Driving it TOO easy....

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Apr 1, 2006
SW Indiana
Can you baby a car too much? I tend to drive my truck gently, lots of highway miles, and am so careful about it that the Nissan 2.4L RARELY gets above 3K rpm's. Am I doing my engine a favor by keeping it "on the down-low", or should I get it up and going on a regular basis? This is not necessarily the same thing as the "italian tune-up" we talked about on another thread, just a general daily driving question.
I used to drive my Neon like that(2.0 L, DOHC, redline 7K rpm), & then found that if I'd buzz it to 4.5k to 5K rpm for a few gear changes every day or two, it ran better & got a little better gas mileage. No foolin.

So since you ask, I'd at least try buzzin it up to 4.5K-5K or so a few times a week- say in gears 1, 2, & 3 if MTx, something similar with an auto.

This is with the understanding that you do this *only* after the car is well warmed up- say at least 15 minutes or 15 miles *after* the temperature gauge reads fully warm. Overly cautious, maybe- but bulletproof for sure!
I used to keep my Accord below 3k all the time. That was my hard limit. I discovered that when I started using the whole rev range that it would run much, much more smoothly.
This 2005 AccentGT Hyundai lives between idle and 3k rpm. At 80, it's doing a shade over 3500. No need, driving-wise, to rev it faster than that, although it's willing (7000 RPM Redline), it just doesn't need to spin any faster. It pulls harder at lower RPM. On a dyno reading for this car, I can easily imagine the RPM/HP and torque curves crossing (RPM,HP climbing, Torque dropping) at about 4000RPM.

High redlines look good on the dial and spec sheets, but only make a lot of noise and no torque in the real world. I notice a lot of the sporting motorcycles are out there these days with twins, and de-tuned 4s specificly to get the "grunt" at low RPM without having to spin the engine to wild speed to get the last 1/10 of capability. That stuff is for the track, anyway. Red lining modern bikes 750CC and up, especially coming off turns makes them very twitchy, anyway. I'd take a Twin sportbike at 1000CC over a high-rev 4 in the twisties any old day, given the same power-to-weight ratios. Car's aren't so much different.

In any case, in a 2005 Hyundai 1.6 DOHC
, I doubt a run to redline would be helpful, even if it would be mostly harmless (not to mention embarassing). It isn't useful in any case.
The highway miles are probably keeping everything clean, but if you drive like that in town you may be subject to carbon buildup in the catalytic converter...and possibly exaust system rust from condensation that never gets burned out. My Mom's Accord went through 2 mufflers in it's lifetime because the car's lot in life was 3 and 4 mile trips through town with my mother at the helm (rarely above 2500 RPMs) Exaust temperatures that never reach optimum can cause problems down the road.
Man, around here, if you drive anything more than very mellow, the Barney Fyfe types are all over you wanting to jam a piece of Payin' Paper up your nose. Would it really help to drive 2nd gear at 4000 RPM @25 or 30MPH? I really don't drive around town much, and almost never in rush hour, and not many sub 10-mile trips.

This thing is like a sewing machine, but it does have SS exhaust, and 120K warranty on the Cat. If it rots after that, well, I don't have emissions testing here, anyway, a straight pipe will do the trick. If there's a cleaner burning, more efficient, less obtrusive engine anywhere on the road outside of a tiny hybrid, I don't know what it might be. My conscience is clear.

Thanks, CB!
There is one thing that I heard, which I believe is the case...

I probably wont phrase it right, but hopefully Ill get the point across:

You can drive a car hard, load it heavily, and even drive WOT without achieving huge, high RPM numbers.

I believe this is the case, and drive as such... Once in a while Ill WOT, etc. but I wont ever pass 4000-4500 RPM. I can still generate plenty of cylinder pressure, get my turbos to spool fully, etc., without having to see redline or even significantly high RPMs. I have a mix of all sorts of cars, MT and AT, and can do this with all. never had a mechanical failure, and 100k is young for our cars, though we buy new. Always spotless inside, always run great, never an issue. We always beat EPA numbers, too.

I'll run my car at WOT a couple times a day, typically, usually on the drive home from work. After 107k, I'm burning the same amount of oil as when it was new (~1 qt/10k miles), the car gets the same MPG as new and I feel the same amount of power on the butt dyno. This is a '00 Monte Carlo 3.8L, FWIW.
That's exactly how I drove my 201K '90 Cutlass V6 up until I sold it. Ran just as fine as the day I bought it when I sold it. You also have to think about the transmission. That Cutlass only had AT fluid and filter changes at 50K intervals and nothing ever happened to it. Got to BE something to that.
hominid7 posted 09 May, 2006 17:44

Just like humans, cars need a little exercise too.

I agree. Get it up to the revs it was designed to. Not all the time but every now and then and only when warmed up. There can't be harm in that.
Give those piston rings a work out

When you start doing that you'll most likely notice it will run smoother through the revs after time.

Originally posted by Ray H:
Competition engines get spooled routinely. How often do they get rebuilt?

Competion engines run their whole lives under heavy stress. Most of us are talking about once or twice per day. Big difference. My car, for instance, rarely sees over 3k rpm for 95% of my commute. It's not used much at all in the evenings and on weekends. My wife's car is lucky if it even surpasses 2.5k when she's driving. I'll wind it up on occasion, but I still normally keep it under 3k.
Keep in mind that modern PCM's in vehicles adjust themselves to the driving style of the operator. So if you do a little spirited driving for a few days after a long period of driving like your grandmother (appologies if I've offended anyone's grandmother who's reading this) the car will respond with more aggressive throttle response.

Also HP and torque curves should always cross at 5,250 rpms in gasoline vehicles.
my dad has always drove super easy. never an oil related problem or engine problem. but then again, he trades every 5 yrs for a new car. I know it's dumb. he's scared of being stranded like he was in the 70's with GM cars.
At 70 mph, the Fronty runs at about 2800 rpms, around 2400 at 60. Since most of my drives are an hour or more, with a few half-hours once or twice a month, maybe I'm okay. I guess it wouldn't hurt to wind it up occasionally. Just me being paranoid, I guess!
When i bought my 1989 VW Jetta new the VW service advisor (who i later grew to know and trust greatly) told me NOT to baby my engine if i wanted it to last.

I took his word for it. I red-lined it often, BUT i took great care to change the oil early and often and took care of all the maintenence needs before they became a problem.

When i sold it at 225,000 miles it had zero leaks, burned zero oil, and still got 30 MPG, the same it did when new. All of this was on Valvoline AC dino.

So was he right or wrong? I dont know, but for that particular car, it worked:) I would tend to think a car that never gets above 3 or 4000 RPM is just asking to become a sludge-monster later in life. Just like humans, cars need a little exercise too.
I don't like those PCM's that can adapt to a particular driving style. Most of the time, my 93 Vic shifts early and much too softly. If I really get on it, for the next few days it'll shift later and with a bit more firmness, but it'll revert to the soft, early upshift programming pretty quickly, within a few days. What really is the purpose of adaptive programming in transmissions anyway?
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