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All Articles on Driving Tips For Fall and Winter Season

How Long Should You Idle Your Car in Winter?

Depending on who you talk to, the time you should let your car warm up in winter can vary greatly. Some people will run outside, start their vehicles, and come back while they get the kids ready for school (and we know how long that can take). Others simply hop in, turn the key, and go.

Despite all of the theories suggesting it’s a good idea to let your car idle for minutes on end, experts say it’s not necessary. This is due to advances in auto manufacturing technology, including:

  • Computer-controlled engine management
  • Higher precision engine parts
  • Lower viscosity engine oil and lubricants

As a result, a well-maintained vehicle requires just over a minute of warm-up time before it’s ready to drive. Basically, if you turn your car on, then scrape any snow and ice from your windows and mirrors, you should be good to go.

For more on engine lubricants, read: What Does an Oil Change Do? How Engine Oil Works.

Old-school Thinking

While it may have been true in the good ol’ days that you should let your car warm up for several minutes, it was due to the technology of the time. Back then, carbureted engines were the norm. They lacked the sensors found in modern vehicles that can adjust the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber to compensate for the lower temperatures most Canadian drivers experience in winter.

If a carbureted engine isn’t warmed up sufficiently, you’ll:

  • Risk stalling the engine
  • Likely have difficulty restarting the engine once it stalls

However, vehicles with carbureted engines gave way to their fuel-injected successors more than three decades ago. As long as you’re using the right type of engine oil in a modern passenger vehicle that’s well maintained, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Fuel Economy

One of the most obvious reasons why you shouldn’t let your car idle for long periods—no matter what season it is—is fuel economy. Not only does this practice cost you more at the pump, it also leads to the unnecessary emission of exhaust gases.

And if you think idling your car is a quick way to warm up the interior, it’s not all that efficient. Your vehicle will warm up faster once you start driving because your engine is working harder and will produce more heat.

Don’t Drive too Hard, too Quickly

Even though it only takes around a minute for most modern vehicles to be ready to drive, try to go easy on the engine for the first few minutes. If possible, let your car warm up before you:

  • Accelerate rapidly
  • Drive at highway speeds

This will prevent you from overworking your engine before it has a chance to warm up. It will also give you a chance to mentally prepare for winter road conditions.

If your car needs winterization, visit your local Kal Tire store. From winter tires to batteries and wiper blades, we have all of the necessities to keep your vehicle safe and happy in winter.


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