Do I Have to Warm My Car Up in the Cold?

Winter is upon us, and with it the ever present question of how to treat your vehicle when that thermometer dips down to the scary-cold scale. Many folks let their cars run anywhere from 1-10 minutes to get the old engine running well when the snow is on the ground, but is that necessary? Keep reading to answer the eternal question “Do I have to warm my car up in the cold?”

Depends on the age of your vehicle

Older cars did need to warm up before they can be used. Without getting up to a decent temperature, the carburetor might not have been able to get the right mix of fuel and air and stall out your car. But as long as you are driving something built this millennium (and really, why are you taking that vintage Corvette out on the road this time of year?), you should be okay to idle your vehicle maybe 30 seconds and then drive. Modern fuel injection technology means that your engine will get the right mix of fuel and air no matter the weather.Letting your car run to warm up (or even turning it on early in the morning via OnStar RemoteLink) might seem like the best bet, but it can really just burn a lot of gas unnecessarily, and it will actually warm up better as you drive, though it is recommended to drive gently for the first few minutes to stress your engine as little as possible at the beginning.

Read More: Check out these Fuel-Efficient Vehicles!

Reasons to Idle Your Car (Briefly) This Winter

All that said, there are a few reasons to let your car run a little bit before zooming off this winter.

  • Waiting about 30 seconds allows the oil in your engine to warm up and flow where it needs to go before you put stress on the engine.
  • Turning the engine (and the defrost) on while you are getting ice and snow off the windows.
  • Warming up the interior so you don’t freeze while you drive.

Just for Fun: What Are The Best Ice-Fishing Vehicles?
There are a lot of reasons to let you car sit, but know that as far as the engine goes, a 5 minute (or longer) idling period is unnecessary and will just cost you money in gas.

How can I keep my car’s cabin from getting too hot?

How can I keep my car’s cabin from getting too hot?

What if my car gets stuck in the snow?

What if my car gets stuck in the snow?


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