Now that the winter is here, I was wondering, is it better for a car’s engine to let it warm up before putting actually driving the car? If so how long should you let the engine warm up? What if your engine has a damaged head gasket?
Modern cars that are in good condition are designed to allow you to drive the car within…literally…seconds after starting the engine.
However, the car should be driven very conservatively until the temperature gauge registers in the “normal” range. Your engine–and just as importantly–your transmission will warm up much faster if the car is driven gently, as opposed to allowing it to idle for an extended period of time.
I have to confess that I do not know whether having a breached head gasket would change this recommendation, however.
Firstly, depending on the ambient temperature, the car should run just long enough to circulate the oil to the valve gear. With the right weight oil, this normally takes about 15-20 seconds on a normal day. If you use heavy oil in a cold climate it may take over a minute with no lubrication to the valve gear. EXXON made an excellent video some years back called “The Cold War”, showing the advantages of their 0W30 synthetic oil, which flows at -50F.
Having said all that, you should not drive off with the windows frosted over. Either clean them off or let the car warm up a little more during extreme cold.
The best solution to winter driving is, of course, a block heater, which will keep the engine warm. In this case you still need to run the engine 20 seconds to circulate the oil. Then drive off slowly. Don’t put a heavy load on the engine or transmission until the system has warmed up.
With respect to your leaking head gasket, the two are unrelated, but you should get it fixed ASAP if you want to avoid serious engine damage later.
It depends on where you live. In most regions it’s actually better to just let the engine warm up enough to have its lifebollds sirculating properly (a minute ir two) and then drive it gently while it warms to operating temperature. In areas where it gets sbstatially below zero all night, I believe it’s better to let it warm some before driving off.
But there is another consideration: you. If you’ve ever sat on a seat that’s sat in sub zero temperatures overnight you may understand why I always let the car warm up before driving off when I lived in North Dakota. Oh, and then there’s the issue of one’s breath forming ice on the windshield’s inside if the defroster does not yet have heat to dissipate the moisture.
The car is for your comfort. Whether you let it warm up before driving off is largely IMHO a personal choice.
If your engine has a blown headgasket it won’t matter. Continuing to drive it in that condition will destroy the engine anyway. The hot combustion gasses may heat the coolant up sooner, but the coolant will be getting drawn into the chambers with each intake stroke and causing havoc anyway. And as the breech erodes, the problwm grows.
I am considering giving Steel Seal a try at repairing it. To do a full repair isn’t economically doable. While the car drives well right now (getting about 20 mpg in the city) I only paid $450 for it. I only drive it around town and it never gets over 60 mph. I have had the car since mid july and have put a little over 3000 miles on it. The engine issue occured via the previous owners, so I am not sure how long it has been damaged, but since I have gotten it, I have seen no reduction in performance or loss of any fluids or any problems with the engine overheating. I have put on new spark plugs, wires and had to have a new radiator installed.
Are you sure it’s a head gasket problem?
I would suggest to you that the purchase price of the car is irrelevant to the whole situation. If this is going to be your means of transportation for the foreseeable future and it is in otherwise servicable condition it will behoove you to fix this now instead of driving a lot with the blown head gasket, as it will eventually cause other damage. Figure that if you drive it like this you might get another 10,000 miles or so out of it and then you’ll have to spend a few hundred to thousand dollars to buy a new car, or you can spend a few hundred now and have a car that might last you another 100,000 miles.
I was told I am looking at a minimum of $1000 to fix the headgasket issue and that would not come with any guarentee that other issues wouldn’t occur. Basically I am looking at giving that Steel Seal a shot. If the car goes, I will just head back over to the Goodwill Auto Auction and pick up another car for about 400-700 dollars and drive it till it dies. I was told I could drive this car for a year without the engine letting go, especially since I don’t drive it hard or at high rates of speed. So we will see.
It is completely indifferent whether you warm up or not. Personal preference, it makes no difference in longevity for most people who even keep vehicles in the the 200k-300k range I know without significant issues. Some do and some don’t.
I used to care, but now with kids I turn car on and do the load routine of 2yr and 4yr old and get cleared windows and some heat quickly.
