Should you warm up your engine by letting your car idle in the winter? – Business Insider
- Car manufacturers don’t have consistent advice on how long you should idle your car in the cold.
- So it’s no wonder mechanics don’t all agree on the subject, either.
- Generally speaking, idling your car for about 30 seconds when it’s cold can help it run smoothly.
It’s cold outside and you’re running late. Is it OK to just start your car and go, or should you wait for the engine to warm up a bit before hitting the road?
This winter, I’ve often found myself in this predicament and it’s made me wonder whether my impatience — and poor time management — is taking a toll on my car, or the environment.
So, I did what anyone might do: I called my mechanic. Then for good measure, I called a second mechanic. To my surprise, they had completely different pieces of advice.
One said to idle the car for three to five minutes before driving while the other said I didn’t need to wait at all. I called a third mechanic to settle the matter, but he merely told me something entirely different, which was to wait 30-60 seconds.
At that point, I was on a mission. I called half a dozen mechanics across half a dozen states for some semblance of clarity. I got recommendations that ranged from 0 seconds to 10 minutes.
Why all the confusion?
Massive snowstorm hit Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on January 25, 2023. The storm is expected to drop between 20-25 centimeters total snowfall accumulation across the Greater Toronto Area and officials are calling the most significant winter storm of the season so far.
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images
It’s no wonder there’s confusion. But, let me first say it’s not because of the common myth: that cars before the 1980s ran on carburetors, which had to be warmed up for several minutes in the cold or they would stall out, and therefore modern engines need the same (they don’t).
It’s true carburetor engines and the cold don’t get along, but it’s not why the more than 30 mechanics I spoke with couldn’t agree on how long I should warm up my 2013 Honda Civic. They obviously knew my Honda doesn’t have a carburetor.
The confusion falls somewhat on car manufacturers.
In a report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researchers compiled idling recommendations from owner’s manuals across various makes including Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, BMW, Lincoln, and many more.
Some manufacturers lacked any advice on idling time — my Honda’s owner’s manual falls into this category. Others like Ford and Chevrolet recommended idling for no more than 30 seconds after starting.
Whereas Infinity and Nissan advised idling for at least 30 seconds. And Toyota suggested idling for “some dozens of seconds” — …….