CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Blipping ignition/turning over engine before starting up on cold mornings. Good idea?

On cold mornings here in California, like most older cars with high mileage, it makes some ticking/valve sounds until I fully warm up my car after a mile or two of driving. At that point, the sounds disappear.

I’ve noticed that if I blip the ignition or turn over the engine without starting the car, when starting up on cold mornings, it doesn’t make valve lash noise or ticking when I pull out of the garage.

I chalk it up to the fact that I “threw” some oil on top the head before starting up the engine fully.

I’ve only done this maybe 5 times since I found out.

Question is, is this common practice for anyone else? I fear that this actually causes more harm than good and haven’t done it until I get some confirmation from the Car Talk community.

Car: 99 Civic w/ 217k+ miles.

By cold do you mean 10 or 20 below? I’ve never done this in Minnesota and never had any valve noise. How often do you change oil, and what oil is being used, and have the valves been adjusted?

some things to check: valve adjustment, timing belt tension (is it due for replacenent?), exhaust system integrity, oil condition and quality…
it might be good to visit a pro, so he/she can hear the noise and determinre if it coukd be serious.

You don’t say what kind of car you drive, but the only reason this would work is if the anti-drainback valve in the oil filters you have been using are not very good. I have changed to Motorcraft filters and my minivan no longer ticks on cold startup.

Thank you for the responses. =]

Bing: Car is a parent hand me down so the antiquated “change oil every 3000” miles has been done religiously even though I know I don’t need to do it so often. Majority of the time it’s been 5w30 Castrol. Recently switched to Mobile High mileage. Valves lashes have been adjusted.

Daniel Lee: Changed timing belt recently, exhaust manifold and system is ok. Oil condition quality is always on point.

oldtimer11: 99 Civic as per the original post at the bottom. Have been using fram oil filters for the life of the vehicle, but I suppose I can change brands.

Did a little more research. Looks like it’s a common sound for Civic’s on cold mornings. Cold for California means 28-40F.

A lot of Fram filters don’t have anti-drain back valves. And they still use cardboard end plates. Purolater filters are much better designed with metal end plates, and most have the anti-drain back valves. I started using them after I found out they supply Toyota with their OEM filters for the US, at least through the '90s, when I had my pickup.

I think the Fram oil filters tell the story! Sure, they are cheap, but you get what you pay for. Some of the upgraded models are actually not bad but the economy grades ones are junk. Use a different filter and I bet the noises will vanish.

If the ticking is light and is from a valve lifter, it’s harmless and you can simply ignore it and proceed to drive with moderate or light acceleration as should be done with any cold or cool engine. Are you sure that it is not light piston slap, also harmless, that goes away when the piston or pistons heat and expand to better fit the cylinders?

How do you manage to turn over the engine without starting it?

To BustedKnuckles and cwatkin: I have used base model Fram oil filters for many years. The end plates are not cardboard; they are a much tougher material than cardboard implies. The material is called fishpaper and is also used as electrical insulation in industrial applications. The endplates are not sealed by the fishpaper, the adhesive does that. By the way, I have the opinion that the adhesive will adhere much more tightly to fishpaper than to metal.

As for drainback valves, I have searched a shelf full of Fram filters at a local farm supply store for one that does not have a drainback valve to use on my Harley motorcycle engine which has a very low oil pressure and I can tell you that a Fram oil filter without a drainback check valve is extremely difficult to find.

I found a site where a Fram engineer said that they got an award for 13 million perfect filters from American Honda in 2010. They are a supplier to American Subaru and to Mack trucks, the only truck with a million mile warranty. He also said that a $345,000 Bentley Arnage uses a $48 oil filter with fiber end caps.

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=69795&page=4

@whawho - It most definitely is light and does go away after warming up.

@texases - Usually when I start my car, I turn the key to ignition for 1 second and it will fire up. This time I hold it for maybe 1/4 second.
Like when you’re changing your cap and rotor and you’re turning over the engine to get the rotor to TDC by turning the key but not starting the car.

Use Wix oil filters

I think Oldtimer and Busted have a point. I would switch to the Honda filters for a while and see what happens. I get them for about $5 on line so really not much difference than a dollar or two and you know the specs are being met.

Sounds like a crazy idea to me!! And why would you need to get the rotor to TDC anyway?? Pretty hard on the starter if you ask me.

To EllyEllis - Many cars with points had a mark where the rotor should be pointing, Even if they didn’t, the rotor should be pointing where the wire from the #one cylinder is when the engine hits the static timing mark which is close to TDC. This ensures the timing will be close enough to start the car if the distributor has been removed.

I hope the OP is no longer “blipping” the starter 3-5 times without starting the motor on cold mornings. No gain, and just putting more wear on the starter, the bendix gear drive, and the flywheel. A small amount of noise at start up on a motor with 217K miles isn’t unusual and goes away as soon as oil starts flowing.

With modern oils and the temps the OP is dealing with in northern CA (which are not extreme) the cold start wear on the motor is minimal to none. The blipping practice does more harm than good.

After the motor starts give it a few seconds to circulate the oil before starting off, and drive easily for a few miles to allow the motor to warm up before stomping on it and pushing the revs into the 4K and higher area.

Thanks @UncleTurbo. Will do.