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Research project

I’m doing research on internal combustion engines. What I’d like to know is:

o what are the TOP 3 problems, in order, that shortens engine life

o what did you do as the best solution

Your help is greatly appreciated…


PS Saying maintenance does not tell me a whole lot. Be specific, please.

As a former University Professor I will give you the same advice I have handed out for years…do the research yourself…just google - internal combustion engines -
and search for information…you will learn so much more from that exercise than you can imagine…you then wil be able to answer your own questions

What you will get here are opinions and perspectives based on personal experience, not anything factual. mshugna is right. This forum isn’t the place to go to for research unless someone else can point you in the direction of something factual.

If you are doing an informal survey, here is my two cents:

  1. People neglect their vehicles by not following the maintenance schedule for each vehicle. Sometimes they only do oil changes, but don’t bother to do anything else, and sometimes they don’t do any maintenance until something breaks. The solution is to keep up with the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual.

  2. People abuse their vehicles by accelerating hard, braking hard, and generally driving too fast, especially around corners. This kind of driving is hard on the whole car, not just the engine. The solution is to accelerate and brake gently and take corners as speeds around 10-15 MPH.

  3. People buy the wrong vehicle for the job. Some people overload and overwork their engines by using a small engine for towing and hauling heavy items. Other people buy more vehicle than they need, which increases the costs associated with maintenance and repairs, and leads to neglect since they can’t afford to take care of the vehicles. You would be surprised to know how many folks come to this site because they own a large vehicle they can’t afford to maintain or repair. The solution to this problem is to buy a vehicle that serves your needs, but one that you can operate, maintain, and repair within your budget. If you buy a truck because you want to use it to tow a boat once or twice a year, you will have to maintain and operate it throughout the entire year, which is often more expensive than renting a tow vehicle when you need it.

For the most part, an engines life is determined by it’s design and manufacturing tolerances. There is no sense building a 350,000 mile engine to power a 150,000 mile econo-box…Today, transmissions (automatics) are the weak link, not the engine. When you see rubber timing belts, you KNOW what the primary design criteria was…

Next on the list would be regular oil changes, with 5000 mile intervals being the maximum if you are trying to extend engine life. Maintaining the proper crankcase oil level, often neglected today, is also critical to long engine life.

Oil changes and a block heater are my 2 cents. Supposedly most engine wear occurs in a properly maintained vehicle within the first 30 seconds after starting the car. The block heater for temps below freezing keeps the oil warmer, thus more viscous reducing wear.

I agree with the others that you’ll have to do some further research on the topic, perhaps speak to several mechanics about what they have seen as well. I think another decent idea could be to speak to someone who runs a junk yard to see what some of the top mechanical reasons that cars come to the yard.
That being said, here’s my opinion of the top 3:

  1. Oil dirty, unable to properly lubricate the engine. This relates to driving habits, conditions and how often the oil and filter are changed.
  2. Low oil-a problem easily solved by checking the level enough and keeping up. However, I’m sure over the years that plenty of engines have bit the dust because of low levels.
  3. I’d call this one a toss-up. Some problems need to be attributed to engine designs. Some engines are simply better than others and will therefore last longer. Some contain parts and have issues that are problematic too. Another issue is other maintenance things, perhaps like proper cooling system maintenance. Test your coolant to make sure you have a good mix for your climate. I’d also say that consistant hard driving and running at high RPMs can have a definite effect on engine life.

Continued operation of the engine while it is either experiencing a “performance issue” continued operation of the engine while is overheating,continued operation of the engine while it has a lubrication issue.

To be honest, I have never seen a timing belt that was made of ONLY rubber. Isn’t there usually some kind of composite material or strengthening material woven into the rubber?

For what it’s worth as a long time tech, I can say that about 85% or more of the engine problems I’ve seen over the years were owner-inflicted ones. In no particular order, the Top 3 would be:

  1. Failure to perform regular oil changes based on driving habits and environmental conditions and/or to check the oil level regularly.

  2. Failure to maintain the cooling system and overheating the engine for whatever reason.
    (Footnote to 1 and 2: Failure to stop the stinking car then and there when a problem involving Numbers 1 or 2 develops.
    Turning the radio up and trying to make the last 20 miles home with an oil light glowing, temp gauge pegged out, and puking oil or anti-freeze is not conducive to a long engine life.)

  3. Abusive, hard driving habits by the owners.

Regarding the 85% figure of owner-inflicted problems, only a tiny percentage of that 85% will ever agree they’re the root cause of their problems.

Just a little nitpick, but the warmer oil is actually less viscous, so it flows faster (viscosity=resistance to flow) and gets where it needs to be in the engine sooner.

You are correct, belts have reinforcing cords or strings in them.