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Should You Leave Your Car Idle When Warming It Up in Cold Weather?

BY: Alex Perrone
A vehicle's exhaust pipe covered in snow.

There are few things as convenient as having your own car, truck or SUV during the wintertime. For those living in places that get severe winter weather, such as the northeast or midwest, having to rely on public transportation or rideshare services while staying out of the snow, sleet and rain that a winter storm can help you save both time and money. 

While owning your own vehicle can help you get from one place to another whenever you’d like, there are some challenges you can face when dealing with the winter weather. Taking the time to winterize your vehicle properly is an essential step in helping you avoid any unexpected breakdowns or other repairs caused by the winter weather. However, for some drivers, just following the few basic winter car care myths can often be the extent of maintaining their vehicles. This can include leaving their wiper blades up before a storm or having at least half a tank of gas at all times to avoid freezing fuel lines. 

Another way many look to help prepare their vehicles for the rigors of winter driving is letting their car idle while “warming up,” but is this really needed?  

Should I Let My Car Idle to Warm Up?

When it comes to the wintertime, getting into a warm vehicle is something that every driver hopes for. To do this, many drivers will look to warm up their car by letting it sit idle until the cabin reaches a comfortable temperature and your windshield is defrosted. This is a mistake. The truth of the matter is that letting your car sit idle for too long can negatively impact the life of your engine and the overall life of your car

Avoid Idling with Older Cars

old car

No matter the type of vehicle you have, the best and fastest way to warm it up when temperatures drop below freezing is to simply drive it until it reaches its optimal operating temperature. This is because your car actually warms up faster when driven compared to just leaving your car engine running while leaving it idling. 

When a vehicle idles for too long, the moisture in the exhaust condenses slowly and the oil doesn’t circulate through the engine enough. In worst-case scenarios, you are left with unburned gasoline that not only ends up coming out of the tailpipe to create smog, but it leaves your piston rings and oil at risk too. Not only that, but it’ll help you avoid any excess fuel consumption that would leave you having to make more frequent trips to the gas station. You’ll also be helping to limit any excess greenhouse gas emissions that longer idling times can cause, leaving you having to make more frequent trips to the gas station.

Overall, the older your car is, the more hazardous it is to let it sit idle. However, if you have a newer car, that is different.

Newer Cars Can Sometimes Idle

These days, advancements in automotive technology have allowed for many newer vehicles to be built with special remote starters while most other vehicles can have remote starters installed. With technology like this, automakers can give drivers a chance to start up their car and let it warm up without ever having to physically be in the vehicle. 

Due to these changes, automakers have begun engineering more sophisticated fuel injection systems. This means every fluid in your car can be carefully monitored and managed, helping to bypass many of the issues older vehicles face when idling in cold weather. You even have internal pollution-control systems that help keep precise measurements of fuel for your engine’s cylinders. 

With all of these advancements, letting your car idle to warm up isn’t necessarily needed. However, if you do look to warm up your newer car, truck or SUV, be sure only to leave it idling for a few minutes to help avoid any potential issues from occurring.

Protect Your Car Year-Round with Endurance

Whether you have an older vehicle or a newer car, protect it and your wallet with an Endurance auto protection plan. Designed to fit your needs and budget, you can find an Endurance plan that can give you comprehensive breakdown protection for vital car components such as your engine and transmission. You can also save up to $3,500 on the cost of essential maintenance with EnduranceAdvantage™, including up to three oil and filter changes, tire rotations, alignment checks and more. Each EnduranceAdvantage package also comes with several other special, one-time services like a battery replacement, brake pad/shoe replacements and others to help give you even more coverage and savings.

Endurance customers will also automatically receive 24/7 roadside assistance as standard, as well as being eligible for a full year’s worth of Elite Benefits when purchasing any Endurance protection plan. These benefits, including up to two tire repairs or replacements, collisions discounts and more can help give you peace of mind when dealing with the rigors of winter driving or any other time of the year.

Get started protecting your vehicle today with Endurance by requesting a free quote or giving us a call directly at 800-253-8203. You can also find even more answers to many other automotive FAQs, expert auto tips, vehicle buying guides and other informative articles by visiting our Learning Center.

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