Do I Need to Let my Car Heat Up?

December 5, 2017
Category: A/C, General

During the winter, do you take your spare key, run out to your car, and start the engine before locking the door and running back inside to brew coffee? This is an extremely common practice across America. But do you really need to let your car heat up in the morning?

The belief is allowing your car to idle is better for your vehicle so it runs better. Not to mention it will help it to warm faster, so you’ll be ready to go and defrosted when you’re about to leave. It sounds good in practice, to not have to scrape ice off your windshield. However, is it really necessary to let your car idle during winter? How much does it actually help? General Automotive is here with the real answers.

Do I Need to Let my Car Heat Up

So do you need to let your car warm up before driving it in the winter?

The Short Answer: No

Older vehicles needed to idle a bit in order to get all the engine juices flowing. It allowed for a better and safer drive. Newer vehicles though have more efficient systems and don’t need to warm up before it is safe to drive. But that only addresses the aspect of being safe to drive, what about getting your vehicle warm enough?

Driving in cold weather actually warms up your engine faster than allowing it to idle does. Your car doesn’t really need to idle for more than 30 seconds before it’s ready to hit the road. It’s much more efficient to simply scrape away that ice and suffer that minute or two of bitter cold.

Allowing your engine to idle can lead to an extremely poor fuel consumption. Regardless of how fantastic your car’s fuel efficiency is, allowing your car to idle will cause more fuel to be wasted. This, in turn, harms the environment and creates a poor atmosphere for everyone. Even if it’s a small part to play, keeping your car turned off until you need it in the morning is a small way to make a difference.

The Long Answer: There’s a Reason for Everything

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this myth has always been a myth. With older vehicle models, carburetors were an extremely important component that needed to be warmed before working efficiently. Without it, it could cause the risk of stalling to dramatically increase. Luckily, though, newer models work on this electronically with an electronic fuel injection. It means that your car’s temperature is automatically adjusted in response to the outdoor temperature conditions. Now that we’re out of the 1980’s, your car shouldn’t need any time at all to be ready to drive.

Why Do We Still Do it?

Even though idling does nothing for the engine, it does cause the car to heat up, so it’s nice and toasty by the time you come out of your house. At this point, we’re entering personal preference. It may have no effect on your engine, but it does make driving during the winter more tolerable. Is this worth the extra emissions and the poor fuel efficiency? It’s absolutely up to you. However, take this information into account when you go to warm up your car next week.

General Automotive is here to help you adjust to the winter weather. We offer inspections and checkups that are perfect for this time of year. If you have any other questions regarding fuel efficiency or engine efficiency, contact us at General Automotive, your local Gaithersburg auto repair service, today, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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