Should You Idle Your Vehicle in the Winter?

Scientists agree: You shouldn't “warm-up” your car in the winter before hitting the road. Doing so adds significantly to environmental pollution.

Groups from the EPA to the government of Canada and famous radio talk show mechanics agree - running your engine before driving has basically zero benefit for your car. Sometimes, pre-drive idling can defrost a bit, but even then, getting the car or truck moving is the most efficient strategy to increase the engine's temperature.

Nevertheless, a study of 1,300 Americans found that, people think autos need to be idled for about five minutes when the weather is wintry. The results of that myth are as follows:

  • For each car or truck, $9 annually in unnecessary wear-and-tear costs
  • More personal breathing of polluted air while sitting in idling cars and trucks
  • , 40,000 tons per day of unnecessary CO2 released into the environment
  • Nationally, 3.8 million gallons in wasted gas
  • For each auto that idles to warm-up, up to $183 each year in wasted fuel

Historically, this idea wasn't wrong, however. Before the advent of electronic starters and electronic fuel injection, automobiles used carburetors to blend air and fuel for the engine to use. If a car wasn't properly warmed up, that mix could be wrong and cause the motor to stall. Almost all new cars have new technology. Besides conserving fuel at startup, electronics measure the engine temperature and make up for hot and cold conditions. Now, experts say to idle your engine for just a few seconds before hitting the road.

If you stop idling, there will be many positive effects. First, your auto will work better and heat up more quickly. An auto that is on the road also starts the process of cleaning its emissions more quickly by way of the catalytic converter. When you are just idling, the catalytic converter doesn't kick in for up to twice as long, and the resulting pollution inevitably gets to you because, clearly, you're not going anywhere.

If you have questions about whether your car needs to be warmed up before driving, contact the auto professionals at Christian Brothers. Not idling saves time and is better for your car or truck, better for the air quality and good for your budget.