By on April 22, 2013

Michael writes:

I am a longtime TTAC reader, but do not comment very often. However, I have a question that perhaps you and the B&B can help me with. I am the owner of a 2011 Kia Soul +, 14,XXX miles. Been a great vehicle so far.

My issue is that my workplace happens to be located DIRECTLY off of a major street/highway. This means that from the time I put the car in gear and pull out of the parking lot, I need to be up to 60mph within about 10 seconds or get run over. No side streets to take and no time to gently warm up the car under load.

Even in the oppressive Houston heat, the car would take several minutes to warm up by idling in the parking lot. I have not been doing this, but if I need to, so be it.

So, am I killing my engine by getting it up to such speed on a cold engine? The car does warm up within a couple minutes once on the street, but I do not want to do any damage in the meantime. What says you??

Michael

Sajeev answers:

A good rule of thumb in Houston: one of the worst things you can do is idle a cold motor instead of driving it, putting a load on it. Not necessarily true in places where engine block heaters are necessary, but definitely true here.

So, relatively speaking…

Unless you’re full throttle, wringing it out to redline, etc. you’re warming up the motor well enough.  I was in your place when I wrote about the Dodge Attitude for a surprisingly cold December in Houston. My new job was in an office building on US 59, plenty of throttle was needed when leaving. Mostly because it was a somewhat high speed, limited visibility merge to the feeder road.  I cringed when I wound out my (low-ish revving) Lincoln Mark VIII to 3500-4000rpm sometimes, but it really didn’t matter.

Even if I stuck around there, I am sure my 175,000 mile Lincoln would still be just as happy as it is today.  Too bad I wasn’t happy and the Cutting Crew CD in my stereo was not only broadening my musical horizons, it possessed a song that encapsulated my fears: mostly about the job, but kinda about that freeway merging from the parking lot, too!

YouTube Preview Image

What you are experiencing is a Fear of Falling, but I digress…on a KIA Soul, two bits of advice:

1. Use synthetic oil, a full synthetic.  You should have no problems switching at this mileage, so just do it.

2. WHEN POSSIBLE: accelerate onto the feeder with enough throttle to say near your torque peak, which is 4,200 RPM.  If you can remain in that area for the majority of your runs back home, you’ll never have a problem at all.

Do those two things (the second one as much as safely possible) and you’ll be just fine. Go ahead, jump.  No fear here.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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18 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Fear of Falling?...”


  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    I don’t think Michael should be too concerned about his situation. If he wants to be extra careful, he could change oil more often or warm up his car by circling around the parking lot before merging on the highway.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Can a Kia Soul get to 60 in 10 seconds under any conditions?

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    At least let it idle for 30 seconds, the sound of a cold car going into gear makes my stomach turn.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Personally, I’d be more worried in undue wear on the transmission, if it’s an automatic. I know on my old Mazda, it won’t lock up the torque converter, or even shift out of 3rd if I recall correctly, until the fluid temperature rises (corresponding to the temp gauge getting close to normal operating temp). Not sure if this is a ‘feature,’ or a function of old age.

    My gf’s mom guns her 2005 Highlander up to 60 within a minute of it starting up every morning, since 2005. The car has 170k miles and drives like new, FWIW.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I think it’s a “feature”. I’ve had two cars whose automatics behaved the same way. One wouldn’t go into 4th until nearly warmed up, the other won’t shift out of 2nd for the first couple of minutes unless you wind it out to nearly redline. Very irritating.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a feature. Even my Mark VIII did it on the freeway entrance mentioned. I’m sure it’s better for the transmission and the engine this way.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Both of my vehicles do something similar. As others have posted, I think it’s a feature to get the engine to warm up sooner, mainly for catcon lightoff for less cold start emissions, and to get the OBD-II into closed loop mode sooner rather than later. This will help you get better mileage as opposed to running in open loop mode longer than necessary. As long as oil is circulating in the head(s) you’ll be OK with working a cold engine (within reason). Honestly, I don’t know of any modern engine that becomes “worn out” to where it’s not drivable due to low compression and burning oil before 200k with proper maintenance and reasonable care.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I will add that in addition to the non-upshifting feature, I find that the transmission shifts just a bit ‘off,’ when cold. A tiny bit of flaring, sometimes some harshness. Natural wear I’m sure at 159k for a jatco pulling around over 4k lbs of curb weight for 14 years, the fluid has been replaced at reasonable intervals, but I just take it easy on the old girl until everything has warmed up nicely.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I had a similar experience where I would need to hit 110km/h within a minute of leaving work. Even with full synthetic, I didn’t really like what I was doing to the car.

