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Dave Redinger The Neighbourhood Mechanic

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Now that the cold weather has arrived I’m often asked, how long should I warm up my car before driving off. Modern cars don’t actually require a lot of warm up. In the bad old days when vehicles were equipped with carburetors and manual chokes, cold weather start-up and drivability was always a challenge. Cars required rituals to get them going and keep them running. This was especially true if they were made in England. In today’s fleet, all these adjustments are accomplished by the computer. However; the fact remains that cold dry start-ups do little to enhance the service life of the driveline. Lack of lubrication, is the major wear factor. For this reason alone, you should warm the car on those chilly mornings. I would recommend at least 2 mins at idle. After that drive off slowly. Oddly enough extensive idling is also harmful. Extensive idling does not allow the engine to fully pressurize and completely warm.

I park my car outside all night. I have been told to use a block heater in my car to ease the morning start up. Can you tell me how the block heater works? What kind should I get?


Block heaters warm the engine the same way an electric kettle boils water. The heating element is placed where it can best transfer the heat to the engine. Some units are mounted next to the engine. These are called “radiant”. Most of the units are “immersion”. Immersion units place the heating element in the coolant directly. It’s a little know fact that lot of cars come with block heaters installed by the factory as part of a winterization package. So I would check if you don’t already have one. You shouldn’t run the unit all night. Get a timer and start the heating process about 2 hours before you wish to set off. You actually save some gas and ease start-ups using these heaters. So there is some payback.

My 99 Intrepid with the 2.7 V6 is getting close to 160000 km. My owner’s manual recommends changing the timing belt at 160000 km, however the service adviser at my dealership thinks this particular engine has a timing chain and suggested because it is a chain it didn't need to be changed yet. Dave is it true?


Your mechanic is right! This engine does not have a belt driven cam drive but uses a chain. I should explain that the chains or cogged belts are used to time an engine’s internal rotating components. Along with the mileage recommendation timing belts are usually changed after 5 years use. There are no recommendations for chain replacements other than failures or overhauls. Chains tend to get noisy or rattle as they stretch with age. Belts don't stretch enhancing performance and reliability. The trade off is they require replacement at regular intervals and replacements can be costly.

Dave Redinger a mechanic with over 40 yrs of experience. Dave operates his shop “DOCTOR H HONDA SPECIALISTS in Toronto for the last 25 yrs.( we respond to every email)

Dave's Past Columns

July 14, 2005

July 22, 2005

July 29, 2005

August 12, 2005

August 19, 2005

August 24, 2005

August 31, 2005

October 12, 2005

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October 25, 2005

November 5, 2005

November 16, 2005

November 23, 2005

December 4, 2005

December 11, 2005

February 14, 2006

January 3, 2006

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January 18, 2006

January 25, 2006

February 1, 2006

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March 15, 2006

March 22, 2006

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April 4, 2006

April 17, 2006

April 26, 2006

May 2, 2006

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June 27, 2006

July 11, 2006

July 24, 2006

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August 15, 2006

August 29,2006

September 13, 2006

September 20, 2006