1. Archive


Published Jul. 9, 2010

Q: My wife and I live out in Southern California and have some . . . well, to be polite, interesting neighbors in our condo complex. One couple in particular is very proud of the Porsche 911 Carrera they're leasing. The car probably is a 2007 (about a year older than the woman's face . . . the rest of her is a 1950-something). Whenever they start up this car, or before they turn it off, they make sure that they rev the engine loudly, in case we all forgot that they have a Porsche. My question is this: Can revving the engine while the car is not moving damage anything? Chris

Tom: Well, clearly it can damage relations between neighbors, Chris. Not that there's going to be anything left to damage after she reads your comments about her new kisser!

Ray: The answer is that damage can occur from revving, but it has nothing to do with whether the car is moving - it depends on whether the car is warmed up yet. So, in the case of your neighbors, they may be doing damage by revving it first thing in the morning, but not at night, after they've just driven the car home.

Tom: When you first start a cold engine, especially if the outside temperature is low, it takes the oil a few seconds to build up pressure and fully circulate. That means for those first few seconds, crucial parts of your engine are not fully protected.

Ray: That's why with modern, fuel-injected cars, you're not supposed to step on the gas when you start the engine. You just turn the key, and ba-da-bing, the engine starts and automatically idles at a nice, low RPM.

Tom: If you really stab the gas pedal the moment you start the car, and go VRRROOOM, VRRROOOOOOM right away, you will put extra wear and tear on things like the rings, the cylinder walls, the valves, the crankshaft, the bearings and other parts that absolutely require proper lubrication. And those parts are very expensive to replace.

Ray: Of course, your neighbors are just leasing this thing, so what do they care if it burns oil at 80,000 miles?

Tom: On the other hand, all they're really doing is enjoying their car. I mean, the engine of a Porsche does sound wonderful. In fact, I may buy one just so I can rev it up and listen to the engine.

Ray: I don't know, Tommy. If I were you, I think I'd save the money for your face.

* * *

Apps to keep teens safer

Tom: A few weeks ago, we answered a question from Blair, the mother of a 16-year-old girl, who wanted to find a device that would help her keep track of her "spirited" daughter's driving.

Ray: We suggested a convent.

Tom: We actually suggested one of the Global Positioning System (GPS)-based black boxes that can track a driver's speed and aggressiveness and report violations to a parent instantly by e-mail or text message.

Ray: These devices are called Event Data Recorders (EDRs), and there are a number of them on the market.

Tom: But driving fast isn't the only danger to new drivers. Cell phones provide a whole new smorgasbord of ways to crash a car. There's the distraction of conversations, and even worse, the sending and reading of text messages, which multiplies the risk of an accident many times over.

Ray: Well, now there are cell phone applications that you can install on your kid's (or parent's, or spouse's) phone to cut down on these distractions.

Tom: They all work pretty much the same way. They use the phone's GPS to determine when the phone is moving faster than walking speed. Then, it presumes, you're driving.

Ray: Of course, if you're riding the school bus, you're out of luck. But nothing's perfect, right?

Tom: Once the application senses that you're moving at vehicle speed, it shuts down some or all aspects of the phone. One app might turn the whole phone into a brick. Another app blocks texting. One is highly customizable.

Ray: In all cases, once the car is stopped for a certain amount of time, the phone is released again to fully function for the user.

Tom: A few of these apps have override systems so that, presumably, a passenger can program in some numbers and then text and chat while the driver pays full attention to the road. Of course, teenagers will figure out how to scam that one in no time.

Ray: They all allow you to dial 911 anytime and allow certain "emergency numbers," like parents' numbers, to get through under all conditions.

Tom: They're not perfect, but they're worth a look. Their names are iZup, CellSafety, ZoomSafer and TXTBlocker.