Is puttering around town at low speeds bad for the engine?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a senior citizen with a 1989 Ford Escort LX. I do not drive it much, and it has only 4,000 miles on it. I use it to go to the grocery store and to take my dog to the vet. I am fearful of driving on expressways. Please put my mind at ease. I have been told it should be run more, especially on the expressway to "blow the exhaust out." Will not driving it enough ruin it? What, if anything, can I do?

TOM: Do nothing, Velma. What happens when a car is driven only short distances, is that the engine never really gets hot. That allows carbon (soot) to build up. Eventually, the carbon gets in the way of things like the valves, and even the piston rings.

RAY: But don't worry. It may take ten years for that to happen. And even then, it's not the end of the world. All you'll have to do is have the engine de-carbonized.

TOM: We're much more concerned about your safety and well being than we are about this car, Velma. After all, it's only an Escort.

RAY: Seriously, if you're really worried about it, you might ask the mechanic at your gas station to add a can of valve train cleaner (like Chevron Techron) to your gas tank once a year or so.

TOM: Or you can ask a neighborhood teenage boy to take the car and run an errand for you on the other side of town once in a while. I guarantee he'll get it up to highway speed.

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