Tips from Used Car Advisor

Car Advisor Tamotsu Todoroki

Hi, this is Tamotsu Todoroki. I am a car advisor of
I write an online column every week to take care of your vehicle. My column is all about something useful and practical for your vehicle. Please have a look once to keep your car in good condition.


Should I Warm My Car Up Before I Drive? - Vol.97

It has to be one of the most frequently asked questions in the automobile category. Yet, there are many people who don't feel the need to ask this question because they regularly warm up their car's engine before leaving for work every day. Is that really necessary? And if not, then why do people still do it?
It all started back in the times when gas prices were not so high and cars had huge carburetors. That is why we all remember our parents, neighbors, uncles and ourselves idling the car while they went to finish their chores and run small errands. It was helpful for cars of that time, especially in winter, but not anymore. Here are a few reasons why.

Why is it not necessary?
The practice of warming up the car still continues today, but modern technology has made it utterly unnecessary. Instead of those huge carburetors, modern cars have Electronic Fuel Injectors. The new technology also incorporates the use of a computer which detects the temperature of the engine. If the engine is cold, the computer automatically signals the injectors to open up a little longer. This allows more fuel to enter the engine so that it can run even if it's cold.

Once the engine is running, it will hardly take a few minutes to warm up. This is because a car will warm up faster when driving, and not when it's idle. Once the engine reaches a normal temperature, the injectors will adjust the fuel flow back to normal.

Why is it Harmful?
The very first harm of idling your engine for the purpose of warming it up incurs directly on your wallet. According to a research in this aspect, if a driver warms up a V8 bearing car for five minutes every day, 20 gallons of gas would be wasted in a year. Now in the current economic conditions, who would want that?

Secondly, warming up the car in this manner can also have very harmful effects on the environment. Idling leads to incomplete combustion of fuel and results in the release of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The same V8 engine, running idle for five minutes will end up adding 440 pounds of carbon dioxide to the environment every year.

Similarly, it is injurious to health. While environmental pollution can eventually kill all of us, idling a car inside an indoor area such as a garage can actually kill the driver and passenger due to the amount of carbon dioxide it releases. Many pro-environmental campaigns have termed idling as second hand smoking on a large scale.

Finally, you are not even doing any good to your engine by warming it up the old school way. Modern exhaust systems include a device called the catalytic converter. Its major purpose is to burn the unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust stream. Here you must know that a cold engine produces more unburned hydrocarbons than a warm engine. This directly affects the mileage of your car, in a negative way.

The Right Way to do it?
As we have mentioned, driving a car will warm the engine up more efficiently than leaving it idle for fifteen minutes every day. In extreme cold winter, it is acceptable to start the car and let it run for merely five minutes before driving. It will get the fluids flowing. The engine will warm up as you drive. However, it is important to refrain from revving the engine before it warms up.

So, if you do it the right way, you'll get your car running smoothly and you will save the burden of pollution and resource-wasting.