Short Driving Distance

Is it damaging to any parts of a car to start it and drive only a short distance?

Only thing that’s really tough on is the exhaust system. The short driving isn’t burning off all the moisture so expect to replace exhaust sooner then other people.

The answer is an emphatic YES.

As a result, you should follow the “Severe Service” or “Extreme Service” maintenance schedule that is listed in your Owner’s Manual right after the “normal” maintenance schedule. The type of driving that you are doing will result in a lot of excess moisture diluting the motor oil, and as you may know, water is not a lubricant. Besides mandating more frequent oil changes, the severe/extreme maintenance schedule will likely also recommend more frequent servicing of the transmission and possibly some other components, like the PCV.

However, the severe/extreme service maintenance schedule cannot save your exhaust system from premature rotting-out. And, if you are driving REALLY short distances in the winter with a lot of accessories turned on, you may also wind up with a weak or dead battery. It is strongly recommended that you get this car out on the highway once a week for at least 30 minutes in order to evaporate all of the excess moisture that is building up in the motor oil and in the exhaust system, and this 30 minute drive will also help to keep your battery from going bad.

Every day? Without any highway milage or sufficient road mileage to allow total warm up?

Yeah, but just follow the severe use maintenance schdeul in your owner’s manual and try to get out for an occasional drive. The reality is that you bought the car to serve your needs, and if those are your needs then simply try to compensate via the added maintenance. And don’t lose any sleep over it.

Yes. It would be a good idea to do additional oil changes and to take it out for a good fully warm plus a few miles like once a week. Even every couple of weeks would help. It is not ssomething that you will notice this year, but five to ten years from now you could be seeing signs of problems.

Details? What type and year car? How far is short? How long do you drive it? Does the engine reach operating temp? My wife drives only 6 miles (one way to the hospital where she works) and it is tough on the exhaust system of her 95 civic . . I’ve put 5 on it since new, just recently replacing it with an aftermarket system which has metal four or five times thicker than the stock system. I change her oil every 3000 (severe service) but never notice any condensation in the oil when I change it (inside the filler cap, for example). I change the automatic transmission fluid every 25,000 miles, and the brake fluid and coolant every two years. Runs like brand new. Rocketman

Severe service is a minimum requirement to keep the car from wearing its engine out prematurely. Take it out for a fast drive on the freeway on the weekend so as to thoroughly warm up the engine and drive all the water out of the exhaust system. As mentioned elsewhere, the exhaust sytem acts as a condenser (“still” to some of you), and the corrosive water stays in it and eats up the metal. This is especially true of dual exhaust sytems.

Rocketman, 6 miles is actually not bad for a commute to work. Most cars warm up reasonably well in that period, unless you live in Norhtern Minnesota.

My wife used to commute 1.5 miles to work, and in addition to the severe service oil change interval, she used a block heater in the winter and we used the car for shopping trips on the weekend to clear the exhaust system.

One trick I have seen used, is to drill a small hole in the bottom of the muffler at the rear face, so any accumulated water gets blown out. Learned that from my father, who saw a mechanic do it.

Looks like your maintenance regime is quite adequate for your situation.

Right on VC! Thiswebsite has become very knowledgeable about cold weather, short trip maintenance over the last few months!

My father used to drill a small hole in the back face of the muffler, as low as posible, so that the exhaust pressure would force out any water. It seemed to prolong muffler life. Its worth a try for those of you who are constantly replacing exhaust systems.

Bu taking a weekend spin (quality timewith your significant other)takes care of all that condensation.

Thanks Doc . . worked so far for the Civic and worked for my '89 Accord . . which just turned 445,000 miles. Rocketman