The Basics | Engine Etiquette


Sorry folks for the hiatus.  I’ve been working on another writing project and have been blindly devoted to it.  Nonetheless I’ve taken a break to start a new advice column that allows me to as usual scratch an itch to passive aggressively opine about certain pet peeves.  This will be the first post of an ongoing advice column named “The Basics”.  These will be short and very simple “basic” insights I wish to share on things that many people overlook or have never been educated on.  For this first post I plan to tackle three very common mistakes (I politely use the word “mistakes” loosely, see told you passive aggressive) people make pertaining to the use and maintenance of motor vehicles.

‘Tis the season of single digit weather and as such our reliance on cars and their conveniences become ever more important.  For starters simple physics dictates that cold air is typically denser air.  Translation: when things get frigid stuff constricts and this is true of the air in your tires.  Many new cars are equipped with tire pressure sensors that will flash a light on your instrument panel telling you that you’ve got low tire pressure inevitably the morning after the first cold front passes through.  What most people don’t know is that there’s actually two conditions that will trigger that light; one, a tire has abnormally low pressure (ie, you got a flat bro) and/or one or more tires’ pressures vary within approximately 2 psig from one another.  It’s particularly the second condition that complicates things for the layperson who doesn’t know this.  For those people (not judging) the most logical thing to do is to hit a free air station at the local 7-11 and start randomly putting air into tires starting with the ones that look lowest until the low tire warning light goes off.  This could exasperate the problem and potentially cause a more disconcerting issue by overpressurizing a tire.  I won’t waste your time by discussing the hazards with a overpressurized tire, just know this is bad, every bit as bad or possibly worse than a underinflated tire.  My advice is simple, buy a tire pressure gauge and keep it in your console.  But what pressure do you maintain your tires to?  Answer:  it’s stamped on the tires themselves right?  Wrong.  What’s stamped on the tires is a max rating that’s intended to be a benchmark if you were hauling a maximum payload for example (trucker speak).  The real answer can be found somewhere inside your driver’s side door usually on the main upright near your seatbelt.  There you can find a label that will typically detail recommended tires pressures for front and rear tires.  Please whatever you do please don’t aimlessly fill your tires until the silly light goes off.   In that case you’re probably better off doing nothing (unless you’ve clearly got a flat).

To quote the classic movie “Shawshank Redemption” “The world went and got itself in a big hurry.”  One of the most common mistakes we tend to do when we get in our cars to go somewhere is to not wait for it to warm up.  Car engines and car technology certainly has advanced and it takes most cars much shorter spans of time to get that heater blowing warm air than it used to so people seem to forget one important fact that is universal about cars and car engines in particular.  That fact is that they are still made up of literally hundreds of precisely machined and fitted moving parts.  In some cases all it takes is one small nick and you can get a catastrophic engine failure.  Most of those moving parts still depend on oil to keep them lubricated and moving freely.  Most oils, even the overpriced and overrated synthetic kinds, still get thick and gummy when the temperature drops.  My advice is succinctly simple – let your car run at least a minute before putting it in gear, even thirty seconds as a bare minimum.  This allows the oil to loosen up and cover all intended surfaces before putting a heavy load on them.  It could save you many headaches in the long run.

My last piece of advice though begs you to do the exact opposite from the previous piece.  It actually seems silly to me to even mention it nevertheless I’m floored every time I see this warning go unheeded.  Folks turn off your stinking cars when you’re pumping gas and especially when smoking!  I’ve debated with myself how much detail to get into to explain the common sense in this so instead I’ve decided to offer an example link of the hazards associated.  The lady in the video was the smoker’s wife and she did suffer burns.  PLEASE don’t endanger (or enrage) me or anyone else because you simply wanted to keep that heater running longer or wanted those last couple drags from your smoke.  Trust me it’s not gonna make much difference during the time it takes to pump a tank of gas.