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Whether you should warm up your vehicle on a cold day is like asking folks to weigh in on the question, “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?”  Read on before you decide your answer.

As many things on the internet, there are two camps to this age-old question and both seem to have sound reasoning.

On one side it is thought that warming up your car in cold weather before driving – especially when it’s been sitting outside for an extended period of time – is necessary to get the essential engine fluids flowing. 

On the other hand, those saying that this is wrong, claim that the fastest way to warm your engine is to simply drive. Their reasoning goes on to say that with modern engines, when a car just sits and runs, it puts excess fuel into the combustion chamber and in-turn the gasoline will act as a solvent and can dissolve the oils that lubricate your cylinders.

USA Today claims that the practice of warming up a vehicle first started with vehicles that had carburetors and not the fuel injected systems found in automobiles today.    Since the 1960s when technology changed, the practice of letting a car sit and warm up prior to driving in cold weather is no longer necessary.

Pickering’s Auto Service, with two locations in metro Denver, Colorado, field this question often when the temperatures dip.  Co-owner, Trent Pickering offers this: “The Puffer Law makes it illegal to leave a car running and unattended…even if it’s in your own driveway just warming up and clearing frost and snow from the windshield.  Many of our customers were not happy when this law was put in effect, but I can honestly tell them that it won’t hurt their engines to not be warmed up prior to driving and it may keep the car from even being stolen.  We tell them that they don’t need to pre-heat their vehicles; but don’t just get in, start the engine and “floor it.”  Ease into higher speeds and your car will be just fine…and you’ll be warmer, sooner! On top of that, if you get your oil changed at Pickering’s Auto Service, we use BG MOA (Motor Oil Additive) with all of our oil changes which helps with cold starts in the winter time as well as many other positive attributes including being good for lubricating the rings and keeping them from sticking.”

We even went as far as to cross-check Pickering’s advise with AAA.  “Triple A,” as people know it, is the American Automobile Association. It is an organization of motor clubs throughout North America, established in 1902, today AAA provides automotive travel services to more than 61 million members. When asked if cars should be started and warmed up everyday in extremely cold weather they came back with this:  “DON’T! They claim that owners should start their engine and allow it to idle only for the amount of time it takes for the driver and the car’s passengers to fasten their seat belts. 

While the fact is that cold weather can be hard on a car, it’s the battery that can take a beating. Cold weather can drain a car’s battery – at the freezing mark, 32 degrees –  an automotive battery can lose up to 35% of its strength. Here’s another point to consider: even when your car is sitting, your battery is still providing power to things like your car’s clock and alarm system.  So often, drivers who know this are concerned about their battery’s health in the winter. On the website CanadaDrives.ca  - and these folks KNOW cold weather - they advise that you should not just let your engine idle to keep the battery charged.  It is better to drive your car a short distance a few times each week.  The reasoning is this: when driving the alternator has a chance to recharge the battery and replenish the power used to even just start the engine.   

So we think that the final decision has been made and that the verdict is soundly in place.  DO NOT start your vehicle and allow it to sit and idle to warm up.  A short drive several times a week throughout a cold snap will keep your battery charged and your engine healthy. For more information call Pickering’s Auto Service in Lakewood, CO or Westminster, CO.

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