By on January 5, 2015

 

(photo courtesy: chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com)

TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Thanks very much for posting my question. Your answer and the comments from others were most informative. How about another?

We now have only 2 licensed drivers in our home. We do however have 3 licensed cars in the driveway. Please do not ask about the project car in the garage. 2 of the cars are our ‘daily’ drives, the 3rd is used primarily on weekends. We live less than 3 minutes from a 400 series highway in Ontario. That means that the cars can be required to reach highway speed before they are ‘warmed up’.

My normal practice last winter was to get up, start all the cars, turn off all possible drains on the batteries. Then take the dog to the park across the street, stretch our legs and let him do his business. After about 10 minutes we return. I then turn on the heater/defrost on the 2 cars that we will be driving and scrape/brush them. When this is completed, I turn all 3 cars off and go back into the house to get myself ready for work. You may all remember what last winter was like and the upcoming winter is supposed to be similar.

Now I understand that idling is environmentally irresponsible. And possibly against by-laws in some areas. That however is a discussion for another forum.

My questions are:

  1. Is this OK for the cars?
  2. Am I better off warming up/idling our weekend car like this or leaving it all week and hoping that it is OK to start on the weekend.

Please do not suggest:

  1. A trickle charger
  2. Engine block heaters

I would love to have those as options, however none of the cars have block heaters installed and there are no electrical outlets available for either of the above suggestions (thanks to the project car).

Thanks,
Arthur Dailey

Sajeev answers:

Okay!  I will not mention your Project Car, nor your need for conventional starting aids in cold conditions. Even if your engine warm up procedure absolutely demands otherwise!

In general, start-up a cold motor and drive it ASAP in a modest, moderate manner.  What does that mean?

Perhaps that means not accelerating past the motor’s torque peak, unless necessary for merging onto a freeway. If you own a torque-less, rev-intensive motor à la Scion FR-S, the torque peak notion is invalid. No matter, avoid heavy throttle application until oil temperature is up to normal: think about your unique engine type/driving condition and apply common sense.

Thanks to advancements in fluid technology and the widespread use of synthetic-blended oil, it’s gotta be disturbingly cold (handy chart here) to do otherwise. On to your questions:

1. Why are you turning off the cars after warming them up? No! Do your stuff while they idle/thaw (when needed) and then drive!  You are only hurting them more by letting the fluids cool down again. Change your morning routine ASAP.

2. There is no reason to start-up your weekend car just to charge the battery.  If the weekend car is impossible to start after 5 days, get a battery blanket (Oops! No power right?) and disconnect the negative cable to minimize drain.  Or just give up and yank the battery, leaving it somewhere isolated from the ground, like a wood table.  More work, but if you can physically handle that heavy of a load, the exercise won’t kill ya.

No matter what, you gotta change your warm up procedure.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Remember that oil temp isn’t measured on the (coolant) temperature needle on your dashboard. Oil takes longer to warm up, so if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a sub-menu showing oil temp, or you don’t have an app for that, wait a little while after the temp needle is happy. That makes the oil happy too.

 

Send your queries to [email protected]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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114 Comments on “Piston Slap: Improper Engine Warm Up Procedure?...”


  • avatar
    raph

    Always interesting to watch engine tests by the OE’s. I remember one test Ford did on the Coyote where they brought the engine up to operating temp then shut it down and immediately flushed the engine with cold fluid until frost formed and fired it right back up and revved it up.

    Any failures or wear due to the shock imposed on the engine meant they had to correct the design.

    Pretty cool to watch when most people are loathe to wash down a hot engine with cool hose water ( then again it seems most people are afraid to wash an engine for fear of damaging it in some fashion anyways – when I take mine to the self serve car wash I blast it right down with the high pressure supply and have done so for the past five years all four seasons )

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Fun story.

      One time I was selling my old Impreza wagon. An old man came to look at it with his daughter-in-law and his wife. They weren’t gonna buy anyway, as they clearly didn’t have the $2700 I was asking. Typical.

      After checking the car out and popping the hood, he noticed the cleanliness of the engine – it was that way because I had sprayed it off when I washed the car, and then wiped it with a rag.

      “How did you get the engine looking clean like that?”

      “I sprayed it off and wiped it…”

      -Suspicious look and silence-

    • 0 avatar
      vtecJustKickedInYo

      raph, Cummins did the exact same test. It is one many engineers fear/hate but does provide useful validation data.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “then again it seems most people are afraid to wash an engine for fear of damaging it in some fashion anyways”

      It’s not so much the engine as the electrical system. It’s not a bad idea to bag the alternator and cover the battery.

      It’s also not a bad idea to avoid directly hitting hoses; some of that rubber is old and might not hold up to a pressure washer, at least not at close range.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      My first job was at a self service car wash. We kept a few local towing cards on hand to give to people when they would spray down their engines and they wouldn’t start.

      Then fun ones were the people who would ask if their car would freeze if they washed it when it was about 10F outside…..gee I guess the ice formed on the walls wasn’t a give away.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      Just because a car “can” survive a torture test, that doesn’t mean you “should” torture it.

      And hosing down a modern engines is dumb with the myriad of sensors and electronics. Especially considering 99.9% of the time it’s purely done for the cosmetics.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Yep- once the insulation on electric wires (ignition wires, sensor wires, wires carrying power to solenoids, etc.) have had some years of living under the hood then I’m not comfortable spraying them with even a garden hose. If I don’t need to go anywhere for a while and I can give it a chance to dry out, that’s a little different.

        Car washes in a deep freeze winter can be a risky game if some of the water finds its way around door and window seals and into door latch and lock mechanisms- ask me how I know :(

    • 0 avatar

      BMW shows a cold room where the frozen to (-something) engine is started, immediately run to redline….held there till up to operation temperature…and is shut down, frozen again, and fired up….I forget how many cycles this is but IIRC it is ten years of use…

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well, I moved out of the snow zone in the 1970s, so I’d just warm up the 1960s cars I owned for a couple minutes, and then drove around the block a couple times, and then go where I was going. The Transmission needs to warm up too, along with other fluids and lubricated bits.

