The Reason We Shouldn’t Be Letting Our Cars Idle To Heat Up In The Winter

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If you live somewhere with cold, snowy winters, you know the morning ritual all too well: quickly run outside to start your freezing car, let it run in the driveway until it’s warm enough to tolerate getting into, and attempt to scrape the snow, slush, and ice from your windows and windshield. Ah, the joys! However, you may be surprised to learn that we actually shouldn’t be letting our cars run in the driveway to heat up during the winter – for multiple reasons.

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The first reason is that idling your car is unsurprisingly bad for the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Unnecessary idling of cars, trucks, and school buses pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and causes excess engine wear.” With modern vehicles, there really isn’t a need to start the engine until we are ready to begin driving.

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According to vehicle wizards Popular Mechanics, letting your car run while in park can decrease engine life as it strips oil away from the engine’s cylinders and pistons. While many of us are under the impression that idling our vehicles is the quickest way to warm up the engine and in turn our vehicles, driving is actually the quickest way to warm up the engine.

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In vehicles built prior to the late 1980s, it was recommended that people idle their cars for a few minutes before driving to ensure the engine received the correct amount of air and fuel. However, with the emergence of electronic fuel injection in the mid-1990s, this practice was no longer necessary. But, it would explain why all these years later, people still believe they should be letting their cars idle in the winter before driving.

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The takeaway? It’s really not necessary to idle any modern vehicles before winter driving. Not only is this potentially harmful to your vehicle’s engine, but it’s also quite harmful to the environment. Dress warmly, start your car, and ensure there are no warning lights popping up on your dash – but that’s all you really need to do before hitting the road. Drive safely this winter, everyone! And for those of you who live in places that are warm year-round – I’m unbelievably envious.