I confess I let the engine run while I am clearing snow. It was on a 88 Ranger (can’t hurt it any more than FORD did) in WI.
I usually let the car warm up until the idle speed goes down. In my cars it takes about 20-30 seconds on a cold day.
Does this Taurus happen to have the 3.8L by chance?
I can only speak from my work experiences, The field crew will let it warm up for 20 min or so, and spend a lot of time with the vehicles idling while on job sites, and have not seen an detrimental effects. If your car has a damaged head gasket it probably makes no difference what you do, as it falls into proper maintenance for a proper running vehicle.
I have driven most of my cars into the 300k range and let them all warm up on really cold days mainly do to the comfort factor. If you do that remember you still have to drive easy until the car’s temp gauge is in the normal range. Although the engine may be warm, the oil in the transmission, shocks/struts etc. is still cold. Each of my cars was either sold or junked, none ever had an engine issue.
I let my car warm up for a couple minutes if I notice frost on the windshield to help warm up the inside of the car and help clear off some of the frost, this is where remote starters come in handy. Look out the window and see frost on the windows, start the car from inside, finish getting ready for work and head out to finish clearing off the car.
Go for the sealer. Its a 450$ car. I got a 500$ taurus with a blown head gasket in 2000. It was a 1990 lx. Sweet car at 80K. Did the job myself. Its a 20 hour job and a bunch of tools I already owned. Parts and fluids were about 650$. I drove the car for 5 years and sold it for 500$. It is now really dead at 160K. Warming the head really wont help much and it does not sound like a gasket with your description. I could be wrong but the taurus was just really likely to blow a head gasket so maybe the mechanic just siad that was the problem. Get back with a real description of the issues you have with the car, not what someone said about it.
I buckle my seat belt after starting the car and then go. Driving 20-30 mph for the first mile or so requires what?, maybe 3 to 5 horsepower from the engine? It’s not like I nail the throttle to accelerate on a freeway onramp the very moment after the engine is started.
John Muir suggests to start your air-cooled vw . . . then roll your own cigarette and light it and get it drawing good . . . then pull away . . . about 3 minutes. I don’t smoke and no longer drive an air-cooled as my primary, so I usually start it up, run it for about 30 seconds, and drift backwards out of my driveway, start on a rural road driving really easy for the first 5 or 6 minutes, then drive normal. By that time the heater is usually blowing pretty warm and I’m on the highway. Rocketman
This post is not so much about idling damaging your car; it’s about what is best from a fuel economy and air pollution point of view, while trying to identify how long a car should run before you can drive off.
Our city has a “no idle” rule for city owned vehicles (buses excepted of cours) since too much idling fouls the air, and consumes too much fuel.
Taxis and police vehicles spend a lot of time idling out of necessity. Well cared for police vehicles have a lot of life left in them.
Some jurisdictions are planning to ban drive-through restaurants to cut back on air pollution.
Oh . . . sorry . . . re-read the post. The pros of letting the engine warm-up? I’ve found the cars will “drive” better (won’t stumble, fart, whatever) . . . the car will be more comfortable (warmer) and the glass will be clearer. The cons? Slightly decreased mpg . . . more pollution . . . maybe more frequent oil changes. I think that I have reached a happy medium and my method works for me. Rocketman
The car has low compression in cylinder No. 1. It has a code of a misfire in that cylinder and a lean reading on a 02 sensor. I am getting air up through my radiator. Both mechanics I took it to said it was their view that these show head gasket issues. They could confirm by tearing the engine down a bit, but that is pricy.
I was dispatched a 1984 or so 320i BMW (in 84) with a complaint of poor cold driveability (this was a CIS car so we found that this feature comes with the terriority). I asked the SA to show me just what the customer expected, and it went like this. Engine crank no more than 2 seconds before start, immediate AC on,immediate shift into drive (it was an auto trans) and immediate rapid acceleration without any protest from the engine. This is how the customer(s) want their car(s)to perform,any less and its up to you to remedy the situation.
It is entirely possible for many if not all of todays cars to fill this bill,not so in 84.