If you grew up somewhere cold, you may remember hearing your mom or dad saying, “Honey, I’m going to go warm up the car” frequently during the winter months. It would warm up for a bit and then you’d slip right into a warm and toasty car and head to school.
It looks like you don’t really need to warm up your car. Experts say that warming up your car is not only unnecessary, but it can actually be harmful to your car. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t let your car idle or warm up during the winter months.
This myth that most engines need time to warm up dates back to when cars had carburetors. If you didn’t warm up the car, they could stall out. But now we have computerized-fuel injection systems that adjust themselves to outside temperature.
Internal combustion engine works by using pistons to compress air and vaporized fuel within a cylinder. The compressed mixture is then ignited and creates a combustion event, a small and controlled explosion that powers the engine of the car.
According to, popularmechanics.com, “When the engine is cold, gasoline is less likely to evaporate and create the correct ratio of air and vaporized fuel for combustion. Engines with electronic fuel injection have sensors that compensate for the cold by pumping more gasoline into the mixture. The engine continues to run rich in this way until it heats up to about 40 degrees.”
Stephen Ciatti, a mechanical engineer who specializes in combustion engines at the Argonne National Laboratory, says that warming up the car is a "problem because you're actually putting extra fuel into the combustion chamber to make it burn and some of it can get onto the cylinder walls. Gasoline is an outstanding solvent and it can actually wash oil off the walls if you run it in those cold, idle conditions for an extended period of time."
If the gasoline is washing away the lubricating oils for piston rings and cylinder liners, you are reducing their life expectancy significantly. You are also just wasting fuel by running your car for longer than you need to.
It’s simple. The best way to warm up your car to 40 degrees is by driving it. Driving it will help switch it back to a normal fuel-to-air ratio. So the best way to start your drive during the winter months is to start the car, scrape some ice of your front window and hit the road.
If you are kicking it old school and you have a car with a carbureted engine, than by all means warm that baby up before you take it on the road. For everyone else, jump in and go, although it is best to take it easy for the first 5-15 minutes of your drive so you don’t put too much unnecessary stress on the engine.
13. Watch This Video
For more information about warming up the car this winter, watch the video above. Vroom vroom and happy driving!