How long to let car engine warm-up before driving in morning?

I have a manual transmission Honda that I’ve been driving the past two decades. Each morning I turn the ignition, the engine starts running, and I immediately take-off driving. I don’t let the engine warm up even two seconds before I release the parking brake & clutch to get moving .

Everyone I’ve seen over the years lets their engines idle for a minute or longer before driving in the morning. In the winter, they warm up the engine for several minutes before pulling away. Meanwhile, I hop in my car and am gone as soon as it starts!

A neighbor told me a long time ago I would ruin it by driving away from a cold-start. My philosophy has been: “The best way to warm-up a car is to drive it!” 20 years have passed and I haven’t had any problems.

Is there a basic amount of time that car engines NEED to warm-up in the morning?

Long enough to fasten my seatbelt.

NO set warm up time at all.
NO warm up time needed for the mechanicals.
Most winter warm ups are for the benefit of the people, not the machine.
Warming up the engine does NOT warm up the transmission, differential or wheel bearings. Only driving does that.

The only time we like to see is for the oil to get flowing everywhere in the engine and that takes mere seconds.
I start the engine as soon as I get in.
Then fasten the belt and see that passengers are too.
That’s enough time right there.

In winter I’m scraping snow off as the engine idles.
I have found in the winter that my breath will fog the inside windshield if it’s too cold still, so my warm up time is more for me than the truck.

Your philosophy is sound. I did let my vehicles warm up a minute or so when it was -40 degrees in Alaska and Maine…just to be on the safe side. Any other time it’s start and go for me.

At subzero temperatures it’s a good idea to let the engine warm some. Especially for one’s buns.
At normal temperatures above freezing, as long as it has time (less than a minute) to build oil pressure it’s fine.
Between subzero and freezing, it’s anybody’s guess. But remember that a defroster that’ll clear the windshield is as important as any bearing.

I too lived in subzero weather in North Dakota in the early '70s. My tranny fluid would get so thick overnight that I couldn;t feel the gates until I drove it a ways. Shifting was like drawing a paddle through cement. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

All I do is start the car first, then put the belt on and go. That’s enough except in extreme temps.

For most cars you only need to idle for a couple of seconds then drive away, some new cars such as the Skyactiv equipped Mazda3 will idle slightly faster in cold weather to warm up, the manual basically states you don’t need to warm up the car just drive it.

What really isn’t good for a cold motor is to rev it up just after it starts. On a manual transmission car there isn’t any need to warm the engine at all, just take off easy as you engage the clutch.

I see some drivers that rev the motor up just after it starts to make sure the motor catches and keeps running without stalling. This is a holdover from the old days of manual and automatic chokes. Current cars with fuel injection you just turn the key and don’t even touch the gas petal during the cold start sequence.

In this case the OP isn’t doing any harm to the car, as long as he drives it easy until the motor and transmission warm up. If it was an automatic transmission I like to let the motor idle for 30 sec to 1 minute before I engage the transmission into drive. One reason is to let the fast idle settle down a bit so the transmission doesn’t take such a jolt, and 2nd to give the transmission fluid a chance to circulate a bit. This idle time isn’t about taking care of the motor, rather taking it easy on the auto tranny.

I’m in agreement. It pretty much depends upon the outside temperature. But, to be realistic, warming up a car in the winter is more a question of making it comfortable for the driver and passenger then the car. I imagine that if it’s OK to drive a car immediately when the temperature is moderate for example, you shouldn’t have to wait much longer then the oil temps reaching something smilar and in reality, much less. My problem would not be how quickly you drive away, but how fast you drive before the rest of the working component lubes which DONOT have the benefit of a warm motor are reasonably warm…This would include the differential fluid and hydraulics etc. Hydraulic fluids in my tractor need substantial warm up time in cold weather to be safe to use. But, i think it’s more a function of the type vehicle and not true of cars in general. IMHO, it doesn’t hurt to drive slowly until the car warms up in real cold weather. I would not depend on a car operating properly in sub zero weather at 70 mph seconds after it was started. ( of course a Civic might take a little longer to reach that speed) That’s a big reason to use synthetics as much as possible in emergency vehicles.

I live on a road that restricts driving speed to less then 20 mph for over a mile. It insures a built in proper car warm period. For most cars and trucks, you can develope a sense when they are ready to drive hard with experience with them. Who can argue with 20 years of successful operation doing what you are now.

Exemption ! Don’t expect many diesels to be real drivable in very cold weather without a little more warm up.

Excellent points, Dag. I would add that in addition to comfort, the ability of the defroster to successfully keep the windscreen clear is also an important reason for giving the motor time to warm up some in cold weather. I’ve seen people drive away while scraping ice off the inside of the windscreen, and the very sight gives me the willeys.

If you park inside and use the right oil, it will take only 20 seconds for the oil to reach the valve gear. So, belting up and adjusting your mirror is all the time necessary for warm up. However, if you park outside in the winter without using an engine block heater, you should take longer and, as mentioned, enough time for the defroster to start working.

If you park inside and use the right oil, it will take only 20 seconds for the oil to reach the valve gear.

20 seconds? I think it takes a lot less then that!!!

How long it takes for the oil to get to the valve gear with newer filters with check valves which keep the oil in the upper galleries longer should take a lot less time ( then 20 seconds). . But, if the car has been sitting a long time, it’s my guess that it takes a bit longer. It is probably car dependent and it may take some older push rod motors more time. My guess is that one of the reasons newer motors have a longer life span even with greater oil change intervals, is the ability pass oil into vital areas more quickly. If a car has been sitting a long time in cold weather, I would be more careful about warm up for that reason too, especially with an older car. If you’re running your car daily, warm ups IMO, can be less of a problem then if you just drive it intermittently.

Sounds like you take off before oil hits the top of the engine. You might want to wait a little longer.

I think how long you drive after you start the engine in below freezing temp is more important than the warm up. I live four miles from work. If I don’t let the engine warm up before I go It never gets up to temp burning internal moisture from the repeated freeze thaw cycle and the oil will turn milky over time.

If you have a V-8 engine with dual exhausts and glass pack mufflers, be sure to rev the motor up well after starting it. This is particularly important when you start the car in the morning and have neighbors close by. This will impress them as you wake them up.

If you don’t have such a car, follow the advice given by the other posters.

And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

I lived in Wisconsin for a while and sometimes it would get to -20* F. When that happened, I would leave my car running long enough until I could see out my windows and I never had any issues. Otherwise, I just get in and go. My Mazda now has a blue light indicator that shows when my engine isn’t at temperature. However, the manual even says that you don’t need to wait until the light turns off to start driving and that driving will get it to temperature even faster just as you stated.

I’d do the same thing in Anchorage - until I got warm air out of the heater I’d keep the rpms down. But I’d still drive it.