There’s a “you’re doing it wrong” meme that’s showing some strong staying power these days: You don’t need to warm up your car when it’s cold – in fact, if you do, you could harm your engine.
The engineering behind this revision of what many folks have been told their whole lives is solid, and you can watch this Business Insider video to get the lowdown.
Modern cars don’t use carburetors to blend the fuel-air mixture. They use electronic fuel injection, so a warm-up in cold weather isn’t mechanically necessary.
But here’s the thing: If you can’t run your modern car for 10 minutes or so when it’s cold, you should be asking some serious questions about the supposed advanced state of automaking in the 21st century. It’s possible that the old-school warm-up would marginally degrade your engine oil, but in 35 years of driving I’ve never heard of or experienced this.
Bottom line: Your car should be able to handle some serious extremes of temperature, as long as you aren’t spending a lot of time in Death Valley or the Arctic Circle.
Here’s why I often warm my car up when it’s cold – in fact, why I have been avidly warming up my car since it began to get a bit frosty in the Northeast:
- I want a nice warm car to drive in. I want the seat heaters to be good and hot. I want the steering-wheel heater to be all fired up. I want any snow or ice that’s accumulated on the windows to be easy to remove.
The first three are about comfort; the last one is about safety. Plus, I think a warm and comfortable driver is a much safer driver than one who is hunched and shivering and has to wear gloves.
Additionally, you won’t waste all that much gas with a warm-up at idle. You’d have to run the engine for an hour to burn a gallon.
So go ahead, warm up your car! It’s getting colder in much of the US. Warm away!