Looking after your engine during the winter months
If you have a car like a Caterham that only gets used during the summer months, we have some useful tips here on how to look after your engine. This information has been put together following our own experiences, some good and some not so good.
Most owners train of thought during the winter months is to warm up the engine on a regular basis. This was also my train of thought until I discovered the potential damage I was doing on my own engine and subsequent damage I’ve seen on customers cars. Just warming up the engine creates heat, heat in a cool atmosphere generates condensation which is moisture. Moisture in an engine is not good as it caused corrosion. I found on my engine, that starting it up and running it up to operating temperature, generated so much condensation that I had traces of emulsified oil (mayonnaise type substance) inside my cam cover by the time it was spring. In extreme cases where this has been left for a period of time, I’ve even seen corrosion on components like camshafts.
Worse than this, we’ve also seen engines where moisture has been generated on cylinder bore walls. In some cases not even that much, but as a result, this has then run down the bore and sat on the top piston ring. This moisture has then generated corrosion on the bore wall, creating a ridge that can cause issues with piston rings, in the worse cases actually causing the rings to break. We’ve had engines come in for rebuilds or inspections where a ridge has been generated down the cylinder that the only solution is to strip the engine, bore and hone the bores and supply and fit oversize pistons and rings. We’ve even seen this on very low mileage engines which is a real shame.
The other issue we all have over the winter is looking after our batteries. As the cars are stood up and not used, those cars without a battery master switch will drain their batteries via the immobiliser.
So what do we recommend as a preventative measure to stop these things happening.
First of all purchase a good battery conditioner and connect this up so the battery is looked after while the vehicle is not in use. Ensure you have the correct charger for your type of battery.
Disconnect your fuel injector plugs to prevent fuel being injected into the cylinders. This will prevent oil being washed off the bore walls by fuel during cranking. It will also prevent oil dilution due to excess fuel getting in the oil.
Every week or couple of weeks, we recommend cranking your engine over to get oil pressure. This is done without starting the engine, just simply cranking the engine until good oil pressure is visible on the gauge. We then recommend doing this for a further 15 seconds. This ensures components like camshafts, which are the last to receive oil, get a good coating. Doing this also makes your starter motor and battery work quite hard meaning the battery conditioner will need to charge the battery again. Doing this procedure coats most components in oil without generating heat and therefore no condensation.
So you want to use your car on a cold day and then it may stand up for a while afterwards.
Fine, what we recommend here is carrying out the same process. Once the engine has completely cooled down, either later the same day or the following day.
Oil changes during the winter.
We recommend, if the car isn’t being used during the winter, to leave your oil change until March when you’re likely to start using the car again. There’s no point in putting fresh oil in your engine in October and then leaving it six months before driving it. Leave the old oil in over the winter, use that to prevent corrosion in the engine and then give it an oil and filter change before the new season starts.
Those cars running foam air filters.
We recommend these are checked for condition during the winter. These should be either washed and re-oiled at least once a year or replaced if there are any signs of damage.
Whilst we are in the business of rebuilding and servicing engines, we are also in the business of helping our customers and potential customers look after their engines. If we can see a way of you getting better longevity out of your engine, we will always make these kind of recommendations to you.
Happy hibernation and look forward to seeing you in the spring.