Many people start their vehicle and let the engine idle for a few minutes during the winter before heading off. Some drivers do it because they think it will help the engine heat up.
Others do it because a cold car can feel pretty miserable.
But, the truth may surprise you – the practice of idling is completely unnecessary and outdated. Unless your vehicle is 30+ years old and uses a carbureted engine, you don’t need to let the engine idle after the initial crank. In fact, doing so could cause more harm over the long term.
Here’s How It Works
Newer engines use electronic fuel injection. The vehicle uses sensors to inject as much fuel into the engine as needed to compensate for the cold. It will continue to do so until the engine warms up to a certain temperature. If you let the engine idle, it will not warm up quickly and it will continue to inject more fuel until it reaches the necessary temperature.
For those who regularly let their vehicles idle, the extra gasoline pumped into the engine can erode lubricant and waste gas. The practice will ultimately shorten the life of a vehicle. A warm car may feel better in the mornings, but the best thing you can do to raise the engine temperature is drive.
Some Places Will Ticket You for It!
If you live in or drive to some states including New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Colorado, you may receive a ticket for letting your vehicle idle for longer than a few minutes.
Some local towns and cities may also impose idling rules. Many jurisdictions ban prolonged idling because the practice unnecessarily releases pollution and harms the environment. Unless your vehicle meets certain exceptions to the rule, you could face a hundred dollars or more in fines.
Drive Smart This Winter
This winter, consider grabbing a blanket or heating up some microwavable hand warmers before you head out to the car. Scrape the ice off your windows, bundle up, then start your engine and drive. You’ll save fuel, the environment, and possibly a hefty fine. Share this article to spread the word! Idling your car as a way to warm it up in the winter is a common misconception.