Do You Think Your Car Needs a Winter Warm Up?

Be Ready For Winter With These Winter Car Tips
Winter and cars.

You’re wrong; here’s why.

Facebook is a funny place. I logged on the other day and saw some friends arguing about the merits of warming up your car engine in winter.

There seems to be a huge misconception surrounding this issue. Short version: warming up your car accomplishes nothing. You are wasting gas. If you want to know why, keep on reading.

Out with the old car ways and in with the new

Let’s have a quick history lesson. Old car engines were made of mechanical parts like carburetors. When those parts were adjusted properly, they ran in harmony. This is where the phrase “tune-up” came from.

New car engines don’t have any of that stuff. They are controlled by a computer. Mechanical parts were replaced with sensors and relays. In other words, there is nothing to “tune up.” Marketing has done a terrible job of educating drivers about this issue.

Everyone thinks cars need to be warmed up, because they did in the past. If you have a car that’s 30+ years old, it might have a carbureted engine. In that case, you should warm up your car when it’s cold. Otherwise, your engine would stall. Modern cars don’t have this issue. Their sensors are smart enough to tell when it is cold outside.


Skip the long warm up and save gas.

Save fuel , your engine and the environment

There’s no good reason to let your car idle in the driveway. You’re burning gas, harming your engine, and damaging the environment. It’s best to hit the road within one or two minutes of starting your car. Engines warm up more effectively when they’re actively working. That means clear your windshield, buckle your seatbelt, and get moving, pronto!

Remote starters are tempting. You can start your car from underneath your bed covers. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe that’s why so many people let their car warm up for 10, 20, or 30 minutes. That would be easy. No one hops out of bed and goes straight to work. You have to brush your teeth, shower, get dressed, brew coffee, fix breakfast, read the newspaper… and then you get in the car and it feels like a sauna!

Sound familiar? Change your routine. Starting the engine should be the very last thing on your to-do list. Don’t touch your remote starter until you’re ready to walk outside. You might be thinking, “But I don’t warm-up my car for engine performance. I do it, because it’s too stinking cold!” Valid point, but please remember the consequences of excessive idling. It impacts your fuel economy, engine performance, and environment in a negative way. Is it worth it? I don’t think so.


Don’t warm up the car, just bundle up! Photo by Terri Marshall for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

Cut down your warm-up time but don’t forget to bundle up

Bundle up. Gloves, scarves, and hats will keep you warm. Don’t forget the power of layering for winter. Toss a blanket in your back-seat. If you ever get stranded, you’ll be glad it’s there. For brownie points, buy a heated car seat cushion. Get warm by any means necessary, because you have an urgent mission: cut your warm-ups to two minutes or less. It won’t be fun at first, but you’ll thank me later. I promise.



Master mechanic, automotive expert and teacher, Audra Fordin is the author of End Auto Anxiety, CEO of Women Auto... More about Audra Fordin