Do You Need to Warm Up Your Car Before Driving?

Almost everyone does this one particular thing for their car in the winter with the intention of helping it run better. But for most vehicles, this thing is absolutely unnecessary. What is it? Warming up your car before driving in cold weather. 


It’s true — most people don’t actually need to warm up their vehicles. One of the most widespread myths among car owners is that warming up a car is good for its health before hitting the road in cold temperatures. This was true for older car models, but only remains true for a couple models today. Read on to see if your car needs to be warmed up and if you can be saving money and reducing wear on your car — and on the planet.

Old Cars

One reason this myth is so widespread is that the practice was valid for older cars that were designed differently than today’s vehicles. The main reason that older cars needed to be warmed up was that they used a mechanism called a carburetor rather than modern fuel injectors. 


The way carburetors worked was that they essentially needed to be hot enough to vaporize fuel that would be supplied to the engine. If the carburetor was cold, the fuel would not be vaporized properly, and so it would not be supplied properly to the engine. As a result, the engine would run rough or stall.


If the car was run for a bit before driving, then the fuel would be heated and properly supplied to the vehicle. However, fuel injectors and innovations to oil composition help eliminate the need for this process.

Modern Gas-Burning Cars

These days, cars can easily start and run smoothly without a long warm-up process. But should they be warmed up at all? And if so, for how long?


Usually, a car does not need to be warmed up, even in cool weather. However, if the temperature is below freezing (or up to 40 degrees F), allowing the car to run for about 30 seconds is plenty to get things going. Allowing the car to run for longer simply burns more fuel, causes more wear and tear to the engine, and adds more pollution into the atmosphere. 


Of course, when the weather is colder, people might have to let their car run for longer than 30 seconds while they try to scrape the ice off the windshield, or simply allow the car to warm up in the interior for comfort. These activities are fine, but still remember that a car is still incurring costs and wear while idling. 

Electric Cars

While warming up a modern, fuel-injector possessing car is unnecessary, it is helpful to warm up electric cars before leaving home. Heating an electric car drains a lot of the battery — especially in the bitter cold.


To conserve battery life, it’s smart to warm up your car while it is still plugged in at home to avoid a low battery while out and about. Again, taking time to heat up your car before you leave will not necessarily improve driving performance. Instead, it will simply conserve battery life. 

What Option Is Right for You?

What kind of car do you have? What is the temperature? Do you need to scrape your windshield? 


Ultimately, these questions are what should determine whether to heat up your car before driving, and how long you should do so. For most people without electric cars, simply allowing your car to run for under 30 seconds in cold weather should be plenty. And by doing this, you can save gas, time and emissions. 


Do you have questions about warming up your car and how to care for it in the winter (or any season)? Contact us at Living the Dream. You can schedule an appointment online or call (339) 237-5151.

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