DEAR CAR TALK: When I was a young car owner (a long time ago), I was told that the worst wear and tear on an engine occurs when the engine is first started.
So, I'm wondering what your opinion is about the automatic "shut off" feature on many new cars. They shut off and then restart the engine every time a vehicle comes to a stop. Carplay Wireless Adapter
I know it saves fuel and decreases pollution, but does this decrease the engine's life? — Roberto
DEAR READER: No, it doesn't.
What you were told was true. When an engine is cold — when all of the oil has run down to the bottom of the engine overnight — it takes a couple of seconds for that oil to get pumped up to the cylinders, bearings and valve train.
And, during those couple of seconds, those parts are moving but not perfectly lubricated. That can cause excess wear and tear.
That's why we used to warn people against revving the engine the moment it started — which was a bad habit a lot of people engaged in.
But, if the engine has been running recently — meaning in the last couple of hours — the oil is already well distributed and the oil passages are all filled up. So, during a two-minute shut off at a stoplight, those passages will remain filled with oil.
Plus, plenty of oil will still be coating all the engine parts very well, protecting them during the next engine start.
If you were to be stuck at a traffic light that was red for several hours, my answer might be different. I would also suggest you explore options for working from home. But warm engine restarts are not a problem.
The other thing that has changed since you were young is that engine oils are vastly improved. When you were a kid, we used thick, gloppy oils that took longer to circulate, especially when cold. You may remember terms like 20W-50, which acted like a heavy, 20-weight oil when cold and a 50-weight oil when hot. Now, cars use 0W-20 or 5W-20 weight synthetic oils that spread very quickly, even when cold, and coat and protect the engine parts better than ever.
So, cross this off your list of things to worry about, Roberto. Maybe replace it with worrying about the monthly price increase just announced by Netflix.
DEAR CAR TALK: I have a 2004 Lexus LS430 with only 85,000 miles on it. Everything is great except for the navigation screen. A while ago, it started going on and off intermittently. Lexus said I need a new screen, which, at $6,000, is out of the question.
I found a repair shop that I thought fixed the problem, but it still persists. I have a one-year warranty and will be taking it back for the third time next week. I'm all out of ideas. Do you have any suggestions for me?
I enjoy your column. Thank you. — Jamaal
DEAR READER: Well, you already know what the expensive solution is, Jamaal: having Lexus replace the head unit for six grand.
My guess is that one or more of the tiny, soldered circuits on the screen's circuit board is broken. And, depending on the position of the screen and the jostling and flexing of the car, it's making contact and working sometimes and not making contact at other times.
The guys who fixed it temporarily probably tried to re-solder it. Maybe they didn't do a good enough job, maybe they missed a few, or maybe the circuits are just old and brittle at this point. In any case, the guys at that shop must all run and hide in their one men's room stall whenever they see you driving in now. Have you noticed four pairs of feet in there when you stop in to use their bathroom?
Anyway, here are two less expensive solutions. One is to go to a good car stereo store and buy an aftermarket head unit that's compatible with your phone. That would essentially replace the navigation screen with a new stereo and screen system.
Pioneer and Alpine both make good units that use both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. One of those will probably run you about $1,000. But it'll give you a fully up-to-date head unit, with Bluetooth compatibility, and the ability to mirror your phone's navigation on the car's large, centrally located screen. That's a pretty good solution.
If you want to get your navigation working again for even less money, then you can just get a vent mount for your phone, mount it up as high in your field of vision as possible, and literally follow the map guidance on your phone itself.
That's a smaller screen, and not as befitting a Lexus, but that would be your cheapest option. (Other than rolling down the window and shouting for directions.)
Ray Magliozzi dispenses advice about cars in Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting cartalk.com
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