Do You Need to Warm Up Your Car in Winter?

car covered in snow

In this post, we answer a question that has become more common recently: Do I need to warm up my car in winter?

The answer may surprise you.

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For many people, warming up the car first before driving on a cold day is just common sense. It’s just what you do in winter.

It’s what your parents told you to do when you got your first car. It’s what you’ve always done.

However, it turns out that this “common sense” may not be so sensible after all.

Both the Car Care Council and the Environmental Protection Agency advise against warming up your car and say it is unnecessary. 

“Unless you are trying to defrost the windshield or warm the interior of your car, idling is not required for today’s vehicles,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

From the EPA:

“When a car idles for more than 30 seconds, it has several negative effects, such as increasing air pollution unnecessarily, wasting fuel and money, and causing excessive wear or even damaging a car’s engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system. Contrary to popular belief, idling isn’t an effective way to warm up most car engines.”


Warming up your car before driving may have been good advice at one time, but in today’s modern cars, it is no longer necessary.


Why warming up your car is no longer necessary

Car stuck in snowAlmost all cars built before 1995 used a carburetor, which is the device in your vehicle that combines air and fuel.

Old cars with carburetors needed warming up on a cold day. If not, the carburetor might not be able to get the right mix of air and fuel in the engine, causing the engine to stall.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the auto industry started changing over to the electronic fuel injection method, and by the 1990s it was widely adopted, eliminating the need for a carburetor.

The change over to fuel injection made the problem of warming up the car before driving unnecessary because the fuel injection sensors monitor and adjust to temperature conditions.

This means warming up your car hasn’t actually been a necessity for your vehicle for over 30 years.

Still, this old practice still remains and is still even passed on as advice to people all the time, but it is no longer valid.



Low angle view to car tires.

If your car is not starting up on a cold day, it is likely because of a dad battery, frozen fuel line or a clogged injector.

Warming up your car in winter has no benefit to your car. Experts say that you should warm up the car no more than 30 seconds before you start driving in winter. “The engine will warm up faster being driven,” the EPA according to the EPA.

What does warming up your vehicle do? It wastes fuel, gives off greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution. It does nothing for your engine.

If your windshield needs defrosting, by all means, crank up the heat and defrost your windows before driving. But if you’re starting your car five minutes early because you think it’s good for your engine or car, you can stop.


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