Pro tips to keep car’s en­gine clean

Hard driv­ing to blow out the gunk is not ad­vised

South Shore Breaker - - Wheels - JUSTIN PRITCHARD [email protected]­

There’s an old adage that says a reg­u­lar blast of full-throt­tle is good for your ve­hi­cle’s en­gine.

As the logic goes, the heat, pres­sure and load gen­er­ated helps to wash in­ter­nal com­po­nents, clean out de­posits and oth­er­wise in­cin­er­ate harm­ful buildup while blow­ing a va­ri­ety of burnt-off en­gine gunk out of your tailpipe.

“Through­out the ser­vice life of a gaso­line en­gine there will be some build up of sludge, var­nish and de­posits in dif­fer­ent ar­eas,” ex­plains Sa­rina Arnold, a fu­els sci­en­tist at Shell.

“En­gine oil con­tains an ad­di­tive called a dis­per­sant which helps keep the sludge sus­pended or dis­solved in the en­gine oil but, if too much sludge forms and the dis­per­sant is over­whelmed, it can lead to the sludge set­tling out in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the en­gine, pri­mar­ily where it’s cooler.”

Sludge can even­tu­ally build into a layer of var­nish, or even­tu­ally, into thicker and harder de­posits that come about as a re­sult of heat and other fac­tors. All en­gines gen­er­ate the in­gre­di­ents for de­posits and the de­posits them­selves, as well as the lo­ca­tions where they form, are partly a func­tion of the heat they’re ex­posed to in var­i­ous parts of the en­gine.

The de­posits start in the en­gine oil where dis­per­sants keep the harm­ful par­ti­cles sus­pended so they can be fil­tered out. This is a key rea­son for closely fol­low­ing fac­tory oil change in­ter­vals and to use only fac­tory-spec­i­fied oil and fil­ters.

Use of im­proper oil and fil­ters can al­low the harm­ful de­posits to over­whelm the fil­ter, mean­ing they’ll set­tle in other parts of the en­gine and grow into larger de­posits.

Many vari­ables are at play, in­clud­ing the de­sign and style of en­gine, op­er­at­ing con­di­tions and the fuel and en­gine oil used. Driv­ing habits and main­te­nance also play a ma­jor role.

But can hard driv­ing, pos­si­bly in the form of fre­quent full throt­tle ap­pli­ca­tion, ac­tu­ally blow the de­posits out of a dirty en­gine?

Ac­cord­ing to Arnold, the an­swer is “no.”

“Mod­ern en­gines are de­signed to re­sist this buildup, pro­vided they’re main­tained prop­erly,” she says. “Ser­vice in­ter­vals are de­vel­oped to en­sure that the en­gine oils present are ca­pa­ble of do­ing the work to pro­tect the en­gine. Most mod­ern, gaso­line ve­hi­cles re­quire semi-syn­thetic or syn­thetic en­gine oil ca­pa­ble of han­dling ever-higher en­gine tem­per­a­tures and pro­tec­tion, even at low vis­cosi­ties. The best way to keep an en­gine clean is to uti­lize the fuel, en­gine oil, and ser­vice rec­om­men­da­tions pro­vided by the man­u­fac­turer.”

Ac­cord­ing to our ex­pert, it’s not a reg­u­lar “flog­ging” of an en­gine but, rather, strict ad­her­ence to main­te­nance sched­ules, that’ll work best to keep things squeaky clean.

There’s also an­other trick worth con­sid­er­ing in the quest to keep your pow­er­plant clean.

“It’s a good idea to take ve­hi­cles that are typ­i­cally driven short dis­tances at low speeds out for some longer drives to get the en­gine up to a nor­mal tem­per­a­ture,” Arnold says.

“Not only does this bet­ter cir­cu­late the en­gine oil and ad­di­tives through the en­gine to clean and pro­tect it, but helps to move the wa­ter out of the en­gine oil that builds up when cars run of­ten, but don’t heat all the way up. When wa­ter builds up in en­gine oil, it can re­sult in the forma- tion of or­ganic acids that lead to cor­ro­sion and oil thick­en­ing.”

So, mod­ern cars need to be driven at op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture, reg­u­larly, for a stretch of time that’ll al­low en­gine oil con­tam­i­nants like fuel and mois­ture to burn off.

Full throt­tle ap­pli­ca­tion is not re­quired, but a good 20-minute high­way cruise on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is ideal to make sure your en­gine gets nice and warm.

“The logic for clean­ing the car­bon out of an en­gine is seated back in the days of car­bu­reted en­gines, which were less pre­cise than the cur­rent fuel in­jected en­gines at me­ter­ing in gaso­line,” Arnold says. “There was some ex­cess gaso­line in these en­gines that would re­sult in a build-up of “car­bon” on valves and pis­tons that could gum them up.

“Burn­ing it off meant run­ning for an ex­tended time at high­way speeds to get en­gine tem­per­a­tures and air flow high enough to “clean” off any­thing that could gum up the car­bu­re­tors.”

Fast for­ward to to­day and this is old logic, best left for the his­tory books.

Fol­low your ve­hi­cle’s main­ten- ance sched­ule to a “T,” and only use the fac­tory-spec­i­fied parts and flu­ids, for best re­sults.

Fol­low those steps care­fully and take con­fi­dence that your en­gine is de­signed to take care of the rest.

“The worst thing one can do is uti­lize prod­ucts that don’t meet the man­u­fac­tur­ers rec­om­mended spec­i­fi­ca­tions, or to ex­tend the mileage be­tween oil changes be­yond the ser­vice rec­om­men­da­tion,” Arnold adds.

“That is a sure-fire path to pre­ma­ture en­gine per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity is­sues.”


Strict ad­her­ence to main­te­nance sched­ules work best to keep your en­gine squeaky clean.

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