When the temperature outside begins to drop, it’s easy to succumb to the allure of stepping inside a heated vehicle. Some drivers believe that letting the car warm up before driving is also beneficial to the engine. Is it, however, a good idea to warm up your engine before driving?
It takes five to fifteen minutes for your engine to heat up while you’re driving, so take it easy for the first half of your journey. Most performance cars have a graduated rev limit that keeps you from using the car’s full RPM range until the engine has reached operating temperature.
According to Consumer Reports Chief Mechanic John Ibbotson, allowing the engine to run for a minute before traveling on a chilly day is prudent, but there is no reason to let it run longer than necessary for warming the interior and defogging the windshield. And there is a true disadvantage: using gasoline and emitting pollution.
Long before it reaches peak working temperature, an engine is thoroughly lubricated. When you leave your automobile for a lengthy amount of time, the oil drains to the bottom of the oil pan. When you start the engine, the oil pump immediately circulates oil throughout the engine, lubricating all moving engine components. A cold engine idles at 1,200 rpm or higher, which speeds up the lubricating process. Allowing your engine to lubricate and being meticulous about periodic maintenance may help most contemporary engines last 200,000 miles or more.
With earlier engines, it was said that starting it was the worst thing you could do since for a split second such engines were fairly dry and weren’t well lubricated with oil.
Modern automobiles have advanced in technology to the point where your engine is fully oiled in 20 to 30 seconds. The engine may not be entirely warm by the time you get in, start the car, buckle up, and get settled, but it is thoroughly oiled, and you are ready to drive.
When the temperature drops in the winter, it’s a good idea to leave the car running for a minute. Some drivers like to let the engine idle for 20 minutes or longer to thoroughly warm everything—including the cabin—but driving is the quickest way to warm up an engine. Just remember not to rev the engine too much for the first few minutes of driving until the temperature gauge moves away from the cold reading.
In terms of comfort, driving the automobile warms it up in a matter of minutes rather than idling for 15 or 20 minutes. Idling for an extended period of time just consumes gas.
Chris Miller is an auto journalist who specializes in reviewing new cars and providing helpful advice on family vehicles. He has a passion for cars and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with others.