By on December 10, 2012

TTAC commentator David Holzman writes:

Sajeev,

I have a new (to me) ’08 Civic LX 1.8 liter, stick, bought with 35k on the clock. The previous owner was a woman who traded it for a RAV4 I think (I bought the car from a Toyota dealer). I’m guessing partly based on gender stereotypes that she wasn’t availing herself of the high revs to flog a lot of performance out of the car.

If I want to wind it up a lot, does it need first to be broken in for high revs ? (Red line is 6750. I’ve taken it just a little beyond 5. It seems happy to do that.) If so, what’s the best procedure for this? For whatever it’s worth, after slightly under 2,000 miles since the dealer change the oil, it’s still clear, though ever so slightly darker than the first time I drove the car, about 1800 miles ago.

As an aside, for anyone interested, I got 36 mpg from Boston to Quakertown, PA, 34 from Quakertown PA to northern Virginia, against a strong headwind, and 39 driving home from NoVA, including a brief traffic jam on America’s Main STreet (the New Jersey tpk), and a drive through Manhattan, with a 70-plus mph average on the highway.

Best, –David

Sajeev answers:

First, I gotta compliment your machine’s inherent beauty, compared to the 2012 I sampled recently. Second, gender stereotypes? That’s just begging to be 100% wrong. Come on, son…welcome to the current millenia!

Let’s be clear on one point: the Civic (@35k) is already broken in, it’s too late for that.  6750 on the tach’s been your friend since you drove it off the lot!

Now let’s look at the logical extension of this question: what about a “warm up” procedure before twistin’ the Civic up to redline? Everyone has an opinion on the matter, and since TTAC readers seem to like my opinions, here goes:

1. Unless we are in below zero degree weather, there’s nothing wrong with immediately driving a vehicle after the initial cold start.  Quickly move off the lot, but don’t move fast. Idle time is serious engine wear time: slowly circulating cold oil is a no-no, you want oil temperature up to spec ASAP.  In a safe manner!

2. Do NOT rev it to red line until the temperature gauge is up to its normal place (whatever that is) for about a minute or so.  Oil takes a little longer to get to temperature than engine coolant, and since many vehicles don’t show oil temp, just hang around for a while as the oil plays catch up to the coolant. Accelerate modestly, taking full advantage of the engine’s torque peak at this time.  Google wasn’t helping me, but I expect the torque peak on a Civic LX is around 4000 rpm.  So keep the motor in that general area while accelerating, or lower: traffic conditions determines this, obviously.

The insane high torque peak of some cars (Scion FR-S and even the 3.6L DI Cadillacs, to a lesser extent) give me serious pause on my advice, but whatever.  No theory is perfect.

3. Once the motor’s lived at normal coolant operating temperature for “a while”, your only worry is the rev-limiter: try not to hit it.  So now you can just go right ahead and beat the living shit out of that little motor. 

Have fun!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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41 Comments on “Piston Slap: Time to Twist Up the Tach?...”


  • avatar
    Adi

    Hi,

    I drive the Euro version of the Civic Si, the FN2 TypeR. Two little things that I’d like to ask: I’m not saying it’s not bad, but exactly specifically how and why is it bad to hit the rev limiter? It’s a piece of software after all, that just cuts the gas.. And secondly, while my car’s speed is zero or very close to standing, my rev limiter is around 4500 RPM, as supposed to the normal 8200 RPM. Some say that it’s supposed to act as a sort of launch control. Anyway, is hitting that just as bad as hitting the normal rev limiter while running?

    Cheers,
    Adi

    • 0 avatar

      Rev Limiters aren’t bad for the motor, to the contrary: not having a rev limiter is the big problem. But you just don’t want to hit them. Because they slow you down in a race, and are a bit of a slap in the face when you want to have fun.

      I suspect your 4500rpm rev limiter is so you don’t rev the motor to show off in front of others. Many cars in the US have that too, it keeps the rentals from being abused, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      FWIW, I think your 4500rpm rev limiter is not launch control. My VW does the same thing, and I found out it is to discourage revving the engine while stopped, which is an emmissions thing. The upper rev limiter might work differently, at 4500 when the electronic limiter kicks in nothing really happens, but above 8200 there is a lot more mechanical movement going on that could cause bad things to happen.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I thought this was to protect the clutch and transmission from kids doing 8000 RPM clutch or neutral drops.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    At 35k, any “break-in” is long since gone. And honestly, most engines these days have close enough tolerances that they don’t need any procedure more special than “don’t beat on it all the way home from the dealer”.

