Should You Warm Up Your Car in the Winter?

Groups from the U.S. EPA to the government of Canada and famous radio talk show mechanics agree – running your engine in the driveway has basically no benefit for your car's engine. In some cases, pre-drive idling can help defrost your car to a slight degree, but even then, actually driving the car is the ideal method to raise the engine's temperature.

Regardless, a study of 1,300 Americans found that on average, people think cars should be idled for about five minutes when the weather is wintry. The results of that myth are as follows:

  • 40,000 tons per day of unnecessary CO2 emitted into the environment
  • More personal exposure to pollutants while sitting in stopped cars and trucks
  • Nationally, 3.8 million gallons in wasted gas
  • For every car or truck that idles to warm up, $30-$183 annually in wasted gas
  • For each automobile, $9 each year wear and tear costs

Historically, this idea wasn't wrong, however. Before electronics in the starting and fuel delivery systems, automobiles used carburetors to blend air and fuel for the engine. If a car wasn't properly warmed up, that mix could be off, causing the engine to stall. Today, the vast majority of cars have much better technology. In addition to saving fuel when you turn the ignition, new mechanisms monitor engine temperature. Now, you should idle your car for just a few seconds before driving.

When you make this change in your driving habits, there will be many positive effects. Your automobile will work better and heat up faster. An auto that is on the road also starts the process of filtering its emissions more quickly by way of the catalytic converter. When you are stopped, the catalytic converter doesn't start working for about twice as long, and the dirtier air invariably 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 vehicle needs to be heated up in the winter, call the auto professionals at Christian Brothers New Territory. Skipping the idling saves time and is good for your vehicle, good for the environment and good for your wallet.