You love your car and have only the best intentions to make it last as long as possible. We get it, nobody wants to make a mistake that can cost money and a scheduling nightmare. So we wanted to get to the bottom of it. Is warming your vehicle up in the winter good or bad?
The US Department of Energy, AAA, and all automotive manufacturers agree, if your vehicle is newer than 1995 it’s not a good idea to warm your car up in freezing temperatures. The agreed-upon guidelines are that a driver should start their engine and allow it to idle only for the time it takes them to fasten their seat belt. Why?
Carburetors vs fuel injection
From the invention of cars until the mid-1990s most vehicles used a carburetor to deliver a blend of a suitable air-to-fuel ratio to the motor. Previous to the mid-1990s, starting a car in freezing temperatures required the driver to pump the gas pedal before and during turning the ignition key. This pumping action helped close the choke on the carburetor, lowering the amount of air and increasing the amount of fuel in the motor. Without allowing the vehicle to warm up, a carburetor would not be able to get the right mixture of air and fuel in the engine causing the vehicle to stall out. When the motor had warmed up, the choke was not needed to keep the vehicle running.
However, beginning in the late-’80s and early ’90s, automotive manufacturers began switching to fuel-injected engines. Fuel-injected engines have sensors that ensure the engine gets the perfect mixture of fuel and air, no matter the temperature.
If you must warm your car up, never warm it up in a garage. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and deadly amounts can build up in only a few minutes.
Do this instead of warming your car up:
Automotive manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Energy, and AAA all agree, in the winter months, the driver should start the car and gently drive off after about 30 seconds. The engine will heat up quicker, allowing the fluids to warm up faster, and as a bonus, you can turn on your heat quicker and save on fuel costs. The key to this is to avoid hard accelerations when your car has not reached its normal operating temperature.
And there you have it. If your vehicle has fuel injection you do not need to warm it up in cold temperatures.