Is it advisable to warm up a vehicle prior to driving it in very cold winter conditions? I would like to know the pros and cons of this including whether driving a vehicle in the cold without warming it up first is hard on it mechanically or could cause potential damage. Please apply to all vehicles made within the last 15-20 years.
Warm up a vehicle prior to driving it in very cold winter conditions?
Yes. I would advise allowing the vehicle to warm under VERY cold conditions. That being said, the vehicle manufacturers have put in place many sensors on the vehicle that allow for not warming it prior to driving. These sensors calculate the temperature and fluctuate the demand influenced on the vehicle. This allows for uninterrupted performance in hot or cold weather. 1995 – 2000 are not quite as good as the newer vehicle operating systems but are adequate none the less.
Metal expands, aluminum expands at a different rate than cast iron. But as long as there is enough lubrication at the friction points of the engine, little to no harm is done. It takes a long time for a properly lubricated engine to show signs of damage. On the other hand, the transmission will render more damage under different climate conditions than the engine. However the later model cars are manufactured using synthetic lubrication in the transmissions now that help. So the weakest point in the car is the transmission under any weather condition.
Mechanical parts will perform their best in the engine and transmission once warmed to normal operating temperatures. The damage that will occur is almost immeasurable in short term.
Pros and Cons of warming your vehicle in cold temperatures
- The engine oil will lubricate at its best once warmed
- The vehicle will be nice and comfy warm
- Windshield will be defrosted if applicable
- Windshield wipers will perform better
- The windshield will most likely have frost on it making it difficult to see
- Not optimal for engine lubrication
- Fuel consumption
- Exhaust fumes, especially when vehicle is parked in a garage
What others have to say about warming the vehicle in cold weather
“The oil is the lifeblood of the engine,” Joseph Henmueller, president and COO of Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association, said.
Henmueller suggested that cars should idle one to two minutes before driving in cold weather. When temperatures drop to freezing, or when it’s cold enough that windshields will frost over, the oil needs to warm up before it can move smoothly throughout the car.
“Fluids get thicker when it is cold, so to lubricate properly they need 60 to 120 seconds of the engine running,” he said.
Without properly letting the engine run, Henmueller said, you may be cutting your engine’s life short.
Experts at Penzoil have a different theory.
Technical Advisor Shanna Simmons said it is a myth that engines need to idle on a cold winter day.
“While it does take longer for motor oil to pump in extreme cold temperatures, we are talking milliseconds, not minutes,” she said. “Your engine will warm up the oil much faster when driving at full speed — not to mention idling wastes gas.”
The Environmental Protection Agency lines up with those who say warming up your car is not only not helpful but is wasteful.
Both the EPA and Energy.gov say a car should not idle for more than 30 seconds at a time. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but also cost-effective. Idling for 30 seconds actually uses more fuel than restarting the car.