jason cammisa

Hooniverse Asks: Does your car sound good during a cold start?

When you first fire up your car in the morning, does it get all wonderfully growly and snarly? Or does it just whir-whir-whir-sputter-cough-bang and chug to life? Regardless of what your car does, you’re aware that some cars sound delightful upon that twisting that key or pressing a starter button for the first time in the AM. Why is that? Mr. Know It All Jason Cammisa is here to tell you why.

And then I want to know if your car sounds pretty awesome when you first fire it up. Or maybe it purrs to life? Maybe it doesn’t even turn on at all… I’ve been there. We all have.

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24 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Does your car sound good during a cold start?”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    All of my IC-equipped vehicles have manual chokes and none have catalytic converters, so (1) very little in this video was applicable and (2) I’m happy enough when an engine starts at all; anything aesthetically pleasing about its cold behavior is simply an unexpected bonus.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      What vehicles do you have that are new enough to be equipped with integrated circuits?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        My 1983 Austin Maestro Vanden Plas has a talking digital dash and a factory manual choke, thereby illustrating… something… about the prevailing design priorities at BL Cars Ltd.

        1. OA5599 Avatar

          I would think BL could have fashioned a talking dash from steam pipes or vacuum tubes or similarly parachronistic technology.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            No, because they might actually have understood that level of technology. The truth is even better: They hired a voice actress to record the necessary phrases, then, instead of simply storing and replaying the recordings in the dash, they sampled them for use as the reference points of a synthesized version.

            Unfortunately their attempts introduced horrible distortion into the result, to the point of making the output unintelligible. Rather than fix their synthesizer system, however, they decided to rehire the same voice actress to return to the studio to record the phrases again while deliberately misspeaking in a variety of distorted manners. They then selected the mispronounced phrases that “translated” the best through their synthesizer to produce a usable result.

            Upon reflection, I’m glad they didn’t try to find a way to “improve” the choke as well.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            You just can’t make this up. Incredible story!

  2. Scoutdude Avatar

    While much of what he says is true, I personally don’t think that my cars, at least my non-hybrid cars sound any better on a cold start.

    While emissions are a big concern the reason a modern car takes longer to start is not because of emissions concerns.

    Back in the old days of points and carbs IF you tuned a car right it would start with just the tap of the starter. Why because the carb was always ready to provide fuel in response to air flow and on a recently ran engine some vapor will be hanging out between the closed throttle plate and the intake valves. Meanwhile the distributor don’t have to think to know which plug to send the spark to and those points are just itching to create a spark when they crack open.

    Fast forward to modern sequential fuel injection and the computer has to sort out which injector and which coil to fire. To figure out #1 it needs a cam sensor signal and since that only happens once every two revolutions, and you’ll want to be sure you have it right, you have to wait until it comes around a second time to really know things are right. Now for revolution 5 we can start to fire injectors and coils and make the engine run.

    With good hybrid systems like the Toyota/Ford power split systems the engine is started by a starter generator. Because the gear reduction between that motor and the engine is optimized for power delivery to the wheels, and has way more power than a starter motor it just wants to spin fast with such a relatively low load. The fact that the engine spins at 1000 rpm when starting, 3 or 4 times as fast as a conventional starter is really just a bonus.

    Yes, once it comes to life that starter/generator does help to warm up the engine faster by loading the engine in excess of demand and sends it to the battery to get stored. That is why the better hybrids like the Ford products in my driveway learn where they commonly cold soak, ie where you live and work and then try to ensure that you arrive at your destination as close to the Min SOC as possible.

    Of course I disagree that you never want to drive a hybrid based on the fact that there are two in the driveway and we have had 3 others in the past. Don’t get me wrong I love to drive my Marauder but there are times when I prefer to have comfort over performance and spend much less money at the pump.

    Speaking of the Marauder, on Sat I took it out to wrap up the last details on a deal and on the way back I looked at the fuel gauge and decided I didn’t need to stop by the gas station on the way home. When I got home I pulled out the last gas receipt to find it dated Sep 20. So sadly only ~250 miles in ~6 months.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    My FE (390) big-block Mercury always sounded fantastic on cold start. I think my personal tastes on “how a car should sound” were forever influenced by that car. An FE with dual exhaust at idle simply sounds wonderful to me.

