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Tips & Tricks

New engine run-in

Warming up and cooling down the engine: Engine handling
Bartek Bartoszewicz
Tuning Professional

How to increase the durability of your engine

Of course, an engine should always be treated with care. However, this is even more important when you increase the performance of your engine. This is because extreme forces such as heat, friction and other forces affect the engine.

To get the most out of your engine for as long as possible, you should therefore follow the tips on this page. This will ensure that all new parts are run in properly. This includes warming up the engine and, of course, cooling it down. Your newly built racing engine will thank you for it!

This is how newly installed engines are broken in

New components, e.g. piston rings, cylinders, bearings, and valve train, must first be broken in so that they loop in properly in the running-in process. This causes changes to the components in the micro-range. We use special oils and additives for this running-in process. It is important to make sure that the new engine is brought to operating temperature (oil temperature at least 80°C). For the next 500 km, the engine must not under any circumstances be brought to a speed above 3,000 rpm! In addition, we recommend cooling down the engine in idle running before switching it off.

You should also check on the following items:

  • Do not fully load the vehicle.
  • Shift up the gears speedily when driving and avoid driving at low revs.
  • No extended uphill driving (too much load).
  • No extended downhill driving (too little load).
  • No use of engine braking equipment.
  • No highway driving at high speed.
  • Avoid driving on sections of the road congested with traffic. Long-distance driving and smooth city traffic are good.
  • Constant check of the oil level (every 50 to 100 km).
  • Do not overfill the engine with oil.

The reason why you shouldn’t “break-in” your engine in idle mode

Frequently, people operate the engine in idle mode for hours during the running-in phase. Allegedly, this running-in method goes easy on the engine and doesn’t overload it, so damage is avoided. But this method can result in heavy wear or damage.

The problems in idle mode are:

  • Due to a lack of low speed, the oil pump generates too little pressure and does not supply enough oil to the lubrication spots.
  • The slide bearings are not properly lubricated and cooled. Dirt and wear attrition are not flushed from the bearing points.
  • Too little splash oil gets to the cylinder wall. Dirt and wear attrition are not washed off and already now cause increased wear and damage.
  • The pressure valve for the piston spray cooling does not open in idle run. The piston is not cooled, and too little dripping oil results in a lack of lubrication on the piston pin and the con-rod bushing.
  • Turbochargers are poorly lubricated and cooled. Only 20 minutes of idle operation are enough to damage a turbocharger.
  • Other components supplied with pressure oil, e.g. valves, camshaft and rocker arms, are insufficiently supplied with oil or not supplied at all.

Piston rings cannot guarantee 100% sealing in the idle mode. Hot combustion gases blow through, heat up the cylinder wall and damage the oil film. In a worst case scenario, they can even get into the combustion chamber and thus cause blue smoke from the exhaust pipe.

Tuned engines have a shortened service life

Higher engine performances are achieved by increasing the boost, for instance. So it is logical that an engine that previously delivered an output of 100 hp and was brought to twice the output, namely 200 hp, has a shorter service life. After all, the stress on the components is twice as high as in a 100 hp engine. Of course, we reinforce various components on and in the engine to make an increased performance possible in the first place. Nonetheless, the service life is always shorter than that of a less powerful engine.

High speeds and rotating into the speed limiter are extremely harmful

The higher the engine speed, the greater the stress and thus the wear. This means the service life of the engine becomes shorter with increasing speed or an increased frequency of high speeds.

This is why you should always warm up and cold start your engine

With a cold start of the engine, in particular, various components, e.g. pistons, bearings, and lubricants, are not yet at operating temperature. Therefore high speeds (above 3,000 rpm) must be avoided in the warm-up phase. Only starting from an oil temperature of over 80°C can the engine be brought to higher speeds. The oil temperature should not exceed 110°C. The ideal measuring point for the oil temperature is in the engine block and not on external points such as the oil cooler, for example. The cooling water temperature is equally important. You should always keep an eye on it, and it must not be in the red range.

A proper cooling down phase of the engine is also crucial. Especially at warm ambient temperatures and/or after fast driving, e.g. on the race track, the engine should not be switched off directly! The engine must initially be cooled down by driving in the lower speed range and/or by idling the engine. Both the oil and the water temperature should be brought to a level of approx. 80°C before the engine is switched off. Among other reasons, this is done to protect the internal components as well as the turbocharger and avoid damage caused by overheating (idling heat), for instance.

This also means that driving short distances (e.g. five minutes to the bakery) is harmful for any engine since the operating temperature is not reached. The installation of a pre-heating system is recommended here, so as to shorten the warm-up phase. Engine starts at low outside temperatures must always be avoided.

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Launch control, anti-lag, water injection, acceleration race, and other play toys

A number of features are available in order to boost engine performance or improve the response of the engine or turbocharger. They include, among others, launch control, anti-lag, water injection, etc. All these functions are extremely harmful to the engine and other components. In no time they can result in unforeseeable damage, up to the total failure of the engine. They originate from car racing, where engines and race cars have been built exclusively for one race. In-car racing, peak performance is retrieved in a very short time. Money is usually no object, and engines and vehicles are completely replaced by new components after the race.

Service intervals must be shorter

In tuned engines, the usual wear parts such as spark plugs, engine oil, ignition coils, bearing shells, cam belts, or chains must be replaced earlier. The stress on these components is significantly higher with increasing engine power, so their service life is also quite a bit shorter. We recommend having the engine serviced at the latest after 5,000 km.

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Auxiliary systems also have their limits

Although manufacturers calculate with upward performance reserves for auxiliary systems, such as clutch, gearbox, engine mount, drive train, etc., these systems naturally also have limits. The factor of “treatment” plays a major role here as well. If there are reinforced components available on the market, they definitely ought to be used. If not, the original components should be installed and NOT more inexpensive accessories in order to exclude differences in quality. Here, too, the service intervals should be shortened in order to prevent any damage.

Putting into operation a newly built engine

Before starting a new engine for the first time, the following must be complied with:

  • Pay heed to the vehicle-specific instructions of the manufacturer.
  • Fill up the engine with special running-in oil to approx. 80% of the oil dipstick
  • Fill up cooling water with the corresponding additive to the mark.
  • Remove spark plugs and disconnect the plug-in connection of the injectors.
  • Start the engine while holding the clutch down for approx. 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Check the oil level and refill, if necessary.
  • Start the engine again for approx. 20 to 30 seconds until the oil pressure indicator light goes out.
  • Check the oil level and refill, if necessary.
  • Install the spark plugs and connect injectors.
  • Start the engine and idle until an oil temperature of about 80°C has been reached.
  • Then check all fluids again and read out the error memory.
  • Perform a test drive.
  • Change the oil at the latest after 500 km running-in time.
  • Cutting open the oil filter with an oil filter cutter to check for foreign particles is also a very good idea.

Any questions about proper care of the engine?

The BAR-TEK® team is happy to answer each and every question you might have! Call us or write us an e-mail.

Bartek Bartoszewicz
Tuning Professional
His first car was a Polo Mk1 with a 40 Weber twin carburetor and 129 PS (95 kW). His second was an Audi 50. Today Bartek tunes Lamborghinis to 1000 PS (735 kW). Even as a young boy, Bartek disassembled vehicles and put everything back together better. He wrote his high school diploma with oil on his fingers. The trained automotive mechanic with a focus on engines and gearboxes was determined to go into motorsports. In his 10 years in Formal 1, he supervised 73 races, including as engine mechanic for Ralf Schumacher at Toyota. Since 2010, he has dedicated himself fully to his company BAR-TEK® and helps his customers to bring VW and Audi engines to peak performance.
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