    After that, drive around for 5-10 minutes before winding it out. Honda put a soft limiter on the S2000 to lock out VTEC when the coolant temp is too low.

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      No Honda VTEC system will engage until the coolant temperature is at a certain level. The S2000 actually has a hard limiter if the coolant temp is below ~100ºF IIRC – in the F20C version the PCM will completely cut power at 6k. In my S, I do not take it above 5k unless I have “3 bars” on a coolant gauge – fully warmed operating temp.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    Absolutely correct: hitting the rev limiter just slows you down (does squeaking that last 50 RPM out of it really make you faster anyway?) Plus, hitting the limiter hard identifies you to other drivers as a clumsy putz, who can’t coordinate hands, feet, and brain. Aside from the social stigma though, the rapid positive/negative torque reversal at full-boil can’t be of any help to the engine mounts or driveline … not that the occasional bump against it will necessarily damage anything, but best practice would be to avoid it.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    High revs are the enemy of any engine.
    I had a friend who owned many cars and they all lasted over 150k miles with no oil usage. His secret? He never took the engine over 3000 rpm or over 35mph until the oil was warmed up. And he rarely took the engine over 5000rpm under any circumstances…..

    If you’re planning on punching your engine to 8000 rpm consistently, be prepared to replace the engine at 75k miles or so, Honda or not……

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      1) There is no such thing as “no oil usage”. All reciprocating piston engines consume some amount of oil – there is a required balance between ring tension and friction!

      2) My AP1 S2000 sees her 9,000 RPM blinking redline about 25 or 30 times per tank of gas (250-280 miles). The last oil analysis showed a perfect engine at 92,000 miles. There are plenty of people who track S2000′s, and as long as they don’t see forced induction and are always kept full of oil, they will easily go 200k+ miles.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      So how exactly do you explain the thousands of other cars that last over 150k without being driven like a grandma?? That’s not like some incredible feat these days. It completely depends on the engine and how it was designed, Honda or not.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I have personally owned 2 GM 3100 V6 engines in a Cutlass and the other a Lumina sedan. Both engines went over 200k and are still in operation. Both were twisted to 6K RPM’s on a daily basis with the only failure item the infamous intake manifold gasket on the 1996 Lumina. Neither engine was ever opened up for anything else and each had it’s oil changed between 3500-4000 mile intervals. I never beat on the engine when it was stone cold however as that is asking for trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a ’95 Ford Explorer with 307,000 miles on the factory engine and it gets beat like a rented mule routinely. I’ve personally put 207,000 of those miles on it, and my brother in law put the first 100,000 miles on it. It’s got a 5200 rpm redline/fuel shutoff and I’ve found it numerous times. How much oil does it use? a quart every 15,000 miles.

      I can safely say that the OHV 4.0 in it, will see redline at least once a day- to clear the carbon out of the EGR passages, decarbonize the cylinders, and decoke the exhaust. I’ve never had issues with EGR on it which is a common failure if driven like your friend.

      Even my ’77 Chevelle with a 36 year old Chevy 305 in it with 200,000 miles gets the Italian tuneup on a regular basis and runs the better for it. When I got it, it wouldn’t run over 60mph, now it’ll do almost double that thanks to decarbonizing the engine just from flogging it. I’ve run that thing well past its 5,000 rpm redline before once. It still only uses a quart every 1,500 miles, which for an unrebuilt high mileage carb motor is perfectly acceptable. I’ve only owned this car for 3 years and have put 45,000 miles on it.

      I’m not advocating driving it like you stole it all day every day. But in moderation, WOT to redline once a week is good for it.

  • avatar
    Mykl

    The rev limiter isn’t always bad. It isn’t uncommon to hear cars bouncing off of it at an autocross when it’s just not worth it to shift because you have to get on the brakes a split second later. In that case an upshift won’t make you faster, but could make you slower if you goof the shift.