    In contrast, I now drive a V6– my absolute least-favorite engine configuration– that doesn’t sound good at any rpm. I swear, I prefer a four cylinder for acoustic qualities.

  4. GTXcellent Avatar

    The SS and the GTX ALWAYS sound completely bad-ass: hot or cold; morning, noon or night.

    (the pickup and Jeep, well….I don’t need to announce my arrival anyways)

  5. Sjalabais Avatar

    Funny you should ask this today, as I was to visit a few friends earlier and the Centennial one-upped me. You know, I keep saying every time I start it, there is a new issue? Well, not starting is also an issue. *tips hat* This was the sound I got, maybe the starter is tired?:
    Everything I did since I drove the car last week was to fully charge the battery, outside of the car. Frustrating!

    Slightly more on topic, my ’93 Volvo 245 had the best start up sound of all cars I have had. The aggressive cam of the B230FX engine made the thing sound full, slow, big and kind of synthetically angry; like a crane engine or some such thing, when cold. I loved that.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      Interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a car not start like that before. Hopefully you’ll be able to sort it out?

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Someone elsewhere suggested that something could have come on after I mounted the newly charged battery, and drained it. Another recharge is in order to check this theory, for science.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Thanks for the tip! I can check that later. Today, I borrowed my neighbour’s battery charger again and this time, it didn’t arrive at the “battery done”-green light. After 3-4 hours, it rather showed a red exclamation mark. So I think it might really be the battery…same symptoms when I tried to start the car an hour ago.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          When my starters have had similar “clicking” issues it’s been due to one of these problems, in order of most to least common: corrosion at a connector (remember to check the ground and the battery connectors themselves, too), a failing battery, a bad relay, or, in distant fourth, a bad starter.

    2. Scoutdude Avatar

      That car just won’t give you a break.

      So yeah chances are you have a bad battery considering the charger’s warning light.

      I’ve never heard quite that sound but it and your dash lights do indicate a lack of neccessary volts and amps. The battery or connections have the ability to deliver the needed current and voltage to light the warning lights nicely while not cranking. However when you crank they get very dim. That means the voltage is dropping dramatically. So what is going on is when the load goes up trying to run the starter the voltage drops to the point where it can’t hold the relay, it releases, voltage goes back up and the process repeats.

      It could be a connection or the battery cables in addition to the battery being the culprit. I don’t know about batteries sold in your country but in the US virtually all mfgs place a date code sticker and melt the date code into the case along with the other numbers they melt in.

      In the US it is a letter and number, so what you should see on the shelf of place with fresh stock today would be A1, B1or maybe C1 representing Jan, Feb and March 2021. If you can find a date code and it is 5 years or older I’d definitely start with a new battery.

  6. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
    Slow Joe Crow

    Thanks to direct fuel injection my Mazda CX-5 sounds like a diesel on startup but improves as soon as it’s running. My F150’s 5.4 Triton sounds like a small block V8 although not quite as motorboat like as my son’s Suburban with a 350.

  7. James Avatar

    My challenger Scat Pack does a wonderful bark on a cold morning. It definitely doesn’t do that when started after a few miles. It’s not loud otherwise, as I don’t have an active exhaust.

  8. BobWellington Avatar

    My ’06 Explorer with a leaking exhaust manifold sounds great…not! lol

  9. MadMan Avatar

    My Shelby GT350 is an absolute beast all the time …. the morning ritual is better than a cup of coffee ??

  10. Vinny Avatar

    Interesting thoughts. Never really paid attention to different sounds during cold startup.
    If you’re looking for a car detailing service, check us out!

  11. MadcitySpecv Avatar

    My Abarth is just loud on start. once the revs climb down there’s a pleasant (but still loud) burble. when the engine is warm is pops and crackles with small levels of throttle input, which is fantastic for slow rolling in the neighborhood. i also love the upshift/downshift barks and pops when at WOT. I love my Italian GoKart.

  12. doyall Avatar

    I love the sound of un-lubricated metal on metal.

  13. Neight428 Avatar

    If you’re right foot isn’t a finely tuned idle stop solenoid, do you even Q-jet?