    I’ve left one of those cars for 2-1/2 weeks in sub freezing temps without driving it, and had no trouble starting it afterward. So I’d agree with Sajeev, just warm up the car you’ll drive a short time and then drive it. Modern cars can take it a lot better than the cars of old, so your extended warm up is not necessary.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point about Transmissions also needing to warm up.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        That is a worry, especially with my old timey five speed on my ballyhooed Astra. It starts a treat, but the shifting is hard, like a wooden spoon in a tube of dry spaghetti, for a long while. Is there a transmission heater similar to the engine block heater that is inexpensive and possibly user-friendly to attach?

        • 0 avatar
          jrmason

          You can install a magnetic pan heater (unless your pan is aluminum) but I wouldn’t worry about it unless you live in an arctic climate. A good tip like already mentioned is to engage the park brake and put the vehicle in gear. This engages the TC which will not only heat the trans fluid quicker but will also heat the coolant faster with the small load that is being placed on the engine.

          Ultimately the deciding factor for me is however long it takes to clear the snow/ice from the windshield. Once the glass is clear, I’m gone.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe K

        Transmission, shocks, diff, wheel bearing grease, metal bits all need warming up. Just starting the car doesn’t warm these up, but gently driving the car for the first 5-10 minutes does.
        Starting the car to wamr it up and then immediately shutting it off is just inviting condensation in the crankcase, and all the joys that can bring.
        If you have a place for a project car, surely you must have some power, and things called extension cords.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Lorenzo – – –

      Good comment.

      Two things:
      1) Many modern (>2006) cars, German** and some other types, have extensive electronic systems that are always active doing “housekeeping” even with the ignition off, — and happily drain the battery after 2-3 weeks. If you leave one of those unattended for that time in subzero temp’s, you will go nowhere.

      2) Manual transmissions need to be warmed up even more than automatics, or you will risk breaking something if you force a shift when synchronizers can’t handle it. I broke the shifter cup on my 1974 Dodge D100 with NP435 transmission in just this way.

      ** e.g., E90 BMW 325i

      ===============

      • 0 avatar
        beastpilot

        I own a 2006+ German car. It steadfastly refuses to drain the battery. The instant it sees to much draw on the battery, or when the battery gets low, it disconnects the battery itself. You can tell because when you get in the car after this, the clocks, trip odometer, and other stuff are reset. The car always starts perfectly however.

        Doing some quick math, with the stock battery, the car would take almost 90 days to go into this mode, and then you’d still have another few weeks to get it started.

        So no, they don’t “happily” drain the battery in weeks. They drain the battery in months and then happily knock it off before they drain it so far the engine won’t start.

        • 0 avatar
          HeeeeyJake

          of opportunities for a battery drain.

        • 0 avatar
          HeeeeyJake

          NMGOM’s comment has some merit.

          I worked at a BMW dealership from 2003-2005, so I was exposed to a lot of dead batteries on new, used, and customer cars.

          When the spaceship-looking 2002-2004 7 series came out, a mechanic told me they had 116 body computers which took 45 minutes to enter sleep mode. Diagnosing a battery drain under warranty could really ruin a tech’s weekly pay with all the diagnostic work and waiting time to isolate the drain.

          Other BMWs weren’t as bad at the time, but I believe an X5 V8 had like 73 computers.

          So while they have many safeguards in place, as you mention, to mitigate or stop battery drain when the car is functioning perfectly, there certainly are many, many opportunities for battery drain in those types of cars (newer, tech-laden, German, etc.) that can be a real pain to track down.

        • 0 avatar
          NMGOM

          Hi beast – – –

          I’m glad you are not suffering this battery-drain issue on yours. Mike Miller, the technical editor for “Roundel” magazine, has consistently advised not to leave modern BMW’s without a battery manager for more than 2-3 weeks, depending on battery condition, temperatures, and other factors. When it was new, I let my 325i go for about one month, and did not have a problem either. But after it was a few years old, in WI winters, I would not dare to do that. Battery managers from Griot’s Garage are relatively inexpensive and have worked perfectly: I use them now on all my vehicles, and I have five of them.

          ================

          • 0 avatar

            Used to have a SAAB that would occasionally drain the battery. We learned to have a 10 mm wrench in the car. When parking at an airport for vacation, we’d pull the negative side, put the wrench on the dashboard, and know we’d not be dead for the return ride home.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      No, don’t warm the car up at idle. No load means little heat.

      The best way to warm up a car is to drive it. Burn some gas, generate some heat.

      The only reason to let it idle is if it won’t run safely and dependably when cold. Which isn’t generally a problem on modern cars.

      Just drive it. That’s the best way to warm up.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I timed and measured our distance to the highway this morning. Just over 1/2 a kilometer and with reduced traffic it took about 2 minutes.

    That is my primary worry, starting a cold car and having it at highway speeds within 3 minutes of the start-up.

    Based on what I am reading, instead of my normal routine, I should start the 2 cars that we will be driving, let them idle for 3 minutes and then drive them?

    And I should immediately stop my practice of running them for about 10 minutes, turning them off and then re-starting them in about 15 minutes?

    Remember, we get right on to the highway and running at highway speeds, so there is no warm-up time available prior to entering the highway, unless I change my schedule.

    Also my M6 transmission Sonata does shift a little hard until it is warmed up.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’m not sure if highway speeds are the problem as much as revving the engine hard to reach them. If you can accelerate to highway speeds without bringing the engine high into the rev range, I don’t see how you are stressing the cold engine. I would think the several minutes it takes to scrape the windows and get the coolant temp needle out of the basement would be enough for gentle part-throttle acceleration even to 60-70mph. That’s about the time when my car feels less lethargic and revs a bit more freely.