  • avatar
    Adi

    Dear god, I never thought I could be so sorry so soon for writing a comment here. Patronizing amateurs.. exactly what your average european will tell you about americans. And it’s not that I didn’t believe it, it’s just that I thought I wouldn’t see it on this forum, in such abundance. So much for B&B.. Forget I ever said anything, please. I’ll make sure to curb my impulses before I ever post again.

    PS, for those of you that most likely still don’t get it: It was plenty clear that hitting the rev limiter makes for bad lap times, just as it was clear that having a rev limiter is good for the engine, as supposed to not having one. I was actually asking a precise technical question, wondering if somebody actually knows of any bad side effects that hitting the limiter might have, other than slowing you down and making you look like an incompetent driver. But hey, I can get my answers elsewere, and I will. Goodbye now.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinker

      @Adi
      Don’t hit the rev limiter on your way out.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Americans! So rude! Sorry we didn’t answer your technical question inside of an hour, hope the service is better wherever you end up. Don’t let the door hit you…

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @adi, unless you were the OP, it would appear that only 2 ppl responded to your comment… Sajeev and myself. And neither of us patronized you in any way, or talked about lap times. Those comments were not responding to you post, which I actually thought was a good question.

      You might be coming off a little too sensitive here…

  • avatar
    raph

    The owners manual should have the recommended break-in and warm-up procedures. I remember reading a few articles about this after BMW (IIRC) introduced a system limiting engine speed until the engine had reached a minimum operating temp. In lieu of that I think the article suggested part throttle operation and engine speeds no more that 3500 rpm until the engine had warmed up.

    In any event the period from start-up to when the engine has reached operating temperature is when the greatest amount of wear occurs ( its virtually nil at operating temp cruising down the road) so limiting engine speed ( and the load it induces) during warm-up will help extend the life of the engine. Also, especially on an all aluminum engine, cold starts and running the piss out of it invites the spectre of a spun bearings as the metal/needs to expand/more to properly hold the bearing. There is also the matter of engines that don’t utilize bearings with some components like the camshafts. Cold starts and flogging the engine is a good way to trash the cams and its bores possibly requiring the replacement of heads ( or in the case of a Vipers) the block or expensive machine work to salvage the components.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. RTFM FTW.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      Starting with the e46 M3, all M’s had a digital redline that moved (higher) as you drove the car and warmed up the engine. I don’t know if there was a hard limiter as well, or if it was just the marked redline that moved. then again, a lot of the M’s also have an oil temperature gauge so you can actually monitor that. Good to know about the not warming up the engine by letting it idle. I had been doing that on cooler mornings (which down here means ambient in the 50′s).

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I think the moving redline actually started with the E39 M5.

        Inline with Sajeev’s reply, I try to keep engine speed below 4k rpm until the coolant has been up to normal temp for about five minutes.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        doh you’re right burger. the e39 m5 predates the e46 m3 by a year. i haven’t looked in or a ridden in a non M e60 so I don’t know what the redline does on those cars. My recent BMW experience is limited to 1 and 3 series and in both cases the redline was fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      The redline on my E60 530 is lower when the engine is cold. The line in the outside of the gauge moves up as it warms up. IIRC, it’s about 1500 lower when cold. I’ve never tried taking it up to the redline when it’s any lower than normal operating temp, but I’d imagine it would follow what the gauge says and shift earlier.

  • avatar

    Thanks Sajeev et al. I will continue to baby the thing when it’s not fully warmed up, but after that I’ll cease worrying about the rpms.

    The Civic often gets 40-plus on the highway averaging a little over 70, and driving country roads at 40-50 mph, it gets around 50 mph.

    The engine is, of course, not particularly powerful, but it is wonderfully responsive.

    And, Sajeev, I deliberately stayed away from new Civics, because of the reviews. I also suspect I did much better financially, paying 11k for this car. Steve Lang would definitely approve.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    @adi – I believe that most manufactures use the ‘neutral’ (or zero vehicle speed) rev limiter to protect the driveline from excessive hooning. You know, young adult males who might think it’s cool to dump the clutch from 8 grand … leaving their parents (or if it’s still under warranty, the manufacturer) to pick up the tab for fixing what broke. And bouncing off the rev limiter is perfectly o.k. – it’s just not necessary in non-autocross conditions. The ‘putz’ factor applied to drivers of those turbocharged, blatty-exhaust “tuner” cars, who hit the limiter on EVERY SINGLE SHIFT! (just to let everyone within earshot know what a cool-fast car they have.)

