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Warming up a car

Is it necessary to warm up a car? If so in what circumstances?

This is to settle an arguement. Someone said they heard Click and clack say that it’s a myth and that there is no need to warm up your car unless you live in freezing temperatures.

I live in freezing temperatures (at least during the winter) and I NEVER warm up my vehicles…never had a problem and usually keep my vehicles to well past 250k miles. All you have to do is start it…and let it idle for about 10 seconds then drive away.

The car manufacturers and most all mechanics agree that the best bet for the car is to start the engine and drive away as soon as the car will drive safely. Don’t hit the freeway for a mile or so to allow things to warm up a little before asking it to go at a high speed.

Running cold is not good for a car and idling is running cold.

Some people believe it is better to avoid even normal city street driving until the engine is warm, but that is not good for the engine and they are forgetting the other parts of the car that need to be warmed up like the transmission and suspension parts. These also warm up as you drive those first few miles.

BTW Click and Clack have on more than one occasion answered this question on the radio and it always comes out the same.

The answers that have been provided are valid. If you want confirmation, just open your glove compartment, take out the Owner’s Manual, and read what the vehicle manufacturer stated regarding engine warm-up. (Hint: Warm-up is not necessary.)

The key points here are to let the engine run just long enough to circulate the oil to the valve gear, ususally about 15-20 seconds in normal weather. If it’s very cold you may need to clear the windows before driving off. In that case more warmup time is necessary.

The general idea is to warm up the engine as quickly as possible. Driving off gently first will warm the engine up much quicker than idling. Years ago when cars had chokes, driving off with no warmup often resulted in the engine stumbling. Those days are long gone.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to put the right viscosity oil in the car for the season. A very heavy oil will not circulate quickly in cold weather and cause excessive engine wear on startup. Good winter grade oil are 5W30, 0W30, 5W40, 0W40. Your OWNERS MANUAL will specify the best winter oils for your car.

If your car is old enough that it predates electronic fuel injection (EFI), I think you should warm it up. The only time you should bother warming up a car with EFI is when temperature is below freezing, and then a minure or two is all you probably need. You will get warm air from the heater quicker from driving the vehicle.

For the vehicles sake no unless temperatures are well below 0F. The key thing is to drive very gently until your vehicle is warmed up(by temp guage) no matter what the temp outside.

For comforts sake do what ever you please. I never warm my vehicles up(just drive extra gently till warm) and get 200k problem free miles then sell my cars. My parents do warm their vehicle and get well beyond that too.

If it’s very cold you may need to clear the windows before driving off. In that case more warmup time is necessary.

That’s what a window scraper is for. On days it’s -10…it’ll take 10-20 minutes to warm up enough to melt off any ice/snow on windshield.

Everyone has missed what for me is the most important part of the answer…safety.

The engine and drivetrain will be fine cold as long as you don’t push them, but it is important to warm the engine long enough to get and keep the windows clear of ice, snow, and/or fog. If it’t real cold out my breath can be enough to fog cold glass even after the snow is scraped away.


I live in a cold area, and am not referring to melting the ice off the OUTSIDE of the windshield. The problem is the INSIDE fogging/frosting up on a very cold morning while you are driving. This stuff is difficult to scrape off while underway, except in a VW old style beetle where the windshield was close and flat!

In the interest of safety, as advisors, I would rather the OP gets some heat to come out of the defrosters first rather than charge off into a very cold winter morning.

P.S. I carry 3 scrapers/brushes of varying sizes!

he problem is the INSIDE fogging/frosting up on a very cold morning while you are driving.

The ONLY time I’ve ever seen that is if I left a window open…or my 69 bug…Outside of that…NEVER get frost on the inside.

I’ve never had frost on the inside either, there must be moisture trapped inside the care someplace.

Start car, buckle seat belt, check gauges and then GO.

This is a great article. Please keep writing because I love your style.
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