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Do I Need to Warm Up my Car in Winter?

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

We’ve all been told countless times that we need to let the car warm up before driving it on exceptionally cold days, but is that really the case? For years this was a normal driving practice, because it was a necessary step for the health of your car’s engine. Something changed in the 90’s however, that makes this practice dated and unnecessary. Let’s look at why it used to be a necessary part of driving, and why it no longer is.

The Carburetor

Older cars (as in cars built before the 1990’s) were built with a carburetor that needed time to warm up to run properly. Carburetors use a combination of air and fuel to get the engine running, and in extremely cold temperatures they may not produce the correct combination of air and fuel. When the proper combination isn’t met, the car may stall out when you go to drive it. In newer cars, however, this carburetor has been replaced with an electric fuel injection, that does not malfunction at lower temperatures.

Is there Any Benefit to Warming the Car?

So if warming up the car is outdated, why are so many people still doing it? Well, first, it is habit, and many people who are unaware of the switch from a carburetor to an electric fuel pump have no idea it’s unnecessary. Second, there are still some car enthusiasts who are convinced that there is a benefit in taking a few minutes to warm the car up. So is there a benefit to warming up your car? Simply put, no, there is no benefit. Your car’s engine will warm up faster driving on the road than it will idling.

Is there Harm in Warming the Car?

Leaving your car to idle also wastes gas, and pollutes the air even more than necessary. Idling is a waste of time, resources and clean air, and has absolutely no benefit to the car. In some states, there are even laws in place to prevent individuals from idling their car for lengthy periods of time, because of the harm it causes to the environment. In addition to the environmental impact idling has, you are also wasting gas, which can be costly.

If you are the exception, and drive a car built before 1995 however, continue to allow your car to warm up for a minute or two before you begin driving it. If you drive a newer car on the other hand, there is no need for you to allow your car to warm up. Running the engine full force and driving it will do a better job at warming your car up than allowing it to run idle, and idling is a waste of gas and a detriment to the environment. So when your father or well meaning neighbor tells you to let your car warm up before driving it on exceptionally chilly mornings, you can let them know this isn’t necessary anymore.

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