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Stupid Saturn Advice

My girlfriend tells me that the Saturn dealer has informed her that she should NEVER start and stop her car for a duration less than 10 minutes. If she is just backing her car out of the garage, instead of shutting off the car to wash it, she’ll drive around for 10-20 minutes (shopping?) and come before returning to the driveway. I think she’s nuts! Do you have any articles that I can reference to prove that she doesn’t have to run a car for 20 minutes EVRYy time?

I agree with you, nuts. As long as you get in a long drive every week, that’s all that matters.

There are no such articles. Either your girlfriend misunderstood what the dealer was trying to say, or someone at the dealer told her that once you start a car, it’s BEST to warm it up and drive it, which is true. Cold starts without warming up the engine promotes sludge. Many seniors do this for 10 years or so(without thoroughly warming up their cars) and by that time the whole engine is sludged up.

However, if you drive the car for 10-15 minutes once a week that’s normally enough to prevent sludge formation.

I think your girlfriend is responsible and cares about her vehicle, but there has been a communication problem somewhere.

NEVER is a strong word. The fact is, starting a car and then shutting it down cold does leave some acid in the exhaust system. Some of the by-products of combustion are water vapor and sulfur trioxide. In the old days, there was a lot more sulfur in our fuel than today so it was a much larger problem in the past.

There is still some trace amounts of sulfur in our fuel today. If the exhaust system is cold, the water vapor will condense and absorb the sulfur trioxide and form sulfuric acid. This will eat away at the exhaust system.

In addition, some of this will get into the oil and turn it acidic. Thats not good either. There will also be some HC deposits formed in the engine and exhaust.

Now for a reality check here. A short period of cold shutdown isn’t going to do any measurable damage unless the car were to be stored for a long time. A drive later in the day will burn off all these deposits and evaporate the acids before they have time to do any damage.

In your example, she should wash the car cold, that is immediately after backing out of the garage, then take it for a drive. This would be ideal if had had a drive planned in the first place, i.e. an appointment or shopping trip. Wash the car before the trip.

One last thing, I have a Saturn with over 233k miles on it. I never follow silly advice like the above, I don’t warm it up in the morning, my maintenance schedule on this would make most of the other regular (and respected) posters grimace, and yet it keeps going on and on. It has actually been the most reliable car we have had in this family, and that includes a slew of Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans.

Starting a car, moving it a short distance, and turning it off is one of the worst things you can do to it. Or at least to its engine.

HOWEVER, if you only do it once in a while it won’t hurt anything. Just don’t do it all the time.

By the way, car dealers do this all the time when they move cars around on their lots. If it were harmful most new cars would be damaged before they’re sold.

This is NOT something she should be worrying about.

One more little tidbit, my Saturn dealer told me that I HAD to run the AC all the time. While there is a basis for this, it is just one more silly piece of advice that I ignore. The AC turns on automatically whenever the defrost is turned on so it gets run enough in the winter to keep the seals from drying out.

My family has a 1990 Subaru Legacy wagon that resides on Nantucket. Driving 10-20 minutes is rare.

It runs wonderfully, just not a pretty car…

The actual conversation probably went something like thi:

She: “I can’t understand what’s wrong. My battery keeps going weak and I’ve had everything tested.”

He: “Tell me about your driving habits”.

She: “well, I only start it to drive to the corner store less than a mile away. We use our other car as a family car.”

He: “whenever you start your engine, it takes about 10 minutes of driving to replace the electricity used to perform the engine start. Starting the engine for a few minutes regularly will drain the battery. It’s important to run the car ofro at least 10 minutes routinely to keep the battery charged”.

An engine does not have to be run for 10 miutes every time you start it. But it should not be just started and turned off routinely either.

The price of gasoline may stop some driving. Most cars involved in normal driving don’t need any special treatment. I did a science report on cars in high school with a lot of opinion in it. I wish I had a copy now to laugh at.

Agree that’s pure BS. I was sgiving the dealer the benefit of the doubt. You and your girlfriend should stop visiting this dealer, and have a real mechanic, not service writer, talk to your girlfriend. Since the A/C comes on when you use the defrost in the winter, there is no more need to ocasionally run the A/C to keep the compressor bearing lubricated.

It’s guys like your dealer spouting this stuff who turn car ownership for women into a nightmare.

When I traveled a great deal, I sent my wife to the YWCA who had a course in car ownership for women. It was a hands-on course in the care and feeding of your car with enough technical info to talk back to the service writer, who often has no technical knowledge at all!

When she finishes the course, she will know more than the service guy, especially after reading te owner’s manual.

There are also many books for women on car ownership. Buy her one as a present.

When was this exactly? Saturn closed up shop a while back.