Why You Shouldn’t Idle Your Car When It’s Cold

Leaving the car idling when it’s cold outside can shorten the life of the engine.

Winter is officially here, and winter storms are hitting many parts from United States.

In freezing temperatures, it is a common practice for many drivers leave your cars heating for a few minutes before hitting the road. Some vehicles even have a preset feature that allows drivers to remotely start their cars.

But a VERIFY viewer wants to know if doing so can damage your car’s engine.

THE QUESTION

Can warming up your car before driving in cold weather damage the engine?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, warming up your car before driving in cold weather can damage the engine.

WHAT WE FOUND

It’s true that warming up gasoline-powered vehicles before driving them in cold weather can damage the engine, according to Firestone Complete Car Care Y Toyota Intelligent Enginesa dealership based in Madison, Wisconsin.

“If you’re one of the many drivers who thinks it’s important to start your car and let it sit for a while before hitting the road in wintry weather, you could be doing more than good damage to your engine,” says Firestone.

in a blog post on your websiteSmart Motors Toyota says that idling your car in cold temperatures can shorten the life of your engine by removing oil from the engine’s pistons and cylinders, two critical components that help your engine run, Stephen Ciatti, Ph.D. , lead battery systems engineer at PACCAR, said Business Insider in 2016.

“Less oil means more friction, more wear and a shorter life for your engine,” says Firestone.

While some people let their cars idle to warm up the interior, others may be trying to protect their engine due to outdated guidance.

Firestone and Smart Motors Toyota say that most cars made before 1980 needed to “warm up” when it was cold. This is because older car models had carburetors that regulated the air-fuel mixture inside the engine and could not fine tune the air-fuel ratio in cold weather.

“In cold temperatures, carburetors couldn’t vaporize all the gasoline they let into the engine, so some of it stayed as a liquid instead of burning during combustion. To work properly, a carburetor needs to get hot or else you risk seizing,” says Firestone.

But times have changed since the 1980s. Today, virtually every automobile sold in the United States has an electric fuel injection system that helps maintain the perfect mixture of air and fuel needed for a combustion event, regardless of ambient temperature, according to Firestone and Smart Motors Toyota.

Rather than waiting for your car to warm up in the winter, most manufacturers recommend driving gently after about 30 seconds because the engine warms up faster when the car is being driven, according to US Department of Energy.

“This means your driving routine on a cold day should look like this: bundle up, start the car, scrape the ice off the windows and mirrors, get in the car, and off you go!” Firestone says.

Just make sure you don’t accelerate too fast or rev the engine too high the first few moments you start driving in the cold.

“This can add unwanted stress to the bearings and flood the combustion chamber with gas, which, in turn, will reduce the life of your engine,” says Smart Motors Toyota.

For electric vehicle owners, who do not have traditional motors, the above information does not apply, according to a blog post on the NAPA Auto Parts website. Instead, NAPA advises EV owners to warm up their cars before unplugging them because it can help preserve battery range.

“Electric vehicles have to use electricity to heat the interior. If you get into a car with a cold cabin and start driving, the vehicle will need to draw from its stored electricity to bring the interior air to a comfortable temperature. This will strain the EV’s battery and leave you with less driving range,” says NAPA.

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