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john65pennington's avatar

What are the pros and cons of warming your cars engine, before taking off in it?

Asked by john65pennington (29187points) January 8th, 2011

First of all, in my state, it’s a law violation to leave your automobile’s engine running and unattended. Cars thieves love cold weather. My question concerns a century-old debate on whether to warm your cars engine, before taking off in it. Most mechanics state it’s not necessary, that about 30 seconds is sufficient for the engine oil to circulate. I am no mechanic, but I believe my procedure is the reason for my cars engine’s long longevity. In cold or warm weather, I start my cars engine and let it run until its tachometer reaches 1,000 rpms. I then shift into drive and on my way. My Toyota has 264,000 miles on its original engine. “A cars engine is like a human heart. You have to let both warm up, before running a race”. This has been my theory for 50 years of driving automobiles. Question: what’s your opinion? Do you let your cars engine warm-up before taking off or do you just start and go?

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10 Answers

faye's avatar

50 some years ago, my dad’s mechanic told him it was hard on a car’s engine to idle for more than a minute or so. But in Alberta, in the winter, I let my car idle at home longer so my heater will be hotter!!

mrlaconic's avatar

I do not warm up much more then a minute or so in warm weather.

In the winter, I do let my car warm up but my concern is not over the engine or tranmission (it probably should be) but rather getting the heat going so I don’t freeze and to help the de-icer get the sheet of ice of my windows.

Arbornaut's avatar

Most of the damage done to engines is from heating and cooling, a typical petrol engine gets about 250 000kms before it needs a rebuild. Taxis and commercial vehicles will do far more than this though, because they are always running warm without stopping and starting.
I think its better to warm up the car when possible, metal contracts and expands with heating and cooling so i guess it makes sense to allow the block to heat up before slamming the pistons about when you put the foot down.

SavoirFaire's avatar

My father taught me that old cars needed this warming up, but that new cars do not. His recommendation, which I have always followed, is to let the car run for 30 seconds and then just drive slowly for a little bit (“which you should be doing anyway until you’re out of the neighborhood,” he said). The exception was for subzero weather, in which I was taught to wait about three minutes before driving (“the length of a song on the radio”).

My father is not a mechanic, but he’s never led my astray and his cars have always lasted a long time despite the fact that he lives in a place where it snows for a little more than half the year.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard that when it gets REALLY cold, like below zero a ways, taking off without warming the engine runs the risk of the engine block cracking from the drastic change in temperature.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

The manual for my new car specifically states that letting the car warm up isn’t necessary.

Arbornaut's avatar

New cars are also designed for a lifetime of around 5 minutes.
How many ‘Classic” cars do you see for the future out of the last ten years production?
They don’t build em like they used to.

Cruiser's avatar

Summer time…start and go. Winter time….start 10 minutes early before departing and a nice toasty car awaits! Change the oil regularly and for the most part, no worries about how you start it.

zenvelo's avatar

@Arbornaut “classic” cars have odometers that rolled at 100K. Modern cars roll at a million. I rarely heard of a car turn 100,000 until the 1980s.

To the original question, on Car Talk they often mention that modern cars don’t need to be warmed up unless in extremely cold conditions, as @incendiary_dan describes.

Seelix's avatar

In Northern Ontario, it’s pretty much necessary to warm up the car sometimes. When it gets to -40C, the car doesn’t really run nicely if you just start it and go. (I don’t know anything about cars, so I don’t know what it is that’s too cold, I just know it doesn’t feel right.)
Cars sold in the north almost always have block heaters, though, so they can be plugged in overnight in the winter. It’s nice to let it run for a few minutes anyway, just to warm up the interior a bit.

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