How To Break a Cube (and how to mend it)

Nice to see the rev counter above zero…

I did something terrible to my Cube on Tuesday. At the time I never thought, but you never do, do you? I started it up to go to work, and then changed my mind about using the car and turned it off again within a minute or two. Which you should never, ever, do to an engine. Ever.

Of course, I paid for this mistake today. The Cube has a button start, which means that rather than turn a fuddy duddy old key, with the Cube I just press a button and the engine starts. I’ve often wondered what would happen if the engine didn’t start. Today I found out. It spins for around 15 seconds and then stops. So you press the button again and the same thing happens. Stupid me. I knew instantly what was wrong, but I was less sure how to fix it. The car was flooded. This means that the engine was full of petrol and not much air. So no combustion and no working engine.

To understand the problem you have to know what happens when a car engine is first started. To get things going it is best to put in lots, and I mean lots, of petrol. Older cars had a thing called “the choke” that did just that, blocking off the air supply and squirting extra fuel in. You had to pull the choke when the engine was cold otherwise it wouldn’t start. Once the engine had fired up you’d then push the choke back in as the engine got warmer and warmer. Of course modern cars don’t have any of this choke nonsense, they have a clever engine management system that pumps in lots of petrol when the engine is cold and then reduces this as it warms up. On Tuesday morning the engine was still in the middle of doing this when I turned it off, leaving the cylinders full of petrol. Wind forward to this morning and the engine wakes up, pumps in whole bunch more petrol hey presto, flooded. Wah.

In an old car the only thing you could do was close the choke and progressively floor the accelerator while the engine turned over to force lots of air into the engine and hopefully clear out the petrol. In a new car you don’t have this level of control because your pedal is just connected to the engine management system. Fortunately the makers of the Cube have thought of this, and they let you do the same kind of thing to fix it. So I eventually got the car going and drove to work. And all at six degrees below zero. And its been fine since because I haven’t been stupid since.

So, if you start a car in this weather, let it run for at least five minutes before you turn it off again. And if you flood it, i.e. it turns over but nothing is happening, then try pushing the accelerator down gradually as you turn the engine over.