Do you need to warm up your car?

Driving during the winter season can be incredibly challenging. Snow accumulates on your car, visibility can be limited, and driving your vehicle on patches of black ice can be dangerous.

Do you need to warm up your car?

Many car owners warm up their cars before driving anywhere. They’re not sure why they’re doing it, but they think it’s beneficial to the vehicle in some way.

But is it really necessary to warm up the car before driving?

How it all started

Before the mid-1990s, most vehicles used a carburetor, a mechanism that mixes air and fuel for internal combustion engines in the proper air-to-fuel ratio. But during the late 1980s and 1990s, American automakers began to switch to fuel-injected engines.

Older cars, which relied on carburetors, needed to warm up to run well. Without heating up, the carburetor would not be able to get the proper mixture of air and fuel into the engine, and the car would stall. Because of this, drivers sometimes waited 10 minutes before even getting into the vehicle.

Switching between engine types solved this problem long ago. The carbs are no longer under your hood, and you wouldn’t do any damage to your car if you drove it from the start.

However, warming up your vehicle still provides some benefits.

Should I warm up my vehicle?

The lure to get into a warm vehicle is quite strong. Also, most drivers think that warming up their car is good for the engine. But it’s true?

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Let’s start with the engine. One of the benefits of warming up is that it allows the engine to lubricate itself. When your car is not used for long periods of time, the oil drains out of the bottom of the oil pan. Once you start the vehicle, the oil pump rapidly moves oil throughout the engine, lubricating all necessary engine components. Letting your car sit idle with the engine running can help to quickly finish the lubrication process. It would also allow your engine to last longer, as long as you are diligent about maintenance.

Warming up also helps deal with an icy windshield. The temperature rises rapidly, clearing the windshield and allowing you to maintain visibility while driving.

However, you need to be aware of how long you leave the car idle.

Disadvantages of warming up your vehicle

Some drivers keep the engine idling for 10 to 20 minutes to warm up their cars. However, idling for extended periods simply wastes fuel and provides no real tangible benefits.

In modern vehicles, engine lubrication takes 20-30 seconds. Every time you get in, start the car, put on your seat belt, and get in position, the engine may not reach the proper temperature, but it will always be fully lubricated.

The fastest way to warm up the engine is by driving. The advantage of avoiding prolonged idling is that you will save money on gas and do less pollution to the environment.


Warming up is a great way to maintain engine health. You allow it to lubricate itself and, in turn, prolong its life cycle. However, modern vehicles no longer have carburetors and lubrication takes 20-30 seconds. So there is no real need to idle beyond the time it takes to defog the windshield.

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According to Energy Saver, idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioning usage. So be mindful of your gas mileage and don’t let your engine waste fuel.