Idling an engine to warm it up before driving is a practice shared by many people worldwide. Many people believe this is necessary, and Americans idle their cars on average for 16 minutes per day. However, having the engine warm up while the vehicle is out of gear and stationary isn’t required, nor is it recommended due to the adverse effects it can have on the engine, your finances, not to mention, the environment.
You shouldn’t warm up your car in summer, as doing so has been unnecessary since the 1980s. The electronic fuel injection system replaced the carburetor during this time, negating the need for any pre-driving warm-up. Effectually, you can drive your car once you start the engine.
In this article, I’ll explain why warming up your car for extended periods is a wasteful practice. I’ll also discuss how to get your vehicle’s engine quickly in shape for its journey in any given season.
Many people believe it’s necessary to warm up their car in the winter, and although an understandable one, this is a misconception. Some people carry the assumption further and believe that warming up the engine in summer is also favorable for vehicles.
However, idling in summer comes with some consequences. Before you decide whether to carry on idling your engine, let’s take a look at some of these critical considerations:
Perhaps the biggest factor to consider in this case is the health and well-being of your car’s engine. Engine components such as spark plugs, cylinders, and the emission system, specifically, are all affected by excessive periods of idling over time. Ultimately, this decreases the life of your engine at a much faster rate, and you can expect to pay out more finance on engine maintenance if you constantly idle your vehicle.
The impact on your finances are significant, since you’re burning extra fuel in a world where gas prices have skyrocketed worldwide. Idling your car uses, on average, ½ a gallon per hour (source). When you add up this cost over the years, you might be shocked.
Car emissions can have a direct impact on our personal health and well-being. Exhaust fumes contain pollutants linked to many diseases, including asthma, cancer, and lung disease. These pollutants primarily affect children whose lungs are still in the development stage.
It only leads to pollution emitting from the exhaust when you idle your vehicle, and idling the engine for 10-15 minutes in any season will only increase your emissions. Undoubtedly, any environmentally-conscious person will be embarrassed to find out the pollution they’re responsible for.
Starting your car in summer is as easy as ABC. No practices are necessary to help you get more out of your engine. All you have to do is follow this straightforward process when you’re ready to drive:
- Start your engine once you get in your vehicle. The time it takes you to buckle up and put on your favorite radio channel is ample time for any modern car to get suitably warmed up.
- Drive gently for the first 5-10 minutes while the engine gets lubricated. You’ll feel the car slowly heating during these warm-up minutes. Gently braking during this time will also help your brakes to warm up. This is important when you consider the temperature that brakes can get to when stopping hard.
Idling in slow-moving traffic or at the lights is not always avoidable. However, there are times when you can limit your car’s impact, even when you are driving around.
You should stop your engine in a traffic jam if you’re stationary for more than ten seconds. The Environmental Defense Fund says turning off your engine is more fuel-efficient than leaving it running and battery drain from this practice is much less than the cost of wasted fuel over a year.
Fuel is much less efficient in winter. Unfortunately, this can’t be helped, and idling your car still only impacts your wallet. There are many reasons for this, including:
- Cold and thick engine oil
- Dense cold air affecting the aerodynamics
- Having to drive slowly in wintry conditions
- Having to drive a 4WD due to icy conditions
- Your engine needs a longer time to reach a fuel-efficient temperature.
You don’t need to warm up your car in the winter. In fact, idling your car is a bad idea in any season. Be it spring, summer, fall, or winter, idling is wasteful and unnecessary. When you idle your vehicle, you get zero miles per gallon. It’s all burned off into the environment, as is your money.
Idling your car in winter is worse than in summer because the engine has to work much harder to get itself to the optimum temperature. However, getting that engine going while you clear the ice and snow off your windshield only has the same impact as a summer start.
Start your car about 30 seconds before driving. There is no difference between starting in winter and summer, as cars still warm up faster when in motion than when idle. This also impacts the catalytic converter, which reduces emissions by 98% when at the optimum temperature. However, it won’t work as well if not adequately warmed, and idling your car in the driveway will be much slower and more tedious.
Just as in summer, start driving the car once you’re ready. Drive and brake gently at first while everything warms up.
There’s much to be saved financially and otherwise by stopping the act of warming up your car, whether it’s summer or any other season. Serial vehicle idlers may feel a little uninformed with all this in mind.
However, pride shouldn’t get in the way of good practice. Not only can you save money by stopping this practice, but you’ll also save time and contribute to protecting the environment.