Car Warming: Debunking the Myth

I really can’t stay… baby its cold outside. I’ve got to go away… baby its cold outside! Those words are the words of our freezing cars in the winter. Common folklore tells us that it’s better to wait and allow our vehicle to warm up before we use it, but is that thinking actually correct? The Hinkle Charitable Foundation talks about 3 myths that are commonly associated with vehicles and warming them up before driving off. First and foremost:

Myth 1: Cars should run in an idling mode for several minutes before being driven.

Related Article: Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative

The foundation proposes that simply driving gently helps warm up the engine in seconds rather than letting the car sit on and idle. In fact, by idling you are mostly just wasting gasoline and straining the engine.  Not to mention the increase in CO2 emissions! Which brings us to myth number 2.

Myth 2: Each time you start your car you waste more gasoline than if you let it idle.

Actually, the opposite is the case. When the car is idling you are wasting more gasoline than you do starting it up. The amounts aren’t great, but over time if you add them up you get significant differences. After a couple of tests listed by Natural Resources Canada, it was found that a 5 minute warming session increases fuel consumption by 7 to 14 percent and a 10 minute warming increased fuel consumption by 12 to 19 percent. The folks over in Ohio have made it illegal to idle and warm up their car… what?? Likewise, myth number 3 debunks the idea of allowing your vehicle to stay on while you pop inside for a quick visit.

Myth 3: Repeatedly restarting your car is hard on the engine and quickly drains the battery.

Related Article: Remote Control Cockroaches

Still not convinced? The EcoEnergy publication states that:

Even on the coldest of winter days, you can drive away after only 30 seconds of idling (provided your windows are defrosted).

Let us say you have your windows defrosted, you drive off and are on the road to your family’s but you forgot some flowers for your mother. You run inside the store quickly and leave your car running to conserve wasting gas on restarts. Wrong!

If you’re stopped for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. It has a minimal impact on the starter switch, and idling for over 10 seconds uses more fuel than it would take to re-start your engine

How about all of us that have a remote starter? Well…

Avoid using remote car starters. These devices encourage you to start your vehicle before you’re ready to leave, resulting in needless idling and wasted fuel.

Who would have thought? It would make sense to practice each myth with old vehicles, from the 20’s…. but we live in the new millennium! Cars have evolved past the point of the Model T and are efficient and able to handle much more than we give them credit for! So what should we really do?

At most, if it is freezing outside and you start your vehicle, let it idle for a minute or two max, then gently drive off and allow it to work itself into efficiency! And don’t worry, your oil will warm up as well; automobiles today are not so fragile that they will fall apart and quit without a truly good mechanical reason! So stay warm, stay safe, and mostly stay joyful this Christmas as your vehicle just warmed up in less time than it took for you to read this article. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!


Hinkle Charitable Foundation: Anti-Idling Primer

Natural Resources Canada

Warming Car in Ohio is Illegal EcoEnergy publication

Wondergressive: Remote Control Cockroaches

Wondergressive: Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative

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