The truth about warming up your car in the winter

January 21, 2015 05:55 PM
When the temperatures are so cold it's hard for drivers to feel their limbs, the last thing they want to do is spend time in a freezing vehicle waiting for the interior to warm up. Many people choose to leave their car idling to avoid this situation, as they can then take comfort inside as their windows defrost and engine begins humming. However, this commonly accepted practice may not be as helpful as originally thought. Does idling matter? According to the Car Care Council, idling is not an essential task for most of today's drivers. Although many people believe that the engine needs to "warm up" during cold spells, that's simply not the case, as the system is designed to run smoothly at low temperatures. The source noted that older vehicles, which used carburetors, did need to idle before hitting the road. New materials and building strategies have made this obsolete. So long as drivers get regular fuel injection cleaning and ensure all systems are operating at a high level, they should have no problem pulling right out onto the road after turning the key in the ignition. "Unless you are trying to defrost the windshield or warm the interior of your car, idling is not required for today's vehicles," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "In most cases, idling longer than 30 seconds is unnecessary. The best way to warm up your car's engine is to drive gently at the start. Remember, a vehicle gets zero miles per gallon when idling, and the result is lower fuel economy and wasted money." The impact of idling Idling can actually be quite harmful to a car as well as its surroundings. The Environmental Protection Agency noted that idling vehicles emit a significant amount of carbon dioxide, which pollutes the environment and harms air quality. These negative effects are in addition to the waste of gas it leads to, as well as the potential need for more auto repair on the impacted systems. That's something that all budget-conscious drivers will want to be aware of. "When a car idles for more than 30 seconds, it has several negative effects, such as increasing air pollution unnecessarily, wasting fuel and money, and causing excessive wear or even damaging a car's engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system," the EPA stated online. "Contrary to popular belief, idling isn't an effective way to warm up most car engines." There may also be another unintended consequence of idling: theft. People who leave a car running unattended put themselves at risk for criminal behavior. Not only could unsavory individuals break into the vehicle and steal any possessions left inside, but they could take the car itself. What are your options? Although idling is generally frowned upon by professionals, some people may find it necessary. Situations where it takes a long time to defrost windows or the interior needs to be warmed up, such as when there's a senior citizen or young child as a passenger, might require some type of idling. Drivers can reduce the risks associated with this by staying with their vehicle at all times. If that's not a viable option, they may want to look into having an auto repair franchise install remote starters. These devices will warm up a car without the key in the ignition and require a key to be inserted before the vehicle can drive away. That effectively eliminates the risk of theft, but still leaves the door open to vehicle maintenance and environmental issues. Ultimately, motorists should be smart and make informed choices, doing what's best for themselves and their cars.
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