Should You Warm Up Your Vehicle First in Cold Weather?


You probably remember your parents going out in the frigid cold to start the car while you waited all bundled up. Most people believe that they have to warm up the vehicle before going anywhere, especially during cold weather. The thing is that it is true and untrue at the same time. Vehicles built before the mid-1990s used a carburetor, which combined fuel and air to create the perfect mixture for the engine to run. With a carburetor, you had to let your car idle for a few minutes before driving anywhere to ensure that the engine ran properly.

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However, the US auto industry changed from carburetors to fuel-injection systems in the mid-1990s, which means most vehicles don’t use a carburetor. Along with such, modern cars don’t require the engine to be warmed up when the temperature drops.

Experts Disagree

Of course, with almost every issue on the planet, experts are bound to disagree with each other, making it tough to make an informed decision for yourself and your vehicle. Some people do say you can start the car and throw it in reverse immediately, though you should drive slowly for a few moments, such as through your neighborhood. Others claim that you should always let the car idle for a few minutes to ensure that the oil is flowing correctly.

While the engine itself doesn’t need to be warmed, the oil is actually the blood of the engine. Fluids always get thicker when the temperature drops, so they aren’t going to lubricate the engine as they should when the car starts initially. Experts say to wait one or two minutes so that the fluids warm up and lubricate the engine.

However, those who disagree do so on the fact that the engine is already cold, so it doesn’t need the lubrication immediately, which helps to cool it down and keep the parts moving. Along with such, the motor oil in the vehicle does take longer to pump through the engine, but the time it takes is only milliseconds and not minutes. The engine itself is going to warm up the oil more when you’re driving at full speed instead of when it is idling.

Along with such, you can expect to waste gasoline when idling the vehicle. You’re not doing yourself or your car any good.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also agrees and claims that warming up the engine is a myth. They say it doesn’t help much anyway, but it’s highly wasteful. You waste money, which directly affects you, but you also waste fuel, which is a precious commodity. You also put more pollutants in the air, which can cause serious complications for the Earth.

Cities Weigh In

Most major cities in the United States have restrictions on how long you can idle your vehicle. For example, Minneapolis only allows you to idle your car for three minutes, though it does include some exceptions. For example, you can idle the vehicle for up to 15 minutes each hour when the temperature is below zero or higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Many other cities have similar regulations, including Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. If you’re caught idling too long in these areas, you may face a fine.

While all experts agree that you should drive easily, go slower, and not punch the gas or brake during the first few minutes of driving, they can’t agree on whether or not you should idle the car for a few minutes or start driving immediately.

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Should You Warm Up Your Vehicle First in Cold Weather?

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