Many of us have memories of early mornings in a cold car, waiting for the engine to “warm up” before beginning to drive. And back then, it made some sense. But if you’re warming up your car for more than a minute today, you’re probably just wasting petrol, money, and time.
How long should I warm up my car?
Most vehicles built after 1980 don’t need to be warmed up for more than 30 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In fact, they say that idling your car can “use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use.” The 30-second rule is also recommended by most manufacturers.
The engine of the car will actually warm up faster while you try to get to your destination while driving it, rather than sitting idle. Keeping your car idle for any longer won’t provide any tangible benefits — you’ll just be throwing your hard-earned money away by wasting petrol and time. It could even damage your car.
“Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust systems,” according to Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “Many components of the vehicle — including the wheel bearings, tires and suspension system — will warm up only when the vehicle is moving. You need to idle no more than 30 seconds to get the oil circulating through the engine.”
Where did the idea of “warming up your car” come from?
When I first started to learn how to drive, my parents were the ones who told me to warm up my car during the “cold” winters. And as a good son and responsible driver, I didn’t question it. Most current drivers probably have a similar story. The thing is, most of our parents probably learned to drive on cars older than 1980, when most cars had carburetor engines. Those types of cars needed to be warmed up to work well, otherwise the engine could stall, according to JD Power, so most of our parents would have to sit in their cars for about 10 minutes waiting for it to warm up. And during winter, the oil they used would travel slower and take even longer.
Today, cars are equipped with fuel injection systems that require very little time to be properly lubricated. Just remember not to rev up the engine too hard until the temperature gauge moves off the cold reading, according to Consumer Reports.
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