      If you have an uphill onramp with impatient irritated drivers behind you, then maybe it does need more warm-up.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        I’ve been told to generally keep the revs below 3k and avoid full throttle until the engine reaches operating temp.

        It’s general advice but has served me well over the years on a fuel injected gasoline engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t gun the engine and you will be fine. Unless you’re merging onto the Gardiner in downtown Toronto (and let’s be real; if you’re doing that it’s going to be at about 30 km/h :) ), you should have plenty of on-ramp to get up to speed. Bear in mind that you can use your engine a little more aggressively as it warms up; just don’t floor it and use all of its capability until the engine is at full operating temperature. My ’07 Accord has no problems getting to freeway speed while it’s cold (and we get temperatures in the -30s here).

      The other thing I’ve been told (but not verified) is that in severe cold, front-wheel-drive cars should not be steered to the very end of their range until they’ve been exercised a bit. The rubber boots on the CV joints can get brittle, as all rubber can, in severe cold. Most readers here probably don’t live in severe enough cold for this to matter but complying with this advice isn’t too difficult. Just don’t steer all the way to the steering stop until you’ve driven the car three or four minutes and warmed up the axle grease.

      If you’re worried about quick warmups, remember that a) vehicles parked indoors rarely get very cold, and b) an engine block heater – a rarely-used accessory in southern Ontario – will warm up your engine partway and with zero wear to the motor. Use a timer to have the heater start a couple of hours before you plan to start the engine (we use four hours when the temperatures get below -30 here). (And note that wind chill doesn’t affect cars, except to cool them to ambient temperature more quickly, so just worry about the actual temperature.)

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      The speed isn’t the problem, it is the acceleration. So if you have a nice long ramp and polite and/or sparse traffic it is not a problem at all. If you live in Pittsburgh or anywhere with non-existent merge lanes, hills, and maniacs then maybe take another spin around the block.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      My distance to the interstate is only slightly longer than yours, and on several occasions I have needed to reach highway speeds in subzero temperatures without the luxury of an extended warm up period. The engine and power train management system readily copes with the special driving conditions and moves the shift points significantly higher in the rev range even as I use the throttle lightly to avoid stressing a cold engine.

      Your cars should be fine as long as you aren’t mashing the throttle in order to match speeds with highway traffic.

      And with any sort of load on the engine and power train, warm up times decrease by an order of magnitude over a no-load idle. These conditions are part of any automaker’s standard targets regarding emissions and drivability, so don’t worry about just hopping in and driving when it’s cold outside.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

      I once worked at a place that required me to hit 110km/h within 30 seconds after after leaving the parking lot. In winter, I would warm up the car for 5-10 minutes to clear the windshield, but once I hit the highway there would be a sudden burst of humid air, followed by the inside of the windshield completely icing up and taking my visibility down to zero…at highway speeds.

      I was reminded of it when it happened to my wife this weekend. I suspect it has to due with the fan removing so much heat from the HVAC that it causes a phase change and water vapor is converted to liquid water. I’ve never found a satisfactory answer, nor has it ever happened in any other car I’ve driving,

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      It was 30 degrees in my part of SE Texas this morning and I realize that is very balmy for some of you folks. FWIW I have lived in Canada (Newfoundland) and know the difference. I drove less than a quarter mile to hit the blacktop highway and a total of 2.1 before I was up to operating speed and heating the car. Like always, I accelerated slowly when I got to the highway. I think it could have been considerably colder without changing that much thanks to the thermostat doing it’s job.

      I have read that the transmission cooler in the radiator does a double job. It cools the transmission fluid when it is hot but I understand it accelerates the warming process as the engine will warm before the transmission. I am neither mechanic nor engineer but it sounded right.

      Synthetic oil for engines and trannies has helped that a lot (IMO). I think synthetic oil and this fast startup is a big reason my engines seem to last for 300k. When I have lost them before that it has been a timing chain or head gasket. I don’t have to deal with ice or snow. When I have it has been the degree of severity that allows me to clear it with my drivers license. I think I would scrape the absolute minimum and get started ASAP. Idling is not a good thing for engines even when they are fuel infected. Cold idling washed down cylinders like crazy when they were carbed.

      Thanks, that is my $.02 worth.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I think the notion of “highway speeds” being hard on a cold engine is not accurate. Unless you’re doing full blast on the Autobahn, maintaining 50-70mph probably isn’t all that hard on an engine. It’s a sustained light to moderate load, right?

    The idling and acceleration up to highway speeds is probably harder on a cold engine.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    A car sitting and idling does not warm up quickly or effectively. Sometimes this is unavoidable, eg you have frost or ice on the windshield and you need to get the defroster going before you drive off, but generally the quickest and best way to warm up your car is to start it and begin driving gently as soon as possible. The engine will warm up faster and you will get heat inside the car faster too. There is no need or reason to wait 3 minutes or some other magic number. Just drive (as long as you can see out the windshield).

    The engine stress is not about vehicle speed, it’s about engine speed and load. You want to avoid full throttle and high rpm until the engine has warmed up. As the engine warms you can increase throttle and rpm limits. (BMW M cars used to – maybe still do – show a variable redline on the tach using lighting, it would extend lower in the rev range on a cold engine and would gradually increase as the engine warmed).

