Not true anymore now that the engines work in closed-loop. As a
matter of fact, driving the car will warm it up more quickly because
the ECU can use a leaner charge, which heats up the engine and the
catalytic converter faster.
However, the recommendation to avoid WOT until the engine has reached
normal a temperature still applies.
My car, 1997 Buick LeSabre, never gets cold in winter, even up here
in the land of snow, Canada, since I plug in the block heater, and it
purrs evenly after the coldest night. Mind you, it takes a while for the
heater to do its stuff, but with cloth seats it's not that much of a problem,
not as it was with my leather-seated '93 Olds Delta, yuck.
What you should do is get in your vehicle, start the engine, and if it's
cold out, get out and scrape the windows. Jump back in the car
and go. There is no need to sit and idle the car for any amount of
time. Jump in it and go. That's what is best for the vehicle.
That's what I do with my truck, when I need to scrape the windows.
Otherwise, I open the door, start the truck before getting in the
seat, get settled into the truck, then take off. Planning on putting
Mobil 1 in the crankcase when I'm due for my first change on this
| Has it really been proven that not warming up the car in the winter, will
| damage your engine in the long run? And if it is in fact required, how
| long should you let it idle before driving off? Any links on this topic?
Nope. Start it and drive...just don't dog it for the 1st few miles. Been
doing that for over 30 years and haven't had any engine problems yet.
Depends on what you all are calling cold and if its plugged in or not. 0F no
problem for most vehicles if you have winter oil, -20F and colder it gets hard
on things and should be plugged in it.
I live in a cold climate and worked as an automotive tech.
1# problem I always seen with engine wear was people who never changed thier
oil. Never mind starting the car with out plugging it in!
my 2 cents!!!
I used to drive over 100 km (60 miles) per trip to go to work for over 4
years. I have had many GMs' and Japanese cars. They're always started
every year following regular oil change interval. I never had my car run
more than a few minutes since I did not want to waste more time in the
morning and beside it cold in the butt while waiting for engine to warm-up
does not make any sense to me, typically the time it took me to place my
coffee in cup holder and seat belt on is all its need. So far, I have not
had any engine failure prematurely because of the cold weather. In fact, I
never had engine failure and all of my cars when I get rid of it has more
than 100,000 miles. Like most people here already said, drive slow when it
is cold for a few blocks then drive like normal. My wife on the other hand
like to keep her car nice and warm. She usually has the car running for
about 20 minutes (remote starter!) then drive to work. Her GM car is still
running like top. No oil leak, no burning oil passed E-test. Just waste
gas!! So really I don't see any problem either way from engine point of
view. Perhaps BMW or other fancy car is more particularly about long idling
(morning start-up) due to engine control algorithm for fuel burning to avoid
damage to exhaust system or sensors (heard from someone who has a BMW told
All very fine... except you are talking about a warm-up after
the engine is started, and I'm talking about a need to pre-heat
I know of no reason to wait more than something between a few
seconds and a few minutes before driving after the engine is
started. A few seconds when the temperature is above perhaps
20F, and on up to several minutes at -70F.
The whole point is to wait until fluids have a chance to move.
Oil being the prime concern, but power steering fluid and more
so transmission fluids are also a concern. Perhaps the best
thing in really cold weather (say -40 or colder) is to start the
engine and put the transmission into neutral. Let it run for 2,
3, 4 minutes? 10? Depends on the vehicle I guess. If you try
longer times and get better response, then use longer times. I
you can't tell any difference, just wait a couple minutes and
go. (I've seen trucks that at -60F simply would not back out of
a parking place until the tranny was given a little time to
Well, selling the car before the engine has much time on it is
certainly one way to avoid premature engine wear failures!
What you've just said is that none of your observations could be
What if you can not plug your car in while you at work? At extreme cold
night, I will plug in the car (block heater is all I have) but only for 4
hrs using prog. timers. Never plug-in the car at work simply because I could
I think plug in is better but has little or nothing to do with engine damage
(internal engine we are talking about). The cold weather does not help only
if the engine is not properly maintained then you could probable damage the
engine. I believe use proper oil type for the climate should be sufficient.
