If it's unintentional, let's call it "Motorslaughter"

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

Help! I think I blew the engine in my 1985 Lincoln Town Car. It was idling too loud and fast, so I hit the gas pedal all the way to the floor a few times. When this didn't work, I hit it to the floor and held it there for about three seconds. This I also did two or three times. After that, it was still racing, only now it made a "broken muffler-like" noise and the oil light came on. My mechanic, after listening to the car and smelling the oil, said something blew. I always thought that you were supposed to hit the gas when the car was racing. Could I really have ruined the engine like this?

RAY: Well, Jean, the National Association of Engine Rebuilders would like you to be the guest speaker at their testimonial dinner next week in Honolulu. You're just the kind of customer that can vault each of them into Fortune 500 status.

TOM: It's true that older, carbureted cars can be "kicked down" if they idle too high, but there are three things you did wrong. First, you're car doesn't have a carburetor. It's fuel injected. Second, kick down shouldn't be necessary. The engine should come down all by itself when its good and ready. If it's idling high, it's either not warmed up, or there's some??thing wrong with the carburetor.

RAY: But most importantly, when you kick down an engine, you're supposed to "tap" it quickly and lightly. You raced your engine to the point where something flew apart, probably a connecting rod bearing.

TOM: And that's the chance you take when you rev the heck out of the engine. Think about it. When you raced the engine for ten or fifteen seconds (I know you said three seconds, but I always distort the truth when I do something stupid, too), you could easily have gotten it up to 6000 rpm. That means the engine is turning 6000 times every minute, or 100 times every second!

RAY: And in your case, the engine was being stressed to the limit when it was still cold, before the oil had a chance to warm up and circulate properly. If any of the engine's bearings were vulnerable in any way, that would have been more than enough to push them over the edge.

TOM: The truth is that whatever blew was probably on its way out anyway. But it may have gone thousands of more miles had you not revved it to death last week. Had this been premeditated, we would have called it First Degree Motor Murder. But since it was unintentional, let's just call it Motorslaughter.

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