Nobody wants to damage their car’s engine, but many of us unknowingly do so. Even those who know what to do to keep an engine in good shape sometimes forget to take care of their vehicles when life gets hectic.
Understanding some of the things that most frequently cause engine damage can help you keepyours in top condition. Here are five major problems to avoid.
1. Cold Starts
When you’re in a hurry, it’s tempting to start your car and immediately speed off to wherever you’re heading. These cold starts, however, can cause damage to your starter, battery, alternator, pistons, cylinder rods and more.
The oil in your engine needs time to warm up, thin out and form a protective coat over the engine’s moving parts. This is especially true when your car’s been sitting for a while, or when it’s especially cold out.
Instead of starting your engine and driving right away, let your car run for a minute or two. This gives the oil time to warm up and provide sufficient lubrication.
If you live somewhere where temperatures regularly dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, you may also want to invest in an engine heater that connects to your radiators.
2. Not Changing Fluids
You need to change the fluids in your car on the recommended schedule to keep your engine running correctly. These fluids include your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, clutch fluid, steering fluid, brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid.
Letting the oil sit for too long can result in the formation of oil sludge, which blocks oil from accessing the parts it needs and causes engine parts to retain excess heat. Running out of other fluids can also cause severe damage.
To avoid these problems, change your fluids at the recommended intervals. You can find the specific manufacturer’s recommendations in your owner’s manual.
In the past, the standard recommendation was to change your oil every 3000 miles, but today, most auto manufacturers say you can go at least 7500 miles. For automatic transmissions, you should change your transmission fluid about every 30,000 miles. For manual transmissions, you can go between 30,000 and 50,000 miles.
3. Frequent Redlining
On vehicles with a tachometer, the gauge that displays the engine’s revolutions per minute (rpm), there is typically a red line near the higher numbers on the gauge. This line serves to warn you that your engine cannot sustain going above that rpm.
Frequent high revving keeps your engine at a higher temperature than what is ideal for it, which can damage the engine, as well as components such as the transmission and valve train.
To avoid this problem, don’t rev your engine to the point of going above the red line unless necessary. Instead, try to build speed gradually.
4. Neglecting Maintenance
Ignoring regular and one-off maintenance is another common cause of engine damage. You should take your vehicle in for maintenance at regular intervals — your manual will include a maintenance schedule to help you keep your car in tip-top shape.
Routine maintenance schedule should include things like checking the tire pressure, replacing worn belts, cleaning your battery contacts, rotating your tires and changing your spark plugs.
You should also heed the warnings of your check engine light. While it can go off for small things, it can also indicate a serious problem. Always get your car checked as soon as you can when it goes off. Even if it does go off because of a minor issue, a small problem left unresolved can eventually snowball into a much bigger and more expensive issue.
Are any of these four common problems causing damage to your engine? While plenty of things can cause engine problems, paying attention to these four common issues can make a substantial difference in helping you keep your car healthy.