Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Warm Up Your Car in the Winter

The age-old trick of warming up your car in winter before you drive away could be doing more damage than good. See why warming up your car isn't a good idea.

warming up car in winterSasha Ivanova/Shutterstock

When it’s frigid outside and you have to drive to some sort of destination, there’s only one solution for fighting the ridiculous cold: Warm up the car. Just start it up a few minutes before hopping in, giving your cabin and your engine time to warm up before hitting the road. Plus, it’s supposed to be good for the life of your engine, right?

Wrong! Warming up your car in winter before driving it is actually terrible for your engine. According to Popular Mechanics, driving your car right away is the fastest way to warm up your engine, and will actually prolong the life of your engine instead of letting it sit idly before driving.

The reasoning has to do with how modern internal combustion engines work. By letting your car sit to warm up, it’s actually putting extra fuel into the combustion chamber, which can get onto your cylinder walls. Because gasoline is an excellent solvent, too much on your cylinder walls can dissolve the oil that lubricates your cylinders, leading to shorter life on crucial components. Memorize these other winter car care tips, too.

Driving your car will warm it up quicker than idling

Of course, hopping into a cold car is never a fun task. Although driving your car will actually warm up your engine faster than idling, it still means driving for a period of time in a cold vehicle. And, it also means dealing with the frost on your car windows before they warm up. Fortunately, you can easily defrost your windows in 30 seconds with this simple car window defrosting trick.

Why do people warm up their car?

Now if warming up your car in winter is actually terrible for your engine, why did people even do this in the first place? According to USA Today, this practice comes from the use of cars with carburetors—a fuel delivery system that preceded fuel injection that did require warming up beforehand. Some people would have to wait up to ten minutes before even getting into a car, deeming it safe enough to drive with a warmed up engine. Nevertheless, cars and technology have drastically changed since the 1960s, which means this old practice is no longer required.

Instead, just give it a minute and start with an easy drive. Flooring it right away obviously isn’t the solution, but easing yourself into a drive will help to warm your engine faster than you originally thought.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman