Do you need to let your car idle and warm up in winter?

Dan Smith

(NEXSTAR) – Many of us can no longer deny it – with much of the country facing an arctic blast and cold weather here just in time for Christmas. It means that some of our cold-weather habits, like sometimes wearing extra layers and staying indoors for as long as possible, are making a comeback. However, it may be time to leave one of your past winter habits behind. Move knee-high snow to the car, start the engine, let it idle for a few minutes to warm up, then hit the road. But do you really need to heat your car?
First, it's important to note that idling doesn't damage your car. According to JD Power, idling still consumes gas, but unless the car has a mechanical failure, it's unlikely to lead to other problems. However, the idea that you have to idle your car when it's cold is really just a misconception. It wasn't necessarily the old woman's story. As The Washington Post explains in his 2014 article, cars used to rely on carburetors. Your car can stall if it's not warm enough. In the 1980s and 1990s, automakers turned their backs on carburetors and began using electronic fuel injection, which relied on sensors to fuel the engine. According to industry experts, these sensors don't need to be warmed up. Sherwood Ford, a Ford dealer in Alabama, explains that modern cars "take only seconds to start up," adding, "Modern technology requires a modern approach." Even the U.S. Department of Energy says most automakers' guidance says cars are ready to drive after just 30 seconds of warm-up.
The federal agency wrote, "Engines can warm up faster and turn heat on sooner while driving, reducing fuel costs and reducing emissions." Leaving the car idling for more than a few minutes can cause another problem. Besides wasting fuel, it can cause pollution, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Idling may also be illegal in your state. In Illinois, for example, state law makes it illegal for a driver to drive with the key in the ignition, Nexstar's WCIA reports. Just because you're ready to drive your car out of the driveway or parking lot doesn't mean you're ready to fire. Instead, relax. According to Business Insider, it can take 5-15 minutes for the engine to fully warm up. Plus, hitting the gas pedal too quickly can waste gas, MIT mechanical engineer John Heywood told his outlet in 2016, adding that if the roads are snowy or icy, it's a safety hazard. pose a risk of So the next time you walk out the door and the cold air rushes in, you don't have to worry about saving time warming up your car (unless your car is older than the early 1990's, of course).