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Since I have recently experienced carboned-up intake valves on my 1997 Civic (which left my engine unable to start after sitting overnight), I heartily encourage higher-RPM jaunts after the engine is warmed up.

    After 20 minutes on the freeway in third gear (after the engine was warmed up of course) after a triple-shot of Techron on the almost empty tank, it runs better than ever! Compression came right back up to where it should be, with only a 5psi difference between cylinders.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    The torque peak on as Honda R18 engine is around 4000rpm, with a plateau from 2000 to 6000. If you want maximum acceleration, you want to shift in way that maximizes the area in curve around the peak. Shift so when you are in the next gear, the engine is still close to peak torque. For most passenger cars, that might not mean going all the way to the red line.

  • avatar
    carve

    Warming the oil up is a good idea. It correlates to the temperature of the moving surfaces in the engine, and those clearences are designed to work at steady state warmed up operating temperature. It takes longer than most expect to warm everything up. On a modern DI engine, I’d hope that the occasional trip to redline might help shake off the bigger intake valve carbon deposits as well as offering a full, high-pressure squirt of fuel through the injectors to keep them clean and spraying smoothly

    My 335i has an oil temp gauge but no coolant temp. The lowest hash mark is 120, and normal operating temp for the oil is about 220-230.

    It takes a surprisingly long time for the oil to warm up- especially in cold weather. Based on when I feel hot air out of the heater, I’d say the oil takes almost 2x as long to heat up, and there’s a coolant/oil heat exchanger in there, too. Of course, it takes 7 liters of oil in a 3L engine, so that’s a lot of oil to heat up for such a small motor. Here’s what I do.

    Cold start: drive it like a grandma. I generally keep it under 2300 rpm and use light throttle. The first part of my drive is downhill. I use engine braking under 2500 rpm. This puts heat into the engine that would otherwise go into the brakes, giving me a slightly faster warmup. When the gauge starts to move (120*) I still typically keep the revs low, but have no qualms of revving up to 3500 or so and using about 2/3 throttle. Getting this warm takes as little as 30 seconds in the summer, and as long as 5 or 6 minutes in winter. When it hits about 170 or 180 I’ll drive moderately hard. Over 200 I’ll redline it, but still typically short shift (shift about 6300 vs 7k redline). Getting fully warm can take 5 or 6 minutes in the summer, and nearly 20 minutes on a cold winter day- almost my whole commute before I can have fun :(

    All that said, I don’t see how asking for maximum power (torque and rpms, both of which add stress) is as good for an engine as just cruising. If I’m just cruising, I still drive like a grandma, and try to do most of my braking with the engine. That said, if you have a fun car, don’t treat it like an heirloom. Have fun with it! That’s why you bought it so it’s a waste to not drive it hard semi-regularly, and if you let the oil warm up you’ll minimize additional wear and tear.

    • 0 avatar

      All of the cars I’ve owned, have all protested to some degree when cold about running. They range from the carbureted ones throwing a fit if you get it moving faster than the choke system can compensate for, to the fuel injected ones being generally stiff and not very responsive about revving past 2500rpm.

      They’ll tell you when its safe to play if you listen and pay attention to them.

    • 0 avatar

      I go by a scan gauge which I assume measures water temp. I baby the gas until I’m around 150o, and I still don’t push it too hard until I’m over 170. It normally runs around 186, goes up beyond 200 in traffic.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I was interested in this post but I do not believe that any of the responses addressed the actual question. I have also heard somewhere in the dim past that if a car is driven conservatively for its first marriage that wear on the cylinder liner is only even to the topmost point that the rings reach. Over time a ridge develops at this point. If the subsequent partner is a high revs driver, at high piston speeds the rings will bang against this ridge and may suffer a breakage. This may be a myth but I think this is the claim to be debated by the B & B.

    • 0 avatar

      There is some truth to the ring wear. Usually found on the older carbureted cars that have managed to wear the bores.

