Synthetic Oil and Cold weather

Probably a dumb question but here goes…Does it take longer for cars that owners use Synthetic or Synthetic Blend oils longer to warm up on cold mornings?

No, the warm-up time for a car’s engine is completely independent of the type of oil it uses.

I figured I’d ask. I don’t have problems starting my car up in really cold weather I was just curious.

The warmup time will be identical for synthetic and dino oils, but the synthetic will flow better at bitterly cold temps, when dino oil can be somewhat gelatinous, so it’s ideal for use in winter weather.

Warm-up NO…but Synthetic oil does flow better at colder temps then dino oil. Rarely do we see temps below -10…but when we do…synthetic oil is a good thing to have.

The heat that warms the engine to operating temp comes almost entirely from the combustion process. Friction’s contribution to heat generation is insignficant.

In short, I agree with everyone else…synthetic has no effect on engine warm up tiimes. It is, however, reputed to lubricate better in extreme temperatures, and I believe that. It’s molecules are allegedly more consistant in size and it contains fewer impurities.

That’s always a good thing…I plan on keeping this car for a long time lol…I’m the type of person who won’t buy a new car until my old one is DEAD! Or I have to spend more keeping running than I would be on car payments.

Also note that it takes an idling engine longer to warm than an engine used to power a drivetrain, and wastes fuel in the process. You should idle for no more than 30 seconds and then go. Modern engines don’t need anything more than that…although I would say not to give it any real pedal mashing until it’s all the way up to temp.


Although there IS something to said for getting into a nice, warm car with clear windows on those really cold days…

On the cold days I used to let the truck warm up before getting in. It was parked outside, and in addition to waring the insides the heater would melt the ice and snow off, or at least make it easier to remove. When I lived in North Dakota, where it got way below zero, I always let the engine warm up some before driving it. Among other obbvious benefits, it kept my breath from instantly icing up the inside of the windshield.

“…I’m the type of person who won’t buy a new car until my old one is DEAD!”

Well, congratulations, and welcome to the Secret and Royal Fraternal Order of Cheapskates! *I, being a member, have owned a LOT of cars that I drove until they needed to be junked…

…and, I must say, I have NEVER junked a car due to a worn-out engine. FUBAR auto tranny, wrecked one, massive electrical problems (X2), and cracked block…but never engine wear due to accumulated mileage.

I think coddling the engine is an over-rated strategy towards forestalling automotive senility. When people ask what the “best oil” or "best filter"is, I always reply that any oil/filter (in conjunction with a reasonable change interval) is “better that it needs to be.”

meanjoe; we likewise are “cheapskates”, and have never junked a car because of a failed engine or transmission. However, our cars have to be SAFE, RELIABLE, and reasonably presentable.

Over the years I have given three functioning cars away to younger relatives, lost two in accidents, scrapped two because the rust made them unsafe, and sold two because I needed a newer model for work.

I agree that an idling car will waste gas and takes longer to warm up than one you just get in and drive. But in bitterly cold temps I’d let it idle longer than 30 seconds. Maybe 5 minutes? There’s also transmission and power steering fluid to warm. And while driving will warm these faster too, I personally feel that it’s easier on the car to let the fluids circulate a bit on a really cold day, then drive it gently until you at least get some reading on the temp gauge. If you’re going on a short trip and you don’t warm it up a little, the oil never gets warm enough to cook off any condensation, etc. So I’d rather waste a little gas.

When I lived in North Dakota (where -20 was not unheard of, without wind chill), it was very common to wander through the parking lot at the mall and see cars everywhere idling away, with no one in them. That way, when the owner came back out, the car was still warm. Truth be told, half of them were even unlocked! Police would arrest many homeless folks who merely climbed in for a warm nap.

I normally parked my truck inside at night (heated/cooled garage), and it only sat outside for a few hours at most at work. I drove it all over the place, so maybe I’m a really bad example, but I just never had the need to idle it for very long. No remote start, and since I wasn’t about to let it sit there and idle unattended, I just went. Why sit and shiver, when I can move and shiver less?

A couple times, I was away from home on a business trip, it was parked outside at night. Still, it warmed quicker when moving, even slowly - at least it seemed that way to me. I’m just not a trusting soul. Start it, clean off what snow you have to, and go. That’s me.


For about 3 weeks one winter I worked in Massena NY. It’s right on the Canadian border. I was a research assistant for one of my professors. Temps on several days dropped to -40…Most people who lived in the apartment we rented would drain their oil out every night…bring it inside…then pour it back in the following morning. This was long before synthetic oil was readily available. The one thing I learned from that…was that I NEVER want to live in Massena NY.

I’ve never lost a car to a worn out engine either:

  1. 1976 Chevy Nova - stolen, lived in for 2 weeks, wrecked running from po-po (police).
  2. 1975 Civic - sold to scrap yard when frame rust got substantial.
  3. 1981 Accord - struck and totaled by teenager speeding over blind hill.
  4. 1985 Accord SEi (first fuel injected model in US) - stolen, never recovered.
  5. 1988 Accord LXi - sold to friend in 2008 with 217K miles, engine still tight at ~250K.
  6. 2006 Matrix still a toddler at 29K.

I never lost a car to a worn out engine either…but I had to REBUILD an engine on a car that had only 70k miles on it…But it’s rare…No one made engines as bad as the Chevy Vega as far as I know.

One caveat to warming up engines with synthetic oils. Because synthetic oils may flow as much as seven times more easily then organic when cold and safely driving a car soon after start is the best way to warm up a car, it can be done more easily. Using low visc. synthetic oils in crank case, transfer cases and differentials all contribute to the ease of cold weather driving during warm up…so in that respect, I feel that modern syn oils can be faster in warming up the car, indirectly.

In operating many ICE motors where time is money, synthetic oils easily pay for them selves, especially when working is preferable to idling.

I do warm my car up before I get in it in the mornings for about 5 minutes…I don’t rev up the engine to warm it up faster. I was told years and years ago when I was 17, bought my first car (1992 Plymouth Laser) that is a no no. I’m well aware that no matter how well you care for a car, it’ll wear out eventually. Anything with a motor or a device with moving parts in it will do that. When the motor in my chevy malibu went caput, I could’ve purchased a new motor for it, everything else on the car was fine. The body on it was in excellent shape, it had new brakes and tires, and everything electrical on it worked fine, I was just tired of it. I got 9 years out of that car, I was just ready for something new.

Dag, you’re talking about warming up the motor. I’m talking about warming up the car.

It was in the teens last night where I live. This morning I looked out the wnidow and saw a number of nongaraged cars covered in thick frost, running in their driveways to warm up and to clear the windows. This whole “what’a most efficient” and “what uses less gas” discussion is all well and good, but the way we up here in the colder climes use cars includes warming them up to warm the seats and clear the windshields. That’s just a fact of life. Necessary comforts supercede esoteric concepts. Nonmatter if it’s dino or synthetic, we need clear windshields and prefer warm seats.

You can call it what you like, but I lived in Europe for years, both with my parents when my Dad was active duty, and for most of my active duty life, and in parts (Germany, specifically), it’s illegal - illegal, I didn’t mis-spel - to run your engine unless stopped in traffic. If you’re caught “warming up” your vehicle in the winter time to clear the glass, you’ll get a nice hefty fine. They simply clear their windows, get in, start it and go. Including when the weather’s down below the freezing mark. And I remember reading many times, in many forums, that when it comes to driving, Germans really do give it more thought than we do.

So, as Americans, we do it for comfort. Not as a requirement. Regardless of what you may call it.