To damage an engine, you need heat and heat is what you are lacking off in
extreme cold weather. I can see alternator, starter motor, engine hoses
leaking, seals, battery and mostly rad and external body component properly
taking more abuse than actual engine itself. Warming-up your engine before
starting or after started only help starter motor and comfort and nothing
else. I say replace your engine oil often and use high quality engine oil
is your best safe guard against premature or engine damage.
By the way, when I get rid of the car never because engine problem. I never
hardly get rid of my car less than 100,000 miles. My current car (1993
model) has about 200,000 miles right now and still running great. My brother
Volvo (960) has more than 300,000 miles and all its need was new head gasket
and head job (just had it done last years from Volvo) to reduce oil
consumption and now it run like top.
So lets be sure it is conclusive this time.
1/ Plug-in is better for cold start-up
2/ Plug-in or not from my experience does not make engine wear prematurely
(premature engine wear by someone definition is 25,000 miles?). It will help
only if you're neglect basic engine oil (use proper oil grade for climate
condition) and cooling (proper mixture)maintenance If the engine and engine
bay is design properly, it should last more than 100,000 miles.
3/ I agree cold weather is hard on vehicle (all external component which you
can not do anything about) and still has nothing to do with engine damage
4/ The key point as everyone has already said is drive slow till you warm-up
other component (transmission, and other moving parts) to reduce engine
If you respect all this, your engine should last more than 25,000 miles and
expect more than 100,000 miles with proper engine (engine that last without
Perhaps you have seen many engines damage due to lack of engine warm-up and
that is totally true, from my experience I have never seen it yet. That
means it is not a systematic problem and consider a random problem which we
can not avoid it by engine warm-up
It has been fun to chat about this and it is rather interesting topic
That just is not true.
When you start the engine the amount of wear on every internal
moving part is increased at lower temperatures. That is true
for any temperature below normal operating temperature, and for
any kind of oil. However, the amount of wear is insignificant
until the temperature drops well below normal operating
temperature, and is not really worth concern until it is perhaps
10 or 20 degrees below freezing. It is also true that different
types of oil have different effects. Clearly synthetic oil is
better than non-synthetic oil for cold starts, and the colder the
starts, the more benefit from the synthetic oil.
But at the extremes for whatever type of oil you use, it just is
not smart to start a cold engine. Somewhere between +20F and -20F
almost every non-synthetic oil becomes jelly-like in consistency.
But even synthetic oil does not flow well at -50F. In either case,
if the oil has not been pre-heated, and the engine parts are cold,
there is no lubrication until several minutes after the engine
is started. That *does* cause greatly increase engine wear.
Generally that is probably true. Power steering hoses tend to
burst from cold starts, but most everything else works well
enough with the exception of belts. In places like Fairbanks
Alaska where it is often -30F to -50F, the first cold snap of
the year is always cause for a lot of "highway snakes" being
seen. Every old fan belt breaks the first day. And of course a
cold day is the *wrong* day to replace belts. A brand new,
stiff, belt is almost as likely to break as an old worn out
Pre-heat your engine if it is colder than 10F, and use synthetic oil.
How much cold starting do you do?
25,000 miles???? That's ridiculous.
That isn't true.
Why should it fail that soon? (Cold starting!)
There is no reason an engine should only last 100,000 miles. If
fails that soon, or anywhere near it, it has been abused.
It is indeed interesting. It's also difficult, because everyone has
a different idea of what is "cold", what is "premature wear", and what
is "the right oil".
Floyd L. Davidson <http://web.newsguy.com/floyd_davidson
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska) email@example.com
I have read, with great interest, this message chain. With so many diverse
opinions, I am not surprised by the need to ask the original question!!!
In sumation, it appears that the answer depends on where you live and the
temperatures observed, and the level of wear and tear your willing to put up
If one wishes to pre-heat the car, that's fine, but in cold areas where the
roads are salted, the body will rust out before the engine fails. The cold
can affect other systems that may fail prematurely.
If one wishes to keep a particular car for the next, say, 50 years. One can
pre-heat, use a pre-oil circulator (a pump to oil the motor before
cranking), drive as if there is an egg under the accelerator, use Amsoil or
whatever, etc., etc., etc., This would give you a car with 1,000,000 miles
FWIW: I idle the car for as long as it takes to scrape the ice off the
windshield, then drive away!
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