most others in LA texting their friends behind the wheel. All these concerns are silly attacks against a new mode of transportation that’s helped solve a lot of problems for many satisfied citizens.

  • Kary

    Why don’t we apply the same type of analysis applied by Geekwire to whether these companies are legal? If these companies comply with the laws passed by cities simply because they have an app, why doesn’t the existence of an app also mean they comply with the laws of nature?

  • NotFrostyFlake

    Wore it on my grill for 6 months, full-time (6-8 hours per shift) on a 2000 Honda Civic above the license plate. Never had an overheating issue. Silly article. Envious Taxi drivers. This is the new sharing economy people, get on board, or be left behind.

    • Kary

      Which six months? If you notice big semi-trucks, many of them will have a zippered bra (????) on front to reduce the air flowing through the radiator during winter months. They only need a little bit of air. But during warmer weather they need more air.

  • Slaggggg

    It’s also possible a unicorn could ride up to the car and take the Carstache for use as bedding. Unicorns are not nice when they are searching for bedding. For all of these reasons, we need to ban everything.

    • Kary

      Ah, now we’re getting to the type of logic I was expecting of Uber supporters.

      • Slaggggg

        That’s a parody of YOUR logic, troll!

        • Kary

          No, it’s not. I would say nice try, but it’s not that either. It’s just F’n stupid, as is most the nonsense from the supporters of these companies whose analysis begins and ends with the fact that these companies have an app!

          • Slaggggg

            These companies deliver a far better riding experience than waiting on a taxi. Call a taxi company for a ride, they say “30 to 60 minutes”. What?? With Uber, the car arrives in around 10 minutes, and they tell you exactly how far away the person is the entire time.
            Trying to offer a solution MUCH WORSE than that, and get government to outlaw the better experience, is what is F’n stupid.
            Time for you to go back to driving your dirty taxi!

          • Mike

            If it’s the taxi being dirty that worries you, you should call a licensed car service. They are about half the cost of an Uber car service you are promoting and it’s clean. They’re also licensed and carry proper insurance coverage to legally drive you around in the state of Washington.

            As for wait times, I’ve never experienced your 30-60 minute wait time.

  • Guest

    I for one am glad we’re having this conversation.

    We’ve already established that Lyft drivers are better compensated, more thoroughly insured, more committed to positive customer service, and generally more pleasurable than their erstwhile competition, taxis.

    Dithering over Non-Functional Vehicle Accessories (NFVAs) is just, if you’ll pardon the pun, window dressing. I for one find these NFVAs unsightly and I’ve observed that many homeowners associations ban NFVAs in areas under their jurisdiction. In my opinion, the Lyft NFVA can be replaced with an Augmented Reality (AR) view in the Lyft iPhone app. Simply pointing iPhone at a Lyft vehicle will display a virtual NFVA (VNFVA) on the car in question.

    In conclusion, Lyft and other TNCs are the present — not the future — of consumer logistics. Migrating these dubious NFVAs to VNFVAs will remove the only roadblock.

  • ShaneV

    Here’s a $25 credit. Download the Lyft app and enter the code SHANE451 in the “payment” section BEFORE you request your first ride.

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  • Thiago

    They, as a company, have a responsibility not to ask their drivers to do anything that might be dangerous or damaging. Simple as that. As cool as the pink mustaches are, if they aren’t safe, they should go. Thiago | http://www.malagahyundaiwreckers.com.au

  • http://facebook.com/FalconFour Matt Falcon

    I drive a Leaf. Your point of petty engine overheating is invalid. An EV doesn’t need airflow at all – in wasting almost none of its energy as heat, it only needs a small water cooling system to distribute heat, and the rest is just over-built. A day’s driving in the winter ends with a still-frigid radiator.

    That said, I would be hesitant to sport the mustache as a potential driver. I drive Uber today, so I’m familiar with the service and have had mostly good riders and have a 4.8 rating, always aiming for 5. I have just read too many justifiable ugly comments about the damn mustache. Everyone seems to hate it, and honestly, the last thing I need is for people in this EV-hating town another reason to laugh first, think later. I never drive like a pussy Prius, because it’s a powerful 100hp-available-at-all-speeds beast. A beast that doesn’t kill you at the pump, costing me $2.50 for a day’s swift, left-lane driving.

    The last thing I want is a hot pink mustache representing my style. My car and service represents enough. Lyft is a brilliant concept bit desperately needs a new sign. This was a #2 result for a Google on “pink mustaches on cars”. Kinda a bad impression.

  • http://shinerevolution.com Rainer

    Anytime you put something over the vent like that it could cause problems.

    Rainer

  • Alec Sevins

    They could replace the hipster mustache with an easily visible “LYFT” magnetic logo on the front of the hood. Aerodynamics would also improve. The ‘stache idea seems like the brainchild of some late-night party that should have been forgotten.