Should I warm up the car or not?

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Every winter we get asked the question “Do we need to warm up our car in the morning?”  Some have heard that it is bad for your car to warm it up.  The answer to this question is not a simple as you think and many experts disagree.

While today’s fuel injected engines are capable of starting and running right away in the cold, should you?  The engine is not the only thing that we need to think about.  Remember that all the fluids in the car also react to the cold and have thickened up over night becoming essentially the consistency of honey.  Warming the car up for a few minutes would help to get those fluids the correct viscosity.  After all oil is the life blood of the engine.  Additionally, all of the seals and gaskets in the vehicle are rubber.  Having the warm fluids running through them help to keep them from cracking from the cold.

Who wants to get into a cold vehicle?  There is an entire industry out there dedicated to not getting into a cold car (remote starters).  Not only does warming up the car for a minute keep you and your family warm, it also is important to clear the snow and frost from the windows, so that you are able to see properly.

So why is there such a debate, well, as I said, modern vehicles can start up and go right away.  Actually, driving the car at moderate speeds for the first 10 minutes can warm the car up efficiently.  However, placing any kind of load on a cold car is not recommended.  Traveling up hills or speeding up to avoid another vehicle would place a load on the cold engine. Of course, idling the car for too long is not recommended for the engine and it can cause a decrease in your fuel mileage. Additionally, it does release emissions into the air, so idling for too long is not good for the environment.

So, to answer the question, You do not NEED to warm up today’s modern cars, as long as you are driving at neighborhood speeds for the first 5-10 minutes.  The one caveat being that your windows need to be clear.  That being said, if you want to warm up the car for convenience, try to keep it to about 5 minutes and it should be smooth sailing.

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