Is How You Warm-up Your Car Damaging It?

Are you the driver who likes to warm up your car for a long time before starting your commute to work? If you are, hopefully you’re taking precautions to prevent car theft, for one. But, did you know that you could actually be damaging your engine?

Depending on the age of your car, letting it idle to warm up may not be doing your car any good.

How Cold Effects Your Engine

Internal combustion engines create a small explosion to create power that turns your powertrain to turn the wheels. To get maximum power from that explosion, you need just the right mix of air and gas (in vapor form) to be ignited by the spark plugs. Cold gasoline does not vaporize, therefore ignite, as readily.

How New Cars Handle Cold Engines

One solution to a cold engine is to “run it rich,” which means you run it with a higher gasoline to air ratio (i.e. you use/burn more gas). Computer-controlled fuel-injected engines do this automatically.

The problem is that running rich introduces more gasoline in the piston chamber. Gasoline is a solvent, so the longer it is in contact with the piston walls, the more likely it is to strip away oil. And we all know what happens when engines lack adequate lubrication—costly engine damage.

Your car will stop running rich as soon as the engine reaches about 40°. The best way to get it to warm up is to drive it. Idling just doesn’t generate as much heat…which is also why it’s not particularly effective in warming your cabin either.

The Better Way to Warmup Your Car Rather than let your car idle, putting it at greater risk for auto theft and damaging your engine, start your car, scrape your windows, and get on your way. This abbreviated warmup process will ensure visibility and actually shorten the amount of time you shiver in the driver’s seat, all the while preserving vital lubrication in your engine’s piston chambers.