Should You Warm Up Your Car in the Cold Before You Drive It?
It's about to get colder than a witch's you-know-what here in Maine soon, which means climbing into that car that's been sitting overnight is not fun. It ranks up there with living in a walk-in beer cooler without being able to drink the beer.
The solution to the cold of the car's engine and your body temperature is to start it up and let it run. But is that a good idea?
It might not be according to WXYZ-TV in Detroit. (Yes, those are their actual call letters.) The EPA says that driving your car will warm it up faster than idling it and that letting it run for 30 seconds is all that's needed to make sure that that oil that has been sitting like molasses in the cold, starts to flow to lubricate the engine.
Modern cars have computers that do the job of managing the engine to make sure it performs when even when it's cold out. Driving the car will generate heat more quickly and therefore warm up the inside of the car faster too.
Now the EPA is of course all about the environment. They don't want all those pollutants in the air, but Jason Torchinsky of jaloponik.com says that you have to think on a larger scale:
...if you idle for, say, three minutes, you're burning more fuel and polluting more. But if that three minutes heats up your oil and transmission fluid and prevents wear to your drivetrain, maybe your car will last, oh, 10,000 miles longer, which means more time to be used, which means less demand on the systems to make new parts or entire cars, less energy used, less fuel used in shipping, marketing, selling, etc. Keeping your car working well keeps it more efficient and less polluting as well.
Of course, if your windows are iced over, you're going to need to let it run for as long as it takes to be able to clear them so you can safely drive.
I always pretty much just get in my car and go, because when you have to get up at 4 a.m. to work, going out earlier to start your car just takes away precious sleep time.