Car engine damage is an expensive business. The drive is a complex construction consisting of hundreds of parts which must be exactly tuned. Modern engines last hundreds of thousands of kilometres. A condition for this is a thorough and regular maintenance of the engine. Read here what to observe for a safe function of your engine.
What does the engine need?
For its performance an engine needs six elements:
– electric ignition
– control (synchronisation)
If one of the first three fail, so the engine generally fails too. These errors are often easily solved. If cooling, lubrication or control are affected, damage may occur.
Properly lubricated, safely driven
The engine is lubricated by oil circulation. The lubricant is pumped through the entire engine with the engine pump, causing all moving components to fit with a minimum of friction. Metal parts rub without damage. This is especially important for bearings, cylinders, valves and axles. If lubrication fails, friction between metal surfaces occurs causing material abrasion on both sides. The components no longer move within their tolerance. They jam, hit on each other and ultimately break. A proper lubrication is guaranteed by oil change and filter replacement.
Possible loss of oil should be checked. Leakages should be repaired immediately. Not only are they dangerous for the engine, oil drops are an environmental hazard. In addition to regular oil level check, the oil pressure should be checked as well. The oil pump can fail without warning. If the oil control light switches on, the oil pressure is too low. If oil is leaking, the oil pump is in most cases the cause. This can be prevented by regular replacement of the oil pump. Every car has its own maintenance interval for this. Generally, oil pumps are very durable car parts with a life span of at least 150.000 km.
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Cool engine, healthy engine
For optimal function an engine needs an ideal working temperature. Metal expands under influence of heat. Therefore, cold engine parts are somewhat loose. Only when reaching the working temperature, everything has a sliding fit. If the working temperature is exceeded, parts expand too much. This has a similar effect as insufficient lubrication: parts rub together and jam. If a piston jams in the cylinder, the engine is generally broken. Engines are constructed in such a way, that internal damage only occurs at the very last moment. Before this happens, the cylinder head gasket burns.
Before a piston jams, the cooling hoses can rupture. The pressure release valve of the radiator lid can become loose. In this case the car must be stopped immediately. Causes for an overheating engine are leakages in the cooling system or a defective radiator. If coolant leaks out, sooner or later the engine has too little of it. The cooling performance falls and the engine temperature continues to rise. This becomes apparent by an intense smoke development from the bonnet. Furthermore, a radiator can be leaking, corroded or clogged. This is betrayed by a consistently too high engine temperature.
Inspection of the radiator might help here: if lamellae are corroded and falling out, it should be replaced as soon as possible. A little trick can help here if circumstances don’t allow anything else. By removing the thermostat, the engine is permanently cooled. It does not reach its optimal working temperature in this case, although overheating is less likely. This emergency solution can only be used for a couple of days.
As soon as the radiator has been replaced and the cooling system tightened, overheating should no longer occur.
The cooling pump is a wear part in all cars. It can be easily accessed at the side of the engine. If it fails, a squeaking sound can be heard. In that case it should be replaced immediately. Otherwise it might jam, interrupting the flow of the coolant. In many cars, the cooling pump is a tensioner for the timing belt. It is always replaced simultaneously with the belt. This prevents the cooling pump from aging too much.
Engine needs control
By engine control the synchronisation of its shafts is meant. Every engine has a camshaft and a crankshaft. The crankshaft takes its power from the pistons. The camshaft opens and closes the valves of the combustion chambers. Both shafts must rotate exactly synchronous. If this synchronisation fails, engine damage becomes imminent. The rising pistons could hit the valves, causing the valves to warp. The piston might pierce the valve. This implies serious car engine damage and generally the end of the car. To repair this, the engine must be completely disassembled.
Engine control is performed by two systems: These are:
with the corresponding tensioning elements.
Both parts have the same function. They connect the crankshaft and the camshaft. When the crankshaft rotates, the camshaft automatically rotates as well. If the timing belt or chain ruptures, the crankshaft rotates further for a while, causing the car engine damage described above.
Timing chains generally last longer than timing belts, although modern timing belts are very durable as well. Depending on the car, maintenance intervals of 100.000 km are possible. Damage to these parts can be prevented by observing the intervals. Timing belts sooner or later rupture in case of prolonged use. Chains stretch over time before they completely break. An unsettled engine is a clear symptom. A timing chain has a tensioner, pressed against the chain by a plastic rail, maintaining its tension. The tensioner is a wear part as well, subject to maintenance intervals.
Treat your engine well
In order to enjoy long use of your engine, you need to observe the following:
1. Avoid too high rpm during driving
2. Avoid too low rpm during driving
3. Use antifreeze
4. Do not use the wrong fuel
5. Avoid damage due to prolonged storage
|Good maintenance is one thing. The daily treatment of the engine is just as important for its durability. As described, the engine needs the right temperature. Quick accelerations therefore must not be executed with a cold engine. Driving with high rotational speed puts a heavy strain on the engine. The hotter an engine gets, the thinner the oil. If the engine oil becomes too thin, it can lose its lubricating quality. Furthermore a permanent overheating might occur.|
|Too low rotational speed can also be unhealthy for the engine. In this case, the fuel doesn’t burn completely and causes carbonised residue on the valves and the pistons. This residue sooner or later enters the oil circulation, causing possible clogging. As alien particles they can also cause damage to moving parts. The moving parts of an engine have a hardened surface. If this is damaged, friction can affect the internal softer material. Then, damage will progress constantly.|
|Especially in winter, engines can overheat. This happens if the coolant contains no antifreeze. Freezing water in the engine can cause direct car engine damage. Water expands through freezing. This happens with great force. It can cause housings, hoses and tanks to rupture. Frozen water can cause cracks in the engine block. In that case, the engine is often beyond salvage.|
|If petrol is accidently added in a diesel car or vice versa, this leads to car engine damage. The oil pump is most affected by this. Many other parts can sustain damage because of this accidental swap as well. If the wrong fuel is being tanked, by no means start the engine! The tank must be emptied in this case. This will cost money, but is considerably cheaper than repair.|
|If a car stands still for too long, this can cause engine damage as well. Even in unused or decommissioned cars, the engine must run at least once a month for a minute or so. The so-called storage damage is effectively prevented by this. A strong step on the brake pedal keeps the brake calipers intact.|
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