If you live in a particular part of the country that experiences harsh winter conditions, you might be in the habit of starting your car up every morning and letting it run for a few minutes to “warm up.” Many people have been taught that this is necessary to ensure proper engine health on cold days, but the truth is, you could actually be doing more harm than good.
According to Popular Mechanics, the reason why many drivers practice the warm-up method is because our parents and grandparents grew up in the age of carbureted engines and passed this wisdom down to us. Back then, cars did need to be warmed up properly in order to protect the engine during the winter months, but things have changed since the introduction of modern internal combustion engines. Now, letting your car run idly causes extra fuel to enter the combustion chamber and coat the cylinder walls, dissolving the oil that is meant to lubricate the pistons. Not to mention the amount of fuel you are using up in the process. In short, this can end up drastically reducing the lifespan of your vehicle’s engine.
So what’s the best way to warm up your car in the winter? Get in and drive it. We know that no one really wants to get in a cold car, especially in the early morning hours before work. However, this is the quickest way to get your engine up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (where it returns to a normal fuel to air ratio) and the best option to prolong its life.
Another reason to avoid letting your vehicle sit idly while it warms up is that it can actually be illegal, depending on where you live. The negative effects vehicle emissions have on the environment, as well as the increase in reported thefts for unattended and idly running vehicles have led many states to put fines and other repercussion in place. In Utah for example, fines vary by area, but can be anywhere from $15 to $125. In places like Washington, D.C., you could be fined as much as $5,000 for leaving your car running idly.
Rather than starting your car every morning and letting it run for a few minutes before driving, try to break the habit. Let it run for 30 seconds or so and then get on the road. If you take it easy on the speedometer, it shouldn’t be long before things start to warm up.