Do you warm up your car? Do you just twist the key and go? Have you been told that it's best to let your car warm up for a few minutes before you start driving? How long do you really need to let your car warm up?
Are you ready for the answer? All you need to do is let your car run for about 30 seconds and then you are good to go! Having said that, don’t start driving accelerating hard or aggressively at first. Your car isn't "warm" after 30 seconds, but your car will actually warm up more quickly if you start driving it after 30 seconds.
Back in the days when our cars had carburetors, yes you did need to warm up your vehicle prior to driving. This was because a carburetor is mechanical and it wouldn’t always adjust the air to fuel mixture properly thus making your car stall sometimes. 99.9% of our vehicles nowadays are fuel injected, which has been around since the late 80’s, early 90’s. So we don’t need to worry about the carburetor anymore since we don’t even have one.
Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and people continue to believe they need to warm up their car. In fact, the average amount of time that folks let their car warm up is around 5 minutes! Allowing your vehicle to run for an extended period of time has no benefit to your car, and it is unnecessarily burning fuel, costing money, and polluting the environment. It also doesn’t warm up your transmission fluid or your wheel bearings - they are still cold when you start driving, no matter how long you idle. If it’s a really cold, cold day Natural Resources Canada suggests you could let your vehicle run for up to 3 minutes maximum before driving.
If your vehicle comes with a block heater, that’s a good thing to use in the cold winter months. Set it up on a timer and have it come on 1 hour before you will be needing your vehicle. The block heater will warm up the engine block, saving tear on the engine components.
Even though you only need to let your vehicle run for 30 seconds, don’t forget that if you can’t see out your windshield when you are driving, that’s a problem! So take the time to properly clear snow and ice off your car. That means not only cleaning the windshield but the roof, side windows, hood, and rear tail lights - you don’t want to blind the driver behind you by trailing snow when you first start driving!
Race car driver, educator, safety advocate, TV personality, started racing cars at 17 years old and continued to race for 15 years. Now she works in the automotive industry, teaching women about taking care of their vehicles. She also teaches performance driver training with BMW as well as other manufacturers, keeps busy as a spokesperson for Be Car Care Aware, hosts ladies' Car Care clinics across Canada, and has recently launched a new consumer website
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