Reader Question: Warming up?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Jen asks: I like to let my car warm up on cold days before I drive it but have read that this is a bad thing to do. Is it?

My reply: Not if you don’t like being cold! Many new cars have a remote-start feature to avoid exactly that. You press a button on your remote key fob, the engine starts – and the car warms up without you having to go out, where it’s cold.

Obviously, you’ll “waste” some gas doing this – but we also “waste” energy to warm our houses – and to me, that isn’t wasting but rather using energy – and if you aren’t going to use it, whey even bother with it?

Warming up the car can have other advantages, too. For instance, if the car has a manual transmission, the running engine will also warm up the transmission, circulating lube and this will probably reduce wear and tear as well as make the car easier to drive when you’re ready to get going.

Of course, the government is trying to make it illegal to warm up your car. In DC, it is already illegal. The argument is that idling the engine causes the dread non-reactive gas carbon dioxide to be “emitted” – and that must not be allowed.


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  1. In Denver “puffer” laws will get an AGW knocking on your door or slipping a ticket under your wipers. Even if your vehicle is in the garage with the door open. It happened to my former boss. His wife started the vehicle, opened the door, realized she forgot something and went back in the house. When she came back out to the garage, an AGW was in the garage! writing up the ticket. Her crime? Not shutting off the vehicle for the 60 seconds or so she spent away from the vehicle.

    • I would’ve had that officer charged for trespassing onto private property! I mean what’s next? Are they gonna start ticketing people for mowing their lawns?

  2. “Supposedly”, it’s “Illegal” in NJ, but I’ve never seen or heard anyone get in trouble with it, just like when I pump my own gas instead of letting Muhammad or Ahmed put 87 in when I’d repeatedly say 89-93 (If it’s cheap enough) in.

    Only person who complains is my sister, but now that she leaves early now, and I disabled the beeping when I use Remote Start, whose gonna bitch?

    • “just like when I pump my own gas instead of letting Muhammad or Ahmed put 87 in when I’d repeatedly say 89-93 (If it’s cheap enough) in.”

      God, I HATE that stupid law!!! I have to wait like 10 minutes for “Ahmed” (lol) to mosey on over and FINALLY start pumping. Heaven help me if I happen to be in a hurry! I remember coming from Massachusetts last year and I had to stop somewhere in Connecticut to get gas. Man, it felt like a breath of fresh air to be able to just stick my debit card in, pick up the nozzle, stick it in the filler hole, put the nozzle back, and be back on the road; all in like 5 minutes! That alone makes me wanna leave “Doity Joizey”.

  3. The Jeep that we drive to the barn every morning in the winter gets the engine heater plugged in for an hour in the morning if it’s below +20, or overnight if it’s going to be below +10. That’s my “contribution” to burning electrons instead of gasoline – LOL

    I’ve seen it so cold that I had to hold the clutch in for a while on my old pickup, or else the cold transmission oil would stall the engine. You have to hold the gas down and let the clutch out slow to get the transmission to even turn in neutral.

        • Oh noes, the horrors! No cat on the Cat’s pony engine! Won’t you think of the children? It’s probably got a (gasp! insert pearl clutching here!) carburetter, for Heaven’s sake! Spewing all those unburned hydrocarbons AND that evil CO2!

          There is one case for not warming the engine extensively. In a car with a carbie and a choke (strangler to those of you speaking the King’s English), or an older FI system like Bosch D-Jet. the cold enrichment can be pretty severe. It makes them run quite well when cold, but does have a downside. It can wash down the cylinder walls and cause ring sticking due to varnish from the excessive fuel, scuffing due to lack of lube, and oil contamination. Some older vehicles want you to start them, stabilize them for 30 seconds or so, and move off. Driving heats them up fast and prevents the above horrors. It does make for a rather cold first 20 minutes of drive in some climes…like central New York in January.

          • Well the two banger gas pony motor had a carb but it usually only runs about five minutes until you can get the diesel started, which put out lots of nice clean black smoke – ha-ha-ha-ha!

            My old pickup just wouldn’t run right until it warmed up a while: buck, lurch, sputter, etc. Sometimes I had pretty good luck with warming it up for a couple minutes and then shutting it off and letting it heat soak for a little while. I’m getting pretty spoiled with the TBI engines.


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