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Experts: Stop warming up your vehicle in the cold

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 @ 11:15 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 @ 6:15 PM

STAFF PHOTO / MICHAEL PITMAN
STAFF PHOTO / MICHAEL PITMAN

A common practice in the cold, snowy weather may be doing damage to your vehicle.

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Some mechanics say getting your car toasty warm before you hit the road increases wear and tear on late model cars and trucks. 

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“Starting your car and letting it run for extended periods of time is not good for the engine, especially when it’s cold,” said Andrew Stewart, store manager for Grismer Tire in Centerville.

Unless your vehicle has a carburetor, which were phased out in the late 1980s, cold weather idling is doing damage.

“The colder the engine, the more fuel is required for the car to stay running,” Stewart said.

The fuel gets mixed in with the oil and can actually decrease the life of the engine over time.

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“Warming up your car before driving is a leftover practice from a time when carbureted engines dominated the roads,” according to Popular Mechanics. 

Not only is it potentially bad for your newer vehicle’s engine, it is illegal to leave a vehicle idling, unlocked and unattended in Ohio because it invites car thefts. (However, an exception may be a remote starter because the vehicle remains locked).

Stewart explained further, getting into News Center 7 consumer reporter Rachel Murray’s car and starting the engine.

“We are about a minute in, the car is still running at full rich mixture. It takes several minutes for the vehicle to realize that the air coming into the intake has gotten up to 40 degrees,” he said.

But to stay safe on the roads, Stewart said not to just start up your car and drive off immediately. There is a happy medium.

“Make sure that it’s warm enough for the windshield to not frost back over, and go to work, go to school, go wherever you need to go,” he said.

When temperatures dip into the teens, vehicle fluids thicken. AAA advises that a minute or two warmup is all that’s needed.