When the temperatures drop to freezing, it’s a common practice to trudge outside, start up your car and let it idle for a while before heading off to work or the store. However, does this routine have any benefits?
A Once-Needed Practice
According to one study, Americans believe they should idle their car for more than 5 minutes before driving in temperatures below 32° Fahrenheit. Why? Because legend says that it’s good for the engine. And this idea, at one time, had some merit.
Older cars, which relied on carburetors in the engines, needed to warm up to work efficiently in freezing weather. If this component is cold, it won’t be able to get the right mix of air and fuel into the engine, which could lead to stalling out.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, though, vehicle manufacturers started replacing carburetors with electric fuel injectors, which use sensors to get the right mix of air and fuel. These sensors don’t need to warm up to work properly, as they automatically monitor and adjust to temperature changes.
The Downside of Routine
Today, if you decide to idle your modern vehicle in cold weather, it could be doing more harm than good. The longer you idle, the more fuel you waste. Research shows that idling your car for 10 minutes wastes more than a quarter gallon of gas. Experts also estimate that idling contributes to 6 billion gallons of wasted fuel each year.
Additionally, idling releases unnecessary greenhouse gases into the air, pollutants that contribute to global warming, extreme weather and increased illness.
The Best Way Forward
So what should you do when it’s cold out? The best option is to go out and start your car, knock any ice off your windows and then get going. That’s all the time your vehicle needs to get ready.