    Yes of course your manual transmission shifts hard until it warms up. Gear oil is thick when cold. Quickest way to warm it up is to get those wheels turning and those gears meshing.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I’ve thought of it this way: Driving a car gently is virtually the same as idling. If you are willing to idle for a few minutes and only warm the engine (but not the transmission or anything else), why wouldn’t you be willing to drive gently thus warming the engine as you would by idling AND warm the other parts of the car?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “there are no electrical outlets available for either of the above suggestions”

    So wherever the OP lives, there’s no such thing as any of the following:

    1) Power strips
    2) Extension cords
    3) Electrician to install additional outlet (indoors or outdoors by driveway)

    Methinks he just wanted some validation for the terrible warm up procedure he uses on his cars, and does not want to do anything to address the real issue. The additional wear and tear caused by the warm up method will exceed the costs of an extension cord, power strip, and some heaters.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I assume that he lives in a cabin away from grid power, and that “the project car” is a mobile generator that’s not currently functional. It’s the simplest possible explanation.

    • 0 avatar

      An electrician’s fees would probably be covered by the fuel savings from shorter warmups in only a couple or three years, I’d think.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Actually I own a special engine block heater extension cord. Used this at our previous home with our previous vehicles which did have block heaters.

      Unfortunately we cannot add another electrical box to the circuit(s?) that run to the garage. The current circuits run the garage and exterior lights, garage door opener and central vacuum.

      If there was an open/unused electrical outlet, then I would certainly contemplate adding block heaters to the cars.

      I am actually old enough to remember the portable block heaters that my father used to place inside the engine compartment of his car on winter nights. Guess that with the cramped compartments, plastic and electrical bits in the modern engine bays that these would now constitute a fire hazard?

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Just a note for anybody unfamiliar. There’s nothing electrically special about block heater extension cords. They draw 300 to 500 Watts, any outdoor cord will do.

        What is sold as “block heater cord” has other useful properties: it stays flexible in cold weather, comes in shorter lengths (compared to a lawn mower cord, for instance), has a single outlet, should be at least 14 gauge, preferably 12.

        I use a regular 12 gauge mower cord, as well as a solid state (no moving parts) outdoor timer.

        • 0 avatar
          jrmason

          Not sure I’ve ever seen them that small. My coolant block heaters on my truck and VW TDI is 750 wats and 1000 wats. They will definitely spin the meter if you leave them plugged in from the time you get home until the next time you go somewhere. A heavy duty timer will pay for itself within a few months.

    • 0 avatar
      John

      Battery Tender makes a solar panel powered charger, that I have used with good results.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    So get in, start it up, and drive off slowly until normal operating temperature is reached.

    Meh. I likes mine nice and toasty, so I’m letting it warm up first. Fifteen minutes or so with the defrosters, mirror heaters, seat heaters, etc, all full blast. Ohhhh yeah

    I don’t have my garage anymore. Darn the luck.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    If the weekend car won’t start after a few days, then it either has a dying battery or a phantom electrical drain. Running it for a few minutes every morning will only lead to oil that’s diluted with fuel and water. “Now you have two problems,” as they say. Fix the electrical issue.

    Your other cars don’t need to idle much longer than the time it takes to scrape/brush them. Take it easy for the first bit, and make sure you use synthetic oil. You can switch back to “regular” oil in the spring if you want, but using synthetics will pay for itself in the winter.

    Synthetic transmission oil will fix your Sonata’s mushy gearshift.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    OP’s warm up procedure is a waste of time and fuel. If anything, he’s just washing down the cylinders running them for a long amount of cumulative time in cold temperature open loop. If he can tolerate the frigid interior, driving the car gingerly after starting it won’t hurt it. I can’t count how many times I’ve explained this to other people so far this season. Automakers have many engineers dedicated to ensuring the lubrication system works correctly at Southern Ontario’s coldest temperatures.

    The only real reason to warm up the car before driving would be if you don’t want to be cold. Driving it will actually warm the engine faster and get it into closed loop sooner. Once in closed loop, it will run on a better fuel mixture that won’t wash down the cylinders as much.

    • 0 avatar

      Seat warmers, to take off the chill, and running the heating fan at low speeds until the engine starts to warm up, then easing the fan up as the engine attains operating temperature – that’s what I do and it works really well.

      Really small engines, in the extreme cold, won’t ever reach operating temperature if you simply put the fan on full speed.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “then easing the fan up as the engine attains operating temperature – that’s what I do and it works really well.”

        Yep. That’s the auto climate control strategy in cold weather when most factorty equipped cars are remote started. When factory remote start became a more common option, many people would assume the climate control was broken when it wasn’t automatically BLASTING cold air when they went to get inside.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        I went to college in northern Ontario for 2yrs and my Acura RSX couldn’t get hot until I started driving. It had autostart and 10min of warm-up and the windows were hardly defrosted. It would pump heat once the car was moving for 30sec.
        I had a starting problem the first cold snap: new battery and switched from 5w-20 conventional oil to 0w-20 semi-synthetic during winter and it worked well. Using a lower viscosity oil will also help it to warm-up quicker if you don’t have much time before you put load on the motor to merge on the hwy.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I strongly support all cars having active grille shutters because there’s no reason to dump more heat than necessary out the radiator during cold weather.

  • avatar
    EAF

    When I worked at a friend’s repair shop, I remember discussing this same question with his master tech. His routine was, in my view, insane.

    When temps would fall near or below zero, he would auto start his car (3800 Series Buick) the minute he woke up. Prepare his breakfast, shower, shave, news, etc. An hour later he would jump in and drive to work. Upon arrival he would allow the car to idle the entire shift. 8-10 hours of idling! Wtf?

    Regardless of ambient temp, I allow my car to idle until my oil reaches normal operating temperature. I’ve also disconnected my clutch switch so that I do not have to depress the clutch for starting. Placing force on the pressure plate/crankshaft when the thrust bearings are “dry” is frowned upon amongst the 4G63 community.

    I also nurse the gearbox for the first mile or so, until I feel the notchiness is gone.

    I would say to keep the routine the same with the exception, as Sajeev pointed out, of not turning the cars off before re-entering your home.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Upon arrival he would allow the car to idle the entire shift. 8-10 hours of idling! Wtf?”

