Thursday, January 15, 2009

I don't know how long I'm supposed to warm up my car, or why.

It's cold here. It's cold across most of the top half of the United States, but it's seriously cold here. It's cold enough that the current temperature of 3F feels significantly warmer than the -5F it was when I first got up this morning.

I need to drive down to the Portland area this afternoon, and as always I'm grateful for my Beetle's excellent heating system. What I don't know, however, is whether, why, and how long I need to let the car warm up in this weather.

"Warming up the car" is a memory from childhood; we never lived very far north, but I remember my Grandpa Lamb doing it in the Bronx one December morning in 1969. Once in a great while, it would be cold enough in Fairfax that Mom would warm up the car.

Sometimes, it's a practical necessity: I need to turn on the defrosters so I can scrape the ice and snow off my front and back windshields. But other times, I don't wait to let the car warm up; I just drive it away.

Am I damaging the car by doing this? How long am I supposed to let the car warm up, and what's the theory behind this?


Anonymous said...

According to Car Talk- not as long as you may think. Todays engines use lower viscosity oils so the coat the engine faster in cold weather.


Anonymous said...

You comment box truncated the web address


AnswerGirl said...

Both links worked for me, Richard. It confirmed what I suspected -- thanks!

Anonymous said...

Warming the car up for me serves two purposes:

1.) I'm too lazy and hate the cold too much to scrape.

2.) I want the car warm by the time I head out to work. Of course, I take the bus now, so I just suck it up, scrape and drive the 1/2 mile to the bus stop I'd normally walk in warm weather.

My little Neon takes long to warm up because, as I discovered, the thermostat is stuck in an open position. Which beats the alternative. I'll fix it in the spring.

Larry said...

We are enjoying(?) some nice Maine weather in St. Louis. Thanks for sharing.

Warming up your car is a good idea, 5-7 minutes should do. The engine works harder when its cold, so a pre-warm is benefitial. To boot, the heater kicks in much quicker once you're inside and driving.

As for the witch, I work with one and could ask if you like...

100rkb said...

warming up your engine when you start your car is wasting gas, unless you can't see out your car windows or are less than a minute drive from a highway. Drive slowly through local streets and you will save gas.