Do You Need to Let Your Vehicle Warm Up?
Is Idling Bad for the Engine?
Living in Montana, you probably don’t jump into your vehicle in the dead of winter, crank it over, and take off down the road (unless you’re running very late). Instead, most people will start the vehicle and often go back inside to finish their coffee and gather their things for the day. Vehicles run better when they’re warmed up first; in fact they need to be warmed up… right?
The truth is, not really. Most modern vehicles (those built after the year 2000) don’t run any better when you’ve given them plenty of time to warm up. However, when the air has that arctic chill to it, you may still need a couple minutes to get the warmth flowing. Here are a few of the myths and facts around letting your vehicle warm.
Motor Oil Moves Slower at Cold Temperatures
One of the modern reasons for letting the vehicle warm up is to get that oil warmed so it can properly lubricate. Oil most slower at cold temperatures after all!
There’s some truth to this, but not a whole lot. Yes, oil does move slower when it’s cold. But the difference between warm oil and cold oil is a matter of milliseconds, not enough to make a big difference.
Myth: You need to warm the oil in the vehicle. Fact: The oil moves freely and warms quickly enough to do its job.
Warming Your Vehicle is Bad for the Engine
There’s a lot of information out there that says you are damaging your modern engine by letting it warm up.
The idea is that your modern fuel injected vehicle is pushing in more gas in order to fire properly. Gas is a solvent and can end up breaking down the oil around the pistons and cause the engine to wear out faster. When the engine temperature gets above 40 degrees, the vehicle moves to a leaner mixture of gas and oil. Driving the vehicle will get it to 40 degrees faster than letting it idle.
Myth: Warming your vehicle is bad for the engine. Fact: Letting the engine idle is going to cause undue stress on it.
The Engine Needs to be Warm Before Driving
You don’t want to be driving down the road and have your vehicle just shut off because you didn’t get it warmed up!
Before the mid-1990’s, vehicles were built with carbureted engines. The carburetor adjusted the mixture of gas and air so that you could run the engine. Colder temperatures meant that you needed more gas to get the engine started until the heat from the engine could assist in vaporizing the fuel. Modern vehicles automatically adjust for temperature, and will run just fine without letting the engine warm.
Myth: The engine will shut off if you drive before it’s warm. Fact: Unless you have a carburetor, your engine will compensate.
It’s Cold Out, Let the Heater Blast
Driving while cold is miserable. Plus, it’s dangerous to fog up the inside of the vehicle and not be able to see.
Warming up the vehicle lets you get into warm rig and not have to wear your big poofy coat because the thermometer hasn’t gotten above 0 degrees in the last 24 hours.
Myth: No myth here, it is legitimately cold. Fact: Let the vehicle warm up for 5 minutes so you’re safe on the road.
Big Sky Collision Center Fixes Vehicles
On the icy roads of winter, a lot of vehicles come through our shop. There’s one factor that is consistent across almost every vehicle we work on: the tires are worn out.
Take a minute to see if your tires are up to the challenge of winter driving in Montana. If they need to be replaced, it’s worth the cost to avoid an accident.
If you have been involved in a wreck, give us a call at 406-259-6328 and we can get you on the schedule to have your vehicle restored to full factory safety standards.