      Was this shop in Northern Alaska and wasn’t equipped with outlets for block heaters? Otherwise, that sure is a lot of fuel to waste for no good reason.

      It isn’t uncommon for the diesel trucks that populate the oil fields in the far north to run 24/7 for months at a time, but here in civilization it’s pretty much a waste.

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        Danio, I agree it is a complete waste and borderline insane. I think it was more of an OCD compulsion rather than anything rational. It is not a diesel and it is not the Antarctic.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      WTF indeed…at 10 degrees, your oil may take 20 minutes to reach operating temperature. You’re going to idle your car for 20 minutes before you drive it?

      And the 3800 Series Buick guy is insane…?

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        If I am running late or in a hurry, I wait for the oil pressure to normalize. If sitting overnight, that may take 5 minutes in 40 degree weather. Even if I idled for 20 minutes to reach 160 degrees in oil temp, how is that worse in the WTF scale compared to idling for 8 hours? Lol

        My commute is 2 miles, my engine would never reach operating temp for any fluid if I jumped in and took off.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          Warming up a car for 20 minutes to drive for 5 minutes is not as bad as idling for 8 hours, but still pretty bad.

          So you will wait five minutes at 40 degrees, like you say, or 20 minutes at 10 degrees, like I said. Then add the five minutes it takes to do your two miles, and you have a total of a 10 minute commute at 40 degrees and 25 minutes at 10 degrees.

          I can walk two miles in 25 minutes. Since I walk 5 miles a day for exercise, I probably would not even take the car most days. If I have grocery shopping or something similar, that extra destination would probably take me up over the five or so miles needed to warm up completely.

          Like my late father used to say…”when in doubt, follow the instructions.” Instructions say to get in, start it up, after 15 seconds start driving. At temps of 15 and under, wait maybe a minute.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            This. You’re wasting time and fuel but not saving any trouble for your engine since it’s spending so much time cold idling anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Indeed. If I lived two miles from my work, I wouldn’t drive unless it was raining or in some way unsafe for me not to.

          • 0 avatar
            EAF

            I respect your opinion, it is rational. I’ve used this formula for 200k + miles on an engine pushing nearly double the horsepower the factory intended. All original, no fluid consumption, no leaks to date. Do I attribute it to the warm up procedure? Not sure, but I won’t change my routine until she quits life.

            I’m not walking 2 miles in 10 degree weather! I have a climate controlled gym for my daily workout.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “Am I better off warming up/idling our weekend car like this or leaving it all week and hoping that it is OK to start on the weekend.”

    There’s no point to idling a modern car to warm it up, and most owners manuals suggest you avoid warm-up idling entirely and just get in and drive. I’d tend to agree with the manual. By the time you reach the highway, you should be fine.

    “Engine block heaters
    I would love to have those as options, however none of the cars have block heaters installed and there are no electrical outlets available for either of the above suggestions (thanks to the project car).”

    I know you don’t want to hear it, but get an extension cord and spend the money on an aftermarket block heater. They’ll do more good than idling.

    Trickle-chargers aren’t worth it unless you leave the car for months on end, in which case the battery shouldn’t be in the car in the first place. If your battery can’t start the car, you need a new battery. A weak battery will cause other issues down the line.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Trickle-chargers aren’t worth it unless you leave the car for months on end, in which case the battery shouldn’t be in the car in the first place.”

      Why not? On some cars, it’s a PITA to remove the battery. Even on the ones it isn’t, most trickle chargers come with a quick disconnect that can be attached to the battery terminals and easily detached from the charger and tucked safely away. Pretty convenient. Storing the battery somewhere other than the car isn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        A permanently installed compact trickle charger has been a godsend for my car. A three-week vacation is long enough to seriously deplete the battery thanks to electronics and a factory navigation system. It’s nice not to have to worry about the state of the car; I simply plug in the built-in charger when I get home from a long trip, or have it plugged in with the block heater on severely cold nights.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Forget the block heater, just get a remote start for the vehicle. We have a factory remote start in our Tahoe. Love it and use it all the time. Even turns on the electric seats and will shut down on its own after about 10 minutes. It was -13 F in Minneapolis this morning, but my tuck under garage with house on one side and ground on the other 2 was over 40F this morning. I don’t even have to put winter gear on to leave the house(although i bring it along). The heater starts blowing hot air before the truck has a chance to cool down.

  • avatar
    jrmason

    There’s no better solution than a coolant heater and a heavy duty timer set up to turn the heater on 3-4 hours prior to leaving for work. Frost heater makes excellent aftermarket heaters. Electric is cheaper then fuel, cranking a warm engine is much easier on batteries and starters,and your making heat as soon as you start the engine. This is what I do with my vehicles and it works well. Even have a place to plug in at work. My vehicles see almost no idle time. Start the vehicle, unplug cord, scrape snow/ice off windshield, get in and go. A magnetic pan heater on your oil pan is an alternative but you won’t enjoy heat right away.
    If its absolutely not an option (not just a preference), I’d run synthetic fluids, give the engine a few minutes to warm up and drive easy until the temp comes up.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Block heaters FTW, as they (used to) say. My summer car is on a trickle charger; my winter car has a block heater…both controlled by the same heavy-duty timer.

      The three hours per weekday and 12 per weekend day that they run has the one car warm when I want to use it, and is plenty of time for the charger to do its stuff on the other car.

  • avatar
    Curt in WPG

    I live in Winnipeg where is was a cold dark minus forty something this morning with the windchill. Canadian regionalism requires me to laugh to what people in Toronto consider cold weather ;-)

    Best thing is get block heaters on your vehicles, even if it requires getting another outlet wired in. Even the ‘glue on the oil pan type’ will help although they aren’t nearly as good as the normal kind. Block heaters and good fresh oil, preferably a full synthetic, will do wonders. I usually let my cars start and run 15 minutes in this type of weather although a lot of that is so I can scrape off the windshields (no garage and -40). At normal Toronto temps (-5 to -20) 10 minutes will be fine for your vehicles to be warmed up. No need to run the weekend vehicle everyday as long as it has a decent battery in it as well. I’ve left cars sitting 2 weeks in -30 temps while plugged in and they’ll still start.

