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Winter Woes: Warming Up Your Car For Longer Than A Minute is a No-No

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AP Photo/Hazleton Standard-Speaker Ellen F. O'Connell
You can say goodbye to the days when you used to shuffle towards your car in early winter mornings with your thermos flask and turn on the heat, waiting for the engine to warm up. But back then it made perfect sense since gas did not cost you a limb and a half. However, today with the price of gas soaring to unthinkable heights, warming up your car for more than a minute sounds like a perfect way to waste your money and gas. 

How long should you warm up your car?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “most vehicles built after 1980 don’t need to be warmed up for more than 30 seconds”. They also add that “idling your car can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use.” Most vehicle manufacturers also recommend the 30-second rule.  In fact, in a twist of irony, the engine of the car will actually warm up faster while driving it, rather than idling your car. There are no assured benefits of keeping your car idle for any longer than 30 seconds. Instead, you end up losing your precious time, money, and gas. To add to that, it could even damage your car which could lead to monetary loss for repair. “Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust systems,” according to the 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.”

Origin of the idea of “warming up your car”

The most commonly heard story is that they learn to warm up their cars during winter from their parents. Parents who most probably learned to drive cars older than 1980, when most cars had carburetor engines. According to JD Power “those types of cars needed to be warmed up to work well, otherwise the engine could stall”, so most of their parents would usually sit in their cars for 10 minutes waiting for the engine to warm up. These days, cars have fuel injection systems that require little time to be properly lubricated, unlike the cars in the 1980. Consumer Reports says, “Just remember not to rev up the engine too hard until the temperature gauge moves off the cold reading”.

By Awanish Kumar

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