There is an old school of thought that says warming up your vehicle on cold mornings is necessary in order to have it reach the correct operating temperature. In some places you can still see this take place with people warming their vehicles up for as much as thirty minutes before heading out and driving to work for the day. While this was at one time a good idea, with vehicles of today you no longer need to warm up your engine at all, you can instead start your car and go and it will warm up on the way, which is actually better for your car.
One reason this wisdom was passed down from generation to generation is because cars used to have carburetors. These parts needed several minutes of idling in order to run smoothly and needed to be brought up to the correct operating temperature so that the car could actually perform the way we needed them to. Now that we have engines which are fuel injected this is no longer a need. Instead of having the vehicle idle to come to the right temperature you can step in and drive, which will actually bring the vehicle temperature up sooner. Since there aren’t any carburetors used any longer you don’t have to worry about the temperature for the fuel injectors.
What happens with fuel injected engines when you idle them for longer periods of time is the engine isn’t able to reach the temperatures desired. When this happens the air and fuel mixture in the cylinders is going to be more liquid than vapor with causes the injectors to add more fuel to the mixture to ensure there is an adequate amount of fuel vapor in the cylinder for complete combustion. The problem is the gasoline, which is a solvent, can remove and clean off the cylinder wall because of more fuel being present than needs to be.
Another problem is the richer mixture can pass the pistons and mix with the oil causing the oil mixture to become diluted. This can cause the oil to be weakened and cause greater wear on the engine while also promoting and accelerating the oxidation of the oil. This means you will need to change the oil more often, will have more wear on your engine than you need and eventually have higher maintenance costs.
What should you do?
When its cold outside you can start the vehicle and wait as much as twenty seconds to ensure the oil is flowing but you don’t need to wait for the engine to reach the operating temperature. The engine will actually warm up much faster while you’re driving instead of at idle which make it easier for you to get in and take off when you’re ready to head off to work. The only precaution you need to make in order to protect your engine is to drive the car lightly as you start out with no hard accelerations.
On days when you need to scrape off your windshield the time it takes for you to have the windows clear enough for you to see outside is plenty of time for the oil to begin circulating and all the time you need to ensure your engine is ready to go. Don’t wait around for the duration that was the typical time when cars had carburetors, that isn’t going to help your engine and will actually cause your car to experience unnecessary wear and tear on the engine and eventually have to replace parts of the engine.
Keep in mind if you don’t have an older car that has a carburetor you won’t need to let the car warm up for a few minutes before you drive, this is most likely a practice that’s been passed down by previous generations in your family. Let your car warm for a few seconds and then head out to wherever you need to go for the day with the confidence of knowing your engine will be as protected as you can make it because you now know how you should drive on cold mornings. Check out this video for a more in-depth description.