The Dallas Morning News
Even modern engines need a little TLC
Dear Car Talk:
I grew up in the 1950s, in a place where winters were quite cold. My dad was an auto mechanic, and we had a neighbor who would start his car outside on a cold morning. Then he would rev the engine up for about 15 seconds and then jam the car into reverse and off he’d go. It made my dad cringe and he’d say, “One of these days he’s gonna throw a rod through the engine block.” Sure enough, he did.
Fast forward about 50 years, and my wonderful husband in all aspects except car care, does the same thing! I have mentioned that just letting the car idle till the rpm slows down might be a good idea.
I am considering the purchase of a new truck for him as a gift but also cringe at the thought of him revving the cold engine like he’s getting ready for a quarter mile race.
Am I wrong and just living in the past? Or, do newer engines still need to be
treated nicely? Thank you! -- Linda
You’re not wrong, Linda. Even though engines and lubricants are much better now, starting a car in frigid weather and immediately revving it up is still one of the worst things you can do. When the car has been sitting overnight, the vast majority of your oil drains down to the bottom of the engine. When you start it the next day, the oil pump sends oil back up into the engine as quickly as it can. But for those first few seconds, the engine is not very well lubricated.
And if you rev it during those few seconds, you’re multiplying whatever wear and tear occurs during that short period of less-than-ideal lubrication. In fact, modern cars don’t require you to touch the accelerator at all when you start them. The computer reads the engine conditions and sets the idle speed correctly, just high enough so the engine won’t stall -- which is usually just a few hundred rpm above normal idle speed.
After 15 or 20 seconds, the idle speed automatically drops, and on a really cold day, that’s when you can drive away -- gently. So, you’re right to be concerned about what your husband might do to a brand-new truck. My suggestion: Buy yourself the truck, Linda. Get hubby another cardigan. Or, if you do get him his dream truck, make sure you order the remote start feature. That allows him to use the key fob from inside the house to start the truck in cold weather.
Not only will that circumvent his overly eager revving foot, but it’ll also get the truck a little closer to being warm and toasty by the time he gets in it. A win-win, right?
It does waste some fuel. So don’t let him start the truck 20 minutes before he leaves the house. But a couple of minutes of unsupervised warm up time will lengthen the truck’s life in his case. And a prewarmed interior might be enough to convince him to get with the program, Linda. Good luck.