Short trips by car – particularly harmful?

In everyday life, the car is not usually driven over longer distances at a stretch, because work, the supermarket or the children’s school are often only a stone’s throw away. but unfortunately not close enough to leave the car standing. However, short distances are not good for the car in the long run. We tell you why and which vehicles are not at all suitable for short distances.

If you want to know right now which cars are best suited for short distances, here are some models for you:

top models for short distances

model offers from
hyundai ioniq 5 31.334 € compare offers
VW ID.3 25.890 € compare offers
VW T-roc 20.064 € compare offers
renault zoe 18.302 € compare offers
toyota yaris 14.179 € compare offers

What is a short distance?

Everyone talks about short trips, but how short is a short trip actually?? In general, a distance of less than ten kilometers is considered a short distance, because within this time the engine has no chance to reach the required operating temperature. This is the main problem and can lead to damage in the long term.

Avoid short trips

If the engine does not reach full operating temperature, fuel can get into the oil pan of gasoline engines and does not evaporate, but collects in the oil. This leads to a reduction in the lubricity of the oil. For this reason, it is advisable to have the oil changed more often than prescribed if you frequently drive short distances.

too low an operating temperature also has a negative effect on the exhaust system. Condensation does not evaporate and corrosion is increased – this then naturally leads to greater wear and tear. The environment is not happy about short trips either, because a cold engine consumes a lot of fuel, which also leads to higher emissions. They also have to go to the gas station more often and leave more money there.

Furthermore, there is a risk that the spark plugs will become increasingly sooty, making the car harder to start at first and eventually impossible to start at all.

Diesel and short trips: a bad combination

Short distances are particularly harmful for diesel vehicles. This is due to the fact that a diesel also needs to be warmed up first, and for this it takes a little longer than a gasoline engine. Particularly problematic are the soot particle filters that are already integrated in current diesel models. These filters need a certain temperature because soot accumulates on the surface of the filter and then must be burned. But this is only possible if the exhaust gas temperature is high enough, which in turn is only the case if the vehicle is moved long enough at a stretch.

a temperature of at least 600 degrees celsius is necessary for the combustion of the soot residues on the filter. Contrary to what is often assumed, it is not sufficient to compensate for a lack of driving time by driving at high speeds. So if you don’t have time for a long drive, don’t torture your diesel with high revs when the engine is cold – that won’t make it any better.

To make short journeys less harmful for diesel vehicles, the manufacturers have come up with a solution. additives can be added to lower the ignition temperature, so that the soot particles are burned at 450 degrees celsius. Such a temperature can also be reached during shorter distances. Difficult are the actually environmentally friendly start-stop systems. the exhaust gas temperature is kept even lower here, reaching just 250 degrees celsius. This makes it impossible to burn the particles, which can lead to clogging of the filter.

diesel hybrid models are rare, but not quite as susceptible as classic diesels.

Are e-cars suitable for short distances?

If an electric car is an option for you, it is indeed the best choice for short distances. With an electric car, you don’t have to deal with a certain operating temperature for optimal operation, poor lubricating properties of the oil or increasing fuel consumption.

The electric motor works optimally right from the start, does not need lubricants that dictate a certain operating temperature, and power consumption is not higher for short distances – except in winter, but that has to do with temperatures and not with short distances.

The cold start

What actually happens when the engine starts cold? The components heat up on one side and friction can occur, which in turn leads to increased wear or scoring in the surfaces, because the oil is not yet warm enough. Even the cooling water is only at ambient temperature at this time and cannot guarantee the even distribution of heat. If the engine is overloaded, the wear and tear can increase many times over.

That’s why we advise you to drive carefully for the first few kilometers until the engine has reached operating temperature. However, if you only drive short distances, you will constantly torment your car with cold starts.

But how can you tell if your car is making too many short trips?? An indication is white sludge in the inside of the oil cap. This indicates poor lubricity. An odor sample on the oil dipstick also provides information about whether the engine is suffering. If the rod smells of fuel, then the oil pan has been filled with fuel. Water drops on the stick also indicate condensation that has not evaporated. In these cases, an oil change should be carried out soon, because too many short trips were definitely made.

In summary, it is clear that continuous short trips are detrimental to the vehicle. Make sure to bring the car up to full operating temperature from time to time. You can tell when this has been reached by the corresponding indicator on the dashboard.

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