Tips for starting an idle engine

February 1, 2010 | By Richard Prince


Your publication has been a valuable addition to my learning over the past five years. One subject that I do not recall seeing covered is starting an engine that has not been started in 30 or 60 days. I don’t get a chance to drive my cars that often so I always wonder what is the best way to start the engine to minimize wear.

For a time, I used starter fluid to ensure immediate ignition and quick build-up of oil pressure.

I have also, with the help of a supplemental power source, cranked the engine (without applying gas or engaging the choke) until the oil pressure indicator indicates at least 30 lbs. pressure at which time I engage the choke, apply gas and the engine starts immediately with full pressure almost instantaneously.

Is there a “best way” without having to pull the distributor, turn the oil pump with a drill, etc?

Should I make it a practice to start the engine weekly and let it run until it hits operating temperatures? Please advise or

point me to a past article that covers this subject. Thanks for a great resource and a most useful car publication.


The best thing you can do is start the engine weekly, let it get up to operating temperature, and run it for about 15 minutes more.

It is also very helpful if you drive the cars with some regularity, even if the most you can do is go back and forth a few feet. This will move around the fluid in the transmission, differential and steering box, and will also help keep brake system parts moving.

If it’s not feasible for you to start the engines once a week or so, consider installing an engine pre-lube system.

In a nutshell, these systems accumulate and store pressurized oil in a holding tank while the engine is running.

When the engine is shut down, the pressurized oil is maintained in the tank. Prior to starting the car the next time, the oil is released back into the engine’s oiling system by the opening of a valve.

Several companies make and/or market this type of system, including Accusump, which is available from many high-performance parts distributors, including Canton Racing Products ( and Pegasus Auto Racing ( A similar system is also available from Motor Pre Lube (