      Since the advent of fuel injection on everything, bore wear has pretty much gone away, yes it’ll still wear, but at such a slow rate that even on my 300,000 mile Ford 4.0 there is no ridge every time I’ve taken the heads off for gasket changes.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Yep, my 250k 1FZ-FE Toyota had no ridges. Just out of curiosity, is the headgasket a maintainence item on the 4.0? I have been kicking around an Bronco II with this motor. I know on some of the old 2.9 motors this was the case.

      • 0 avatar

        I found out mine had a warped head, so that’s probably why I replaced the gaskets a few times.

        The 2.9 in notorious for cracked heads, but a 4.0 swap is a cakewalk with its generally more refined nature and less troublesome heads.

        A B2 with a 4.0 would be a fun little beast, the 2.9 is decent as well.

        My 76 Chevelle’s 305 had such horrific bore wear, that we broke all the rings getting the pistons out. It was at that point we junked the block as it was not worth reboring it, actually junked the whole car in 2001.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Im not sure about cars, but there is a school of thought on Motorcycle break in that you should beat on the motor early and often as a low speed break in can glaze the cylinder walls or something. This was the explanation given for my KLR650′s oil consumption issues anyway. I rode the piss out of the replacement and continue to do so today. I doubt the Soviet Tractor wannabe 650 single is built to the tolerances of a modern Honda (or a 70′s Honda for that matter). Regardless, at 35k any break in is over and done with.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think most break-in procedures for cars advise varying engine speed and load, rather than either beating on the engine or babying it. So don’t bounce off the rev limiter in every gear, but don’t cruise everywhere at 2500 rpm either.

      I’ve heard the 1G Acura TSX has an oil consumption issue that some blame on improper break in.

      The window for proper break in is more like 2000 miles, not 35,000 though.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    One last thing (and actually addressing the OP’s question about redlining an engine that’s been “granny cycled”), as stated by others, cylinder wear is much lower on modern, fuel injected engines. Not only are the tolerances, manufacturing techniques, and materials of modern engines better, by controlling to a stoichiometric fuel-air ratio, there’s less “washing” of the oil film off the cylinder walls due to excess fuel … all of which reduce cylinder wear. And since cylinder wear isn’t excessive, and there’s not a lot of carbon that builds up on the piston top and in the combustion chamber, once the engine is warmed-up, rev away! In the old days, a carbureted engine that was granny cycled would have a lot of carbon build-up in the chamber, and if you hammered on it, those glowing chunks of carbon could result in pre-ignition – and nothing would destroy the piston top quicker than high-load pre-ignition. So back then, you had to gradually “blow out” the carbon build-up before you subjected it to sustained high-RPM use. With modern engines, that carbon build-up is minimal (if, that is, there hasn’t been a lot of oil coming through the PCV system), so you don’t need to be so ‘gradual’ in approaching the redline. But if you’re not sure just how gunked-up the combustion chambers might be, it wouldn’t hurt to run some Techron (note: this just a suggestion – go to bobistheoilguy.com if you wish to argue endlessly about the merits/flaws of various fuel system additives) through it, and a few tanks of premium, just to make sure it doesn’t knock as you’re exploring the upper reaches of the rev band.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Aren’t Honda engines (typically 4 cylinders) made to be beat up on though? They don’t make their power or torque till way up the tach so I’d assume they were built to take punishment. Warm up times notwithstanding, I owned a late 90s Civic (when VTEC was only used on the EX model I think) and I’ve personally revved the bejezzus out of the motor and it gladly carried me to well over 120k miles until an inattentive driver ended her life. Till that point, nothing was done except regular maintenance (oil changes, water pump, timing belt etc).

  • avatar
    KrisZ

    Coolant temperature has absolutely no correlation to the oil temperature, especially below freezing. So, while the coolant temp gauge (which is a fancy idiot light in most cars) may show full operating temp, the oil will be nowhere near its operating temperature. A good rule of thumb is 20 minutes of normal driving should have the oil up to the operating temp. If it’s well below freezing with high wind chill factor, I would refrain from high revs all together, as the oil may take a very long time to get to the operating temp. In summer that time may be cut to 10-15 minutes.


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