It seems like yesterday that we were complaining about temperatures nearly reaching 100 and wishing the air conditioning in our vehicles ran cooler. Now, with fall in full force and winter on its way, it’s time to switch gears and start thinking about staying warm, particularly on cold morning commutes. As much as you may like to sleep in until the sun is up and the temperature outside is practically perfect, you’re likely to head out to the car and be greeted by crisp air and even a little frost (or snow and ice) on your windshield. Here are some tips for effectively warming your vehicle during colder weather:
How Long Do You Let Your Car Warm Up?
Think back to your first car (the one that took forever to warm up) or even the car you drive today. When the weather turns cold, if you are like millions of other drivers, you probably let your car idle for a few minutes before you head to work. Contrary to popular belief, experts say that an idling engine can cause more trouble than good. Your car engine runs on a mixture of air and gasoline and when it’s cold outside, your car adds more gasoline to the mixture. When the extra fuel gets into the combustion chamber, it can wash away oil (particularly during cold idle conditions). The more that the oil “washes” away, the engine becomes less lubricated and works less efficiently. All technicalities aside, idling for long periods of time is bad.
Preserving Your Engine
If you’re not supposed to let your car idle in cold weather, then what are you supposed to do? Experts suggest that the best way to get your car warmed up is by simply hopping in and taking it nice and slow. Worried about how turning your car on and off might affect your engine, particularly in the winter? If you need to run a few quick errands, such as stopping to purchase a newspaper or pick up the mail at your PO Box, it may be tempting to keep your car running, however, it’s better for your car, and the amount of gas you use, to turn off your car.
Additionally, you may want to rethink using a remote starter to warm up your car. If you do have one, don’t take your time getting ready. Start the car, gather your things, and head out to your vehicle.
Consider Your Safety
Although it’s better to drive than idle, make sure your windows are clear and you have good visibility before you hit the road. According to Mike Sawaya, Denver car accident attorney, at The Sawaya Law Firm, failure to clear your windshield of frost, fog, or other conditions that interfere with your visibility makes you an irresponsible driver and at greater risk of being in and/or causing a car accident. Additionally, not only is excessive idling bad for your engine and your wallet, but it can also put you at greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially in enclosed spaces, garages, and when snow is piled up around your car.