Here Comes The Freeze: Is It Okay To Warm Up Your Car By Idling It?
In this age of remote starters and seat warmers, people have no reason to ever be cold in the car again, but is it okay to idle your car to warm it up before you get get in?
Here Comes The Polar Vortex Again, So Ice Cold Cars Will Greet Us This Week
As our old familiar friend, the bitter cold air, descends upon us with a blast this week, we face the prospect of loading our toasty warm butts into a frigid vehicle again.
I've often heard that letting your car idle while waiting for it to warm up is a bad idea. Okay, maybe I just heard it from my dad, and it turns out, as much as I loved the guy, he wasn't always right.
So, I decided to check with some experts and asked, "Is it a good idea to idle your car to get it warm on a sub zero morning?"
Triple A Weighs In First, And They Give You A Big "NO!"
According to experts at AAA, it's not a good idea to warm your car up before getting in and driving away. Supposedly, you should start the engine and let it idle only long enough for you to fasten your seat belt.
Driving the car normally instead of letting it idle brings the engine to a warmer temperature faster -- and also reduces wear and exhaust emissions.
This is EXACTLY what my late Dad said.
Consumer Reports Is A Little More Forgiving, Saying "YES, Kind Of"
Consumer Reports' chief mechanic, John Ibbotson, says overall it's not a great idea, but it's not gonna kill your car to get it warm before work in the morning, as long as you don't go beyond the time it takes to warm the inside and get the windshield warm and clear.
Last, But Not Least, Firestone Says Cars And The Times Have Changed
The Firestone Car Care Guide says the old school wisdom of warming the car up went beyond just avoiding freezing your tush off, it was actually a good practice in the days of the carburetor.
In cold temps, carburetors couldn't vaporize all the gasoline they let into the engine, so some of it would be left behind as a liquid rather than being burned off during combustion. In order to work properly, a carburetor needed to warm up or else you'd run the risk of stalling out.
But those days are gone, the new fuel injection systems need no such warm up, and are ready to go when you are, freezing or not.
...many environmental organizations, including the EPA and DOE, recommend idling your car for no more than 30 seconds before driving on winter days. This means that your cold-day-driving-routine should look something like this: bundle up, start the car, scrape the ice off the windows and mirrors, get in the car, and get going!
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's not a good idea to run your car until it gets warm on a winter's morning.
So get in and suck it up, chief. The cold air might actually be good for you.