TIFFS: As it has to do with engines, to warm or not to warm is the question

Number 15 in the Transport-in-a-Fine-Fix Series.

Okay, so when it comes time to take my car for a spin (in my lexicon that means: run errands; go on vacations; take the vehicle to have it serviced, smogged, or gassed up; visit friends; chauffeur people to and from airports, train stations and eye doctor appointments), I get in, buckle up, check and adjust mirrors as necessary, put the key in the ignition switch, crank up the engine, and drive off – no warming the engine for 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes or longer like some of the neighbors do around me. I’ll give those that do this the benefit of the doubt and attribute such activity to force of habit.

There are times, however, when I believe warming up automobile internal-combustion engines is warranted. (While I am writing this, my across-the-street neighbor is adding serious engine-revving into the engine-warming mix).

Take, for example, the compact I owned during the unusually cold 1976-’77 winter in the mid-Atlantic region, (legend has it, the Chesapeake Bay froze – written records should substantiate this) and, in that during weekdays I would make a 50-mile, work-related, round-trip drive, in getting in my car each morning, it necessitated a 15-minute warmup – no lie. Thirty minutes would need to pass before the heater actually provided interior warmth. Had I not allowed that quarter-hour warmup, I am almost certain that the car would stall upon putting it in gear (this compact had manual transmission). All of which translated into having to wake up an extra 15 minutes early to allow for ample engine warmup and still get to work on time, this particular situation dictated by weather, obviously. Truth be told, I do not know for how long this was the followed routine, the frigid temperatures persisting for some time though. Once the weather took a turn for the better, trust me when I say, said vehicle warmups were significantly shortened.

It was ditto regarding my dad’s car. Unlike my car, my dad’s was factory equipped with a diesel. This would be his first and last.

Then, circa 1978, the compact was totaled. With the check I received from the insurance company I made a second used-vehicle purchase. This then latest one ran well for six months after which time it became an oil burner.

Long overdue I’m sure, the time was ripe to buy a brand new car. This one happened to be a cross between a car and a pickup. It performed well enough I suppose, that is, up until the time the vehicle’s engine went kaput. The damage was fairly extensive as I remember, but what I can’t recall exactly is what actually had happened. I believe it had something to do with the crankshaft. In response, I opted for a rebuilt engine and this is where I believe the decision I made wasn’t a wise one. The engine notoriously leaked oil between the valve covers and whatever it is that the valve covers sit on – the block, I’m guessing? No matter how many times I replaced the gaskets to try to address the leak, it was nothing doing. Oil leaked onto the manifold and oil on a hot manifold means only one thing: smoke.

But, that wasn’t the worst of it. During colder climes, the engine spewed out black smoke through the exhaust pipe during, yes, warmups. As it were, the smoke cleared once the vehicle was warmed. I am not sure how many years this went on for until I finally said enough is enough and traded the vehicle in. In all, I kept the car-pickup a total of 14 years. What I traded it in on was an SUV. And, now, I’m driving a vehicle that I would presume to be much cleaner-burning and, well, you know, the rest is history.

The moral of this story (if you’re wondering what it is), unless there are circumstances that absolutely demand excess or excessive (involving engine revving) warming, you may want to ask yourself: Is the warming really all that necessary? If more perspective is needed still, please see paragraph two above.

– Alan Kandel