Here in the northern hemisphere winter is in full swing which means that the temperatures are dropping and in many cases there is snow and ice making the driving of our cars even harder and more dangerous. One of the most popular questions regarding cars and winter is should you idle and warm up your car before driving it. So let’s look at this matter and figure out how to properly treat our vehicles in the winter.

Most people who live in places where there are harsher winters with below zero temperatures and bad road conditions will say that it is a no brainer to let your car run for a few minutes before you leave your parking spot and drive to where you need to go. But recently the action of warming up your car in the winter has received a lot of criticism for the way idling your car affects you, your car and the environment. Many environmentalists argue that you shouldn’t idle your car to warm it up in the winter because that releases too many carbon monoxide and other noxious gases that way hurting yourself, those around you and the environment. But car experts say that idling your car is not only an inefficient way to warm it up and it uses a lot of fuel making the idling very expensive, but it also actually hurts your car degrading the engine and making its performance worse. So maybe idling your car in the winter and warming it up isn’t as efficient as we thought.


It is true that it takes quite some time for the engine of your car to warm up and for it to be at the optimum driving temperature. And this is one of the arguments that is mentioned by those who are pro car idling in the winter. However, you can counter this argument with the fact that not only the engine warms up much faster while you are driving the car but also since the end of 1980s the car carburetors (that actually needed to be warmed up to work) have been replaced with a part called electronic fuel injection that doesn’t need warming up to work properly and to be able to get rid of the air and fuel mix in the engine and to supply fuel to it. Only 30 seconds (1 to 2 minutes in extremely cold weather) is enough for most engines to be ready for a drive.

And it also is true that the colder the weather outside the worse the fuel economy of a car is. But many doesn’t consider how much fuel you actually waste by idling your car. The US Department of Energy even did a research on this and found that the longer time you are idling your car the more fuel your car consumes and the more money you waste as you could have driven off after only working your car for a couple tens of seconds. So really idling a car is simply a waste of fuel which is accompanied by a lot of emissions. And even though this also applies to idling a car in traffic jams or while you are waiting for somebody for example, it is especially true about idling a car in the winter to warm it up because people do it for a longer time and it is not necessary to actually do it even if it is minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Of course many also say that they are idling their car in the winter to warm up the interior or to help to quicker defrost your windows so you can be on your way. And although both are valid points you don’t need to idle your car for 5 or 10 minutes to achieve the comfort of a warm car salon and the safety that defrosted and clean windows so be smart about warming up your car by idling it and do it only when it is absolutely necessary for your safety or comfort not because you think that you should do it to help your car to work better and to consume less fuel.

Billy Miller
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