Ask the Mechanic

Safety Tip of the Month January 2023: Give the Engine a Whiff

(Getty Images, Photo Illustration by Barry Falkner)

I received a lot of thoughts about the use of starting fluid on an engine from an earlier column. Several readers wanted to know what the definition of "whiff" meant where I stated to give the engine a "whiff."

All engines handle the use of starting fluid differently. Usually, the larger the engine, the more it can take. However, some diesel engines run very high compression and will "lock down" easily.

Get to know your engine's ability to handle starting fluid. If it is trying to "lock down," slow it down. It is always better to spin the engine over with the starter while spraying starting fluid. This makes for a more even pattern of delivery into the cylinder. Too much starting fluid can "wash" the oil from the cylinder walls, or it can even bend a connecting rod from a superpowerful explosion in the cylinder.


-- Write Steve Thompson at Ask The Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email, and be sure to include your phone number.


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