    • 0 avatar
      iMatt

      I was thinking the same thing this morning here in Alberta (-38 C this morning), but originally coming from T.O, I know it’s relative only to what you’re used to. Now when I’m working outside in -20 C weather, I consider myself lucky!

      I follow the same procedure as you in regard to warm up procedure however I don’t even have a block heater installed on our car. It often will barely turn over after a prolonged cold soak and when it finally does catch, the small 1.5 L engine will struggle to crack 1000 RPM for the first 15 seconds or so….contrary to normal convention. The sound from the pulley bearings is another story, ugh.

    • 0 avatar
      John

      Wind chill has no effect on cars. The ambient temperature is the only thing that affects an immobile car. I find this is a common misconception.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    You are dramatically overthinking things. If it’s 30 below, you might want to warm up for a minute or two before you drive (or five minutes if it’s an older car) but in general, vehicles are engineered for commonly encountered weather conditions. At worst, you might be shortening the life of some replaceable components by merging onto the freeway before the temp needle is in the normal zone, but unless you’re keeping your vehicle for over ten years, you’re unlikely to ever see any consequences. Relax.

  • avatar
    zach

    My 2001 Camry 4cyl engine is still cold after 20 miles in any weather below 40F. if I just start it in 40 degree weather and let it sit it never warms up, you actually have to drive it to get the coolant and oil to heat up, in fact I don’t think my thermostat fully opens on this car unless it’s 80F.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

      It’s probably your thermostat. I was driving a 98 Camry this weekend in -27C weather, and the first thing I was amazed by was just how fast a 4 cylinder can get to normal operating temperature in these conditions.

    • 0 avatar

      Something’s wrong (unless you have your fan cranked up to maximum speed in which case try turning it down and see how fast the car warms up). My ’07 Accord will warm up to full operating temperature at temperatures as low as -40 C/F (lower not yet tested :) ) in only a few minutes of operating. At 4 C (40 F) it will be at full temperature within about three-four minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      Check thermostat, it may be failed/stuck open.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Our ’01 Camry 5S-FE 4 cylinder is one of the fastest warming up engines out there. My wife claims it is one of the reasons she’s always loved the car. It idles really fast when cold until temp gauge starts moving up close to operating temp. Agreed with other commenters; check the t’stat.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    My mechanics advice on warm up was ‘just keep it under 3000 rpm for 20 minutes’. That simple. If I have ice on the window I let it run long enough to make the scraping easy- 5 to 10 mins? Scrape and drive away.

  • avatar
    zach

    Based on my Camry 4cyl 5sfe, the oil takes at least 5 times as long to warm up as the coolant does in any weather below 40F. this car has a hard time keeping the coolant/oil warm, heck even during 95F summers I can rest my hand on the exhaust manifold 10 minutes after I shut it down w/o getting burned, so I do not let this car idle very long in cold weather, driving it is the only way to warm it up.

  • avatar
    zach

    The longer a running engine takes to warm up the more combustion chamber carbon build-up?

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Many moons ago, a shop class teacher told me that the best way to warm up a cold car is set the e-brake and throw it into reverse. Not only does it warm up the transmission but it also drops the revs significantly.

    Of course, this only works with a slushbox. On older models, I noticed that the tranny does tend to shift much more smoothly even though the engine is still relatively cold.

    One thing I fail to understand is why cold engines rev so high.

  • avatar
    zach

    My wife blasts the heat even when starting the car in 15F, it drives me crazy, I tell her to wait until the temp guage is a least half way up, it falls of deaf ears.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My mother was this way when I was a kid. Cranking the blower doesn’t make the heat come faster! It makes it build slower and in the process just blows freezing air at you.

  • avatar
    zach

    Thicker oil actually heats up quicker because of the friction, I’ve witnessed this in my 4cyl Camry engine.

  • avatar
    jrmason

    There is little benefit to running an oil pan heater unless your in arctic conditions. With the technology of oil today all you need to do is let the engine run long enough to build good oil pressure and GENTLY drive. The reason why coolant heaters are the norm over oil heaters is two fold: One, on a cold block at idle speed the pistons will heat up and expand faster than the block, further reducing already tight engine tolerances and increasing wear. A coolant heater takes this out of the equation. Two, and probably the main driver, is passenger comfort.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Idle for just long enough to get oil pumping into the top of the engine… a few *seconds*, not minutes or hours.

    Then drive gently. You’ll reach operating temperature much faster, your engine will be happier, you’ll waste a lot less fuel, and you’ll spew a lot fewer unburned HCs into the atmosphere.

    Reaching highway speed while driving gently is easy unless your onramp is very short or up a steep hill. (Where I live, I *do* have to drive up a steep, short onramp a half-mile from my house to get onto the freeway in one direction. When going that direction, I drive around for an extra minute or two if the car is cold.)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The drive gently advise is the best here .

    That and Synthetic Multi-Vis oils in Winter .

    For heat , I leave the ” vent ‘ position on with the temp set to high , no fan , as soon as I feel warm air I set the fan on low and that’s it .

    Doesn’t really get cold here , Folks are screaming about 45° F this morning , me i was loving it in shirt sleeves , looking at the big full moon .

    I can’t imagine sludging up my engines by letting them idle .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    turf3

    Well, I have two cars that when first started run a fast idle for a bit, then drop the revs. (2003 Toyota and 2009 Volvo.) Under normal circumstances, I guess it’s 10-20 seconds (have not ever actually timed it). I use the drop of revs as my guideline. I figure the folks at the manufacturer set that fast idle timer for a reason, like getting oil pressure to the bearings. Once the revs drop, I drove off, gently at first. I’m lucky because I don’t have a situation where I have to accelerate vigorously right away.

