If you’re one of the many Americans living in a frigid winter state, you know the feeling of hopping in a freezing car all too well. You’ve probably even heard the advice to let your car idle for a few minutes before jumping in to get the engine going, the windows defrosted and the car nice and toasty for you and the kids.
However, that advice is a little outdated…by about 30 years. Back in the day, all cars had carburetors that needed to be warmed up before they were driven. Around the late 1980s to early 1990s, manufacturers all switched to fuel-injected engines, which have sensors that adjust for cold weather.
And while it may not be necessary to fire up your engine ahead of time, many of us still do it because we like a cozy car right off the bat. Unfortunately, that can have negative consequences on your engine.
How Idling Affects Your Engine:
Idling not only wastes fuel, but it can strip oil from critical components that help your engine run.
Your engine works by utilizing internal combustion. Pistons compress a mixture of vaporized fuel and air in the cylinder. The compressed mixture then ignites to create a tiny, but powerful explosion that powers up your engine.
The problem comes in when you introduce cold weather. In the cold, gas is less likely to evaporate, which can throw off the vaporized gas to air ratio. However, fuel-injected engines combat the cold by pumping more gas out, until the engine reaches a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, extra fuel can get onto the cylinder walls, and because gasoline is a solvent, it can deteriorate the walls if you idle for an extended time.
So what can you do to combat this? Simply get in your car and go for a drive. Driving is the fastest way to heat your engine up, so it switches back to a normal fuel to air ratio. However, don’t go 0 to 60. It can take a few minutes for your engine to fully warm up, so your best bet is to start your drive nice and slow.
While the kids might not love the idea of hopping in a cold car on their way to Grandma’s for the holidays, it will give you peace of mind in the long run, knowing your engine is taken care of. To thwart off the cold, we recommend wearing warm jackets, gloves and even keeping an extra blanket for those first few minutes. After that, it’s smooth sailing.