    My real problem though was during winter, when my cold car would reach a distance of maybe 1 or 2 miles, and I would suddenly smell a bit of humidity or musty dampness and all of a sudden my windshield would begin a cascade of frosting over inside. It was so quick the entire windshield would be frosted up within 10 seconds, and I would have to scrape the inside during highway speed to see where I was going.

    Even idling the car a for 5-10 minutes didn’t help, it merely delayed the onset. I learned to open the window at highway speeds (below -20C!) before it happened to lower the amount of moisture dumped inside. I was in a 1998 Camry, and it only occurred on the above conditions. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      Sure sounds like a small leak in your heater core..something to check out

    • 0 avatar

      I have the same problem in Houston winters…except it would fog over, not frost over. You have to keep the HVAC in defrost mode to get the humidity out. Which is ANOTHER thing I don’t want to do (activate compressor) on a cold motor.

      Oh well, it’s either that or take the bus.

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        After you mentioned that, I did a quick Google search, and it seems sudden fogging of the windows is quite common on many cars. Every forum I scanned mentioned about the car not being fully warmed up when it gets a dump of humid moisture inside the car. Some have mentioned possible heater core leaks or the A/C not being turned on, but since I know my A/C does not engage below freezing, it might be something else.

        I’m guessing there is supercooled water in the HVAC (I.e. liquid state below 0 degrees Celsius at sea level) that eventually migrates to the circulating air. It undergoes a sudden pressure drop through the high velocity air, evaporates, enters the air cabin, and once inside, it goes through an adiabatic phase change and drops the temperature of anything nearby, like a windshield, causing a sudden fog out or frost out of any moisture that is already in the cabin.

        That’s my guess, but I don’t have anyway to prove or verify it.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I’m wrong so often any more that I hesitate to stick my oar in the water. I’m familiar with the brain farts that became Houston freeway accesses as I live in Conroe. I agree that you don’t idle for a long time and the best thing for the engine is the synthetic oils that we have had for the past couple decades. I always felt more comfortable if I could move it a little bit. I have a block before I need to hit the highway and have always felt that was adequate. I also have the luxury of building up speed slowly and that is good.

    Where I wanted to comment was that unless Ford has changed, Sajeev you are going to activate the compressor when it’s cold anyway. Ford kicks compressors in from time to time to keep the O rings in the compressor sealed. I do not know if there is an extremely low temp safety in it or not. I did a lot of AC work but not on cars. That is just spare memories from a mid eighties town car that have surfaced.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    cold temps in houston? driving an engine below redline when not at operating temp? geez that describes 9 of 12 months here in northern minnesota. cars still last. heck even the canadians drive cars and trucks.

    me thinks you worry too much.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “Use synthetic oil, a full synthetic. You should have no problems switching at this mileage, so just do it.”

    Sajeev, do you know the rationale for people who believe that switching from dino to synthetic can be problematic at some mileage?

    One theory I remember reading is that people think that the seals will become unswelled, so the engine will leak?

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I think I have a clue here. I was around and experimenting years ago. I think someone was stuck way back in time with non-detergent oil. One of the first things we learned was about flushing the engine before we went to synthetic. When the stuff first came out it ate seals according to some. Mobil 1 got past that years ago. We heard some of the same stuff with slick 50.

      My mechanic tried to tell me when we put synthetic in the cube that we couldn’t shift back to regular oil. I think people get hung up on things and reality doesn’t matter. Synthetic has excellent detergent capabilities and that’s the only thing I know to be cautious about. I swear by synthetic but if you have a leak it will get worse. It can get expensive.


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