Should I warm up the engine in cold weather?

Should I warm up the engine in cold weather?
Should I warm up the engine in cold weather?

Car owners all over the world know: if it's very cold outside, especially if it's freezing, then the engine of your favorite car must first be warmed up. However, today this has no relation to reality and has become only a relic that has survived from the days of carburetor engines.


Most car owners know that in the midst of winter, before driving your car on a journey - in cold and snow - you first need to start the engine and let it warm up. However, despite popular belief, this does not in any way extend the life of your engine. Moreover, this heating reduces it by removing oil from the cylinders and pistons of the engine.

In short, an internal combustion engine uses pistons to compress a mixture of air and vaporized fuel inside a cylinder. The compressed mixture then ignites, creating a combustion event - a small, controlled explosion that powers the engine.

When your engine is cold, gasoline does not evaporate as much and may not create the correct air to evaporated fuel ratio for combustion. Electronic fuel injection engines have sensors that compensate for the lack of temperature by adding more gasoline to the mixture. In other words, when the temperature drops below zero, the engine is already "aware" of this and adjusts to the conditions. It continues to work this way until it reaches a temperature of about 4.5 degrees Celsius.


In an interview with Business Insider, Stephen Chiatti, a mechanical engineer at Argonne National Laboratory who specializes in internal combustion engines, noted that warming up an engine in freezing weather can be a serious problem. The thing is that in order to achieve the desired balance at low temperatures, more fuel is supplied to the engine, which during operation can get to the cylinder walls. Gasoline is, in fact, a powerful solvent and can easily remove oil from the cylinder walls if the engine is running in the cold for a long time.


Critical components such as piston rings and cylinder liners can be seriously impaired by flushing the lubricating oil off with gasoline, not to mention the additional fuel that is consumed during warm-up. The fastest way to warm up the engine is to ride. During normal operation, it will heat up to the optimum temperature and restore the balance between gasoline and air. Even though the warm air generated by the heater core enters the passenger compartment a few minutes after the start of work, the engine itself practically does not heat up when idling.

The best thing to do is to start the car, spend a minute brushing snow and ice from windows, wipers and mirrors, get behind the wheel and drive. If the outside temperature is below freezing, make sure your defroster is okay and working properly before leaving your yard or parking lot. Don't settle for an embrasure in an icy windshield. Some cars, like Land Rover, are equipped with special electric heating elements in the windshield.

Also, you should not, sitting behind the wheel, immediately press the gas pedal to the floor, as this will expose your engine to unnecessary stress. It takes five to 15 minutes for it to warm up while driving, depending on the model. So at least at first, you should drive calmly, not in a hurry.On powerful sports cars, this process is often imposed with a rev limiter, which means that the engine will not run at full speed until it reaches the right temperature.


Warming up the car before driving is an outdated practice since the days when carburetor engines reigned on the roads. Carburetors mix gasoline with air to produce vaporized fuel that runs the engine, but they do not have sensors to monitor the amount of gasoline in cold weather: they use a mechanical system to temporarily restrict air intake to make the mixture richer. This is a crude way to tune the air to gas ratio. Anyone who has done this with a carburetor engine at least once will say that it is not easy to drive after that. Plus, if you overexpose the idle speed and oversaturate the mixture, you can easily get the spark plugs dirty. Of course, in the end, older cars have to be warmed up before driving, otherwise they will stall. But the popularity of carburetor engines began to wane back in the late 1980s.

Volvo is testing in the Arctic to see if its models need any warm-up. The conclusion is unequivocal: no. According to Volvo, the best thing to do is just give the engine a few seconds to build up the oil pressure it needs, and the ride will go smoothly. Good oil quality and condition is critical to protect the engine when starting in cold conditions.

Returning to the question of whether it is still worth warming up the engine in cold weather: if you do not drive an old car with a carburetor engine and do not want to spend money on additional repairs, then no, you should not. The main thing is to buy high-quality oil and monitor its condition, replacing it when necessary. Take off, sit back, buckle up and hit the road.

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