    Does anyone else do this?

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Remote starter system? It fails the environmental and idle parts but is nice for cold environments.

    An easier thing than disconnecting the negative batter terminal is getting a “battery disconnect timer.” I have an old Lexus that never gets driven and have wired one of these to disconnect the battery after 12 hours of non-use (most let you adjust this). When you want to go again all you do is push the reset button and it’s back on. Of course you loose everything that depends on keep-alive memory.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    I love the frightened mention of “highway speeds” just a few minutes after start-up. As someone posted before, as long as you live in North America and have a car made in last 20 years, you don’t have to worry.

    I’m pretty sure that anything made in this century or at the very end of the previous one is perfectly able to reach 60 or 70 mph without needing more than quarter of throttle or more than 3000rpm.

    Typical modern car uses maybe 20% of its engine power in “highway speeds”.

    The speeds that are too hard on your cold engine are usually even harder on your point score, wallet or even your freedom.

  • avatar
    iMatt

    Started our Fit this morning in – 38 C temps. The stock battery could hardly turn the engine over, but it did!

    Usually, after it does catch, I wait for the RPM to increase to the normal cold idle range (10-15 seconds) and then if left alone, I’ll wait another 10 to 15 minutes for it to come back below 1000.

    At that temperature, the pulley bearings make a terrible whining sound, the brakes feel as if they’re made of wood, the power steering is non-existant, the suspension and the seats are rock hard, the whole car creaks around every glass seal over every small bump and even the rear view mirror loses hope and falls off.

    At normal operating temp, the car can’t keep the interior much above the freezing level, it’s next to impossible to keep the interior glass free of ice and the car burns almost 10 L /100 kms on the highway.

    On the flip s1de, driving on snow covered roads at that temperature is akin to driving on pavement, lots of traction.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    once the coolant temperature is up to its normal operating hot range and you have africa heat coming out of your vents and the windows are defrosted your oil may not be at peak lubricity you are no longer seeing any damage done once the oil has fully circulated through your engine. the first seconds before the engine is fully lubed is what causes trouble….i recommend lucas or your local alternative

  • avatar
    zach

    Can a thermostat actually close after the engine has fully warmed up? , in other words If I warmed my car up in a garage @ 50 degrees F and I pull out into 5 degrees F weather will the thermostat actually ever close, in other words can certain cooling systems in a NA car actually overcool once the car has been warmed up even if the ambient temp plummets while the car never been shut off?!

    • 0 avatar
      jrmason

      A thermostat will crack open at its predetermined temperature. So if you have a 190 stat, it will partially open to allow coolant to begin passing at about 188 degrees. It will not fully open until approximately 10-15 degrees above its set point 190). Thermostats rarely go full open unless you are running in extreme temps or working the engine hard, other than that they will fluctuate to maintain temperature. Once an engine has warmed up and provided the thermostat is operating properly, ambient temps don’t play a large role in coolant temps.

      • 0 avatar
        zach

        Thanks jrmason, “Ambient temps don’t play a large role in coolant temps” , that should have been my question, makes total sense now.

      • 0 avatar
        zach

        I am beginning to suspect a faulty (stuck open) thermo in my 2001 Camry, it seems to be “over cooling” this winter, it will not warm on the gauge until I actually drive it even temps over freezing (40 degrees)..and at a stop light the needle actually starts dropping ever so slightly.

        • 0 avatar
          jrmason

          Sounds like your on the right track. Temp gauge should not drop if the thermostat is functioning properly. Regardless of external (ambient) temperature the thermostat should stay closed enough to maintain the engines required temperature. A good quality thermostat should fix you right up.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      A defective thermostat can close at its set temperature. I had this a few years ago on my Honda Accord. It would overheat, maddeningly inconsistently, during the summer, and a new thermostat fixed the problem.

  • avatar
    hawox

    i remember the user manual of my mom’s renault: “when start in cold weather accelerate 3-4 times all the way down, before moving”.
    sometimes i went to ski with that car and alwais gave full throttle before starting the descend. maybe is unecessary with modern fuel injection but i kept the abitude.
    when idling the engine gets warm in some areas, then when i accelerate the heat distributes to the rest of the engine, i think. but probably it isn’t a good procedure with turbo or compressed engines?

    while the engine and converter are cold it pollutes more, so it makes no big difference if you let the car warm up a bit.

  • avatar
    zach

    I miss the way my 1999 Maxima controlled the interior temps in winter time, it had an automatic climate control system and would not blow any air out even when the heater was on until the coolant temp was at least 100 degrees maybe, unless you manually overrode it.

  • avatar
    zach

    I remember my buddies 92? Accord ran so cool that getting heat out of the ducts was iffy in sub freezing temps.

  • avatar
    zach

    As far as cylinder wash from a rich mixture in cold weather it seems like carbs and direct injection engines would suffer the most, as opposed to good “old fashioned ” fuel injection.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I am going to join the guys who were complaining about losing comments in cyberspace. Frustrating.

    Hope this doesn’t show up twice. The prior two times this was a reply to another comment. Trying as an original comment now. Will give up if it doesn’t work.

    It was 30 degrees in my part of SE Texas this morning and I realize that is very balmy for some of you folks. FWIW I have lived in Canada (Newfoundland) and know the difference. I drove less than a quarter mile to hit the blacktop highway and a total of 2.1 before I was up to operating speed and heating the car. Like always, I accelerated slowly when I got to the highway. I think it could have been considerably colder without changing that much thanks to the thermostat doing it’s job.

    I have read that the transmission cooler in the radiator does a double job. It cools the transmission fluid when it is hot but I understand it accelerates the warming process as the engine will warm before the transmission. I am neither mechanic nor engineer but it sounded right.

