Experts weigh in: Do you need to warm up your car in cold weather?
By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer
It's advice you've heard from your parents, coworkers and friends: You need to warm up your car before driving when it's cold outside.
But is that really true?
Most vehicles built before 1995 used a carburetor, a device that combined air and fuel. However, the U.S. automobile industry changed over to a fuel injection method in the 80s and 90s, eliminating the need for the carburetor.
With a carburetor, it was essential to let the car idle for minutes before driving it in order to make sure the engine would run properly. But with modern cars, it's not the engine itself that needs to be warmed up when it's cold outside.
Experts are torn on this issue. Some say the car can be driven immediately, just at a neighborhood speed. Others argue that cars need to idle for a couple of minutes to get the oil properly flowing.
"The oil is the lifeblood of the engine," Joseph Henmueller, president and COO of Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association, said.
Henmueller suggested that cars should idle one to two minutes before driving in cold weather. When temperatures drop to freezing, or when it's cold enough that windshields will frost over, the oil needs to warm up before it can move smoothly throughout the car.
"Fluids get thicker when it is cold, so to lubricate properly they need 60 to 120 seconds of the engine running," he said.
Without properly letting the engine run, Henmueller said, you may be cutting your engine's life short.
Experts at Penzoil have a different theory.
How to drive safely when roads are covered with snow and ice
Experts debunk 4 winter driving myths
Expert explains whether you should opt for all-season or winter tires
Tips to avoid breaking or damaging windshield wipers in inclement weather
5 ways to prepare your car for winter
Life-saving items to keep in your car in case a winter emergency happens
Technical Advisor Shanna Simmons said it is a myth that engines need to idle on a cold winter day.
"While it does take longer for motor oil to pump in extreme cold temperatures, we are talking milliseconds, not minutes," she said. "Your engine will warm up the oil much faster when driving at full speed — not to mention idling wastes gas."
The Environmental Protection Agency lines up with those who say warming up your car is not only not helpful but is wasteful.
Both the EPA and Energy.gov say a car should not idle for more than 30 seconds at a time. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but also cost-effective. Idling for 30 seconds actually uses more fuel than restarting the car.
In major cities, officials restrict how long the average driver can idle his/her car. Minneapolis, for example, limits the length of idling to three minutes, barring some exceptions (when it is below zero degrees Fahrenheit or higher than 90, idling is permitted up to 15 minutes an hour).
Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Boston have similar regulations. Those caught idling for too long can face a fine.
All experts agree that drivers should take it easy in the first few minutes of driving. Henmueller suggested driving no more than 45 miles per hour for the first five to 10 minutes.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 10:15:42 AM EDT
Surrounded by mountain ranges and reachable only by a treacherous, mostly-dirt road, this special place has turned up some of the most extraordinary fossil discoveries in North America.
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 9:32:37 AM EDT
Ivo is expected to become the eastern Pacific Ocean's newest hurricane by the end of the week.
Weather News - August 21, 2019, 5:43:43 PM EDT
On a busy Monday afternoon in Sao Paulo, residents suddenly found themselves left in the literal dark, which lasted for a little more than an hour.
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 9:33:46 AM EDT
The United Kingdom is set to warm up this weekend, reaching the highest temperatures of the month in time for the upcoming summer bank holiday.
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 11:49:43 AM EDT
Many Americans are paying more to keep cool, but the peak of hurricane season has brought much worse in the recent past.
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 11:47:40 AM EDT
Following slow-moving downpours along the upper Gulf coast this week, a new surge of tropical moisture will lead to a proliferation of downpours and the risk of flooding along the Gulf coast as well as the interior South this weekend.
Weather News - August 21, 2019, 2:36:23 PM EDT
At a glance, they may look like torpedoes, but they're actually robots and two were recently sent on patrol in the fourth-largest Great Lake to help combat a perennial problem there.
Weather News - August 22, 2019, 11:48:47 AM EDT
Following the formation of Chantal, there are several other signs of development in the Atlantic and some locations close to the United States bear watching.