The Facts Behind Warming Up Your Car's Engine

Professionals such as the EPA to Natural Resources Canada and famous radio talk show mechanics agree – idling in the driveway has virtually no benefit for your engine. On occasion, idling can help defrost your car to a slight degree, but even then, getting the vehicle moving is the best method to increase the engine's temperature.

Nevertheless, a survey of 1,300 people in the U.S. found that on average, people believe vehicles ought to be “heated up” for 5.1 minutes when the temperature is below freezing. That belief has meant:

  • On a national level, 40,000 tons per day of unnecessary CO2 emitted into the environment
  • Increased personal breathing of polluted air while sitting in unmoving autos
  • On a national level, $5.9 billion per year in wasted fuel
  • For every car or truck, up to $183 per year in wasted fuel
  • For each auto, almost $10 per year in unnecessary wear-and-tear costs

Historically, this idea wasn't wrong, however. Before the advent of electronics in the starting and fuel delivery systems, cars used carburetors to mix air and fuel for the engine to use. If a car was driven cold, that mixture could be wrong and cause the motor to stall. Almost all new cars have new technology. As well as saving fuel when you turn the ignition, new mechanisms track engine temperature and adjust for it. Now, you should run your car for 10 seconds or less before driving.

When you stop heating up the engine, there will be many beneficial effects. Your car will drive better and get to a good operating temperature more quickly. An auto that is on the road also starts the process of cleaning its emissions faster. When you are just idling, the catalytic converter doesn't start working for approximately twice as long, and the resulting pollution always gets into the cabin because, obviously, you're just sitting in it.

If you have concerns about this or want to find out whether your automobile needs to be heated up before driving, reach out to the auto professionals at Christian Brothers College Station. Skipping the idling saves you time and is good for your auto, better for the air quality and good for your budget.