    Synthetic oil for engines and trannies has helped that a lot (IMO). I think synthetic oil and this fast startup is a big reason my engines seem to last for 300k. When I have lost them before that it has been a timing chain or head gasket. I don’t have to deal with ice or snow. When I have it has been the degree of severity that allows me to clear it with my drivers license. I think I would scrape the absolute minimum and get started ASAP. Idling is not a good thing for engines even when they are fuel infected. Cold idling washed down cylinders like crazy when they were carbed.

    Thanks, that is my $.02 worth.

  • avatar

    I have a similar or worse position. If you really want to know how bad. I go 25 feet onto Highway 6, and Hwy 6 is 25 MPH right there, and then 45 and then 55 then 60. Well, I warm for 45 seconds to 1 minute (Depending on ECU cycle to see some heat and the O2 working to turn the idle down to 1000 RPM’s (Base idle is 650 RPM’s). In this cold weather it takes a minute and a half. It is not annoying, high idle is only 1500 RPM’s. A light blip on the throttle will drop it to base idle unless it is really cold (Below 15F)

    I then .. well get on the highway. Shift at 3400 to 3600 every shift with light throttle, and I might get to about 140 degrees on the gauge. It will sit there until I am down the grade and on the flats or a while. Then it will warm up to 180 and be normal for the rest of the commute. I do not hit 180 on the gauge until about 10 to 12 miles from home depending on how cold it is. (Lots of down hill).

    Yes it is a bit rough on it (First Generation Legacy) but not detrimental. I try for the 45 second to 1 minute warm ups when it is below 45 degrees. And 30 second warm ups if above. It depends on if I need a jacket or not.

    If it is below 10 (and it does that here) 2 to 2.5 minute warm up. I like the gauge to just move before I drive. But then my Legacy has a real gauge, and not a idiot gauge. One of those things I like, especially in the old Subarus. You drive off the oil pressure gauge, not the temperature gauge. Oil pressure drops below what your norms are. It is getting warm and might over heat.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    O now live in (usually( Sunny Southern California , grew up in New England and I don’t miss real cold one bit .

    The weather here has been strange of late ~ New Year’s morning it was 34° F on the Rose Parade Route in Pasadena , I was riding my Moto and felt sorry for those poor saps who’d spent the night saving decent viewing spots .

    Then it zoomed up to 78° F on Monday after being 48° Sunday night .

    Tuesday it hit 90° F .

    These are really wide temperature swings , I am glad it never gets seriously cold here , so far I’ve needed the choke out a little bit in the wee hours of the morning when I light off my Metropolitan , as soon as it starts I set the idle down to 1,200 , then set the seat belt , lights and so on , by a few blocks it’s idling smoothly and shortly thereafter produces wisps of heat .

    Were it seriously cold here , I’d be that old guy on the freeway barely going the speed limit until it warmed up .

    Idling is death on engines new or old , Carburetted or Fuel Injected ~ I’ve read the comments here about sludging up of Toyota engines .

    FWIW , engine only reaching 180° F _isn’t_ properly warmed up .

    Modern engines like to run above the boiling point , it makes them far more efficient and powerful etc. .

    I always have custom built , oversized radiators and 195° ‘stats so the ‘stat does the work instead of the poor old radiator .

    You’re right about in tank tranny coolers helping bring slushbox trannies up to operating temp. faster .

    Most of this stuff is covered in either your Dealer/Factory Training or the Factory Shop Manuals if you bother to read the reams of ” how we did it ” stuff .

    I am loving the photo of the Caddy ! .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It’s a good thing all that nice (by real world standards) weather comes with all that baggage that is California, otherwise a guy might get jealous. I suppose it keeps the fiff-raff out

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Kidding , right ? .

        We have at least as many trailers as TEXAS .

        Besides , they let _me_ in so……

        It’s nice here but as you mentioned , it can be a bleeding ‘roid to actually live here .

        Luckily for me , I don’t want to live in any yuppieville craphole .

        If you’re GearHead who likes working on oldies (me) the almost complete lack of rust is a real boon .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well started the new procedure this morning and it took me a little over 10 minutes more than the previous routine.

    1) Started both daily drivers. Turned of all accessories.
    2) Scraped them. This takes much longer when they are not warm.
    3) Both of us then got into our cars. Drove them gently around the block. 4) Then entered the highway.

    We both had some fog issues when driving around the block.
    Checked my tach when entering the highway. Have to watch the RPMs on the M6T Sonata. At highway speeds it runs at about 2600rpm, so accelerating to merge before it is warm might be an issue.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    A lot of talk about keeping rpms down while the engine is not yet warmed up. The principal is sound, especially when you combine it with only a moderate load, but just remember that 3000rpm (or 2000, 2500, or 4000) is not necessarily the best answer for every engine on every make/model.

    Just pointing out the obvious (in case it’s not so obvious to everybody).

  • avatar
    amca

    My father always said to point your cold car up a hill and give it plenty of gas. Revs stay low, but you get the throttle all the way open and burn a lot of gas, thus generating a lot of heat.

    He was an engineer, so I always believed him on this.

  • avatar

    Never had this problem. Slow suburban driving for five minutes or so, then gentle on ramp….by the time drama is required, the car is warmed up.

    One thing to point out to the Brown Manual Diesel Masses here. The increased efficiency of the diesel is a problem on the school run cold winter mornings. If I take the gas rigs, the heater is going half way to school, and the car is warm upon return home. If I take the diesel, the only warmth you’ll see on the trip is the seat heaters and the “have a nice day” goodbye hug.

    The TDI heater is great down to -20, that I’ve seen, it just isn’t fast…

  • avatar
    AJ

    My daily driver only sees the inside of my garage from December through March. During that time my toy (a Jeep) gets put into storage. I started doing this three winters ago and its been the best decision ever.


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