Should you idle your car to let it warm up in colder weather?

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(Photo by Dave Mangels/Getty Images)

(ABC4) – With morning temperatures continuing to drop, braving the walk out to the street to start the car and head to work is undoubtedly becoming more and more dreadful.

For years, it’s been a popular myth that since it’s so cold outside, it’s necessary to start the engine and let it idle for a few minutes to get the car going for optimum performance.

That, however, may be a residual relic of the past, handed down by past generations, that drivers of newer cars can put to rest.

According to several sources, warming up your car is actually quite harmful to the vehicle nowadays. That wasn’t always the case, though. Prior to the mid-1990s, most vehicles were built with a carburetor that would need to literally heat up to vaporize the fuel intake to get the cylinders pumping.

Vehicles that are now less than 30 years old or so, which should be most of the cars on the road, do not require idle time to get the carburetor running because they most likely don’t have one of those. Fuel injectors have since taken their place, additionally, the oil technology has also greatly improved.

If you were to start up the engine and let it idle now in your post-mid-90s vehicle, the most likely consequences would be wasted fuel and increased pollution, not to mention the long term damage that would incur from the extra unevaporated gas in the gas-air mix that would cause many of engine parts to lose the lubrication. Eventually, it’ll end up doing more harm than good, according to DriversEd.com.

A 2014 myth-busting article by the Washington Post found that 1.6% of U.S. gas emissions at that time were caused by idling vehicles, which dwarfed many other industries such as iron and steel manufacturing as a whole. Experts interviewed by the Post recommended idling for no longer than 30 seconds in the cold.

So what should you do to get your car warmed up and on the road when it feels so cold, going inside and cozying up by the fireplace seems like the more intelligent approach to the day? Well, if calling out “sick” to work isn’t an option, the best way to get the car going is to simply drive it. According to Popular Mechanics, stepping on the pedal and getting going is the fastest way to warm up a vehicle with a fuel-injected engine.

Warming up the car before starting the day used to be common practice back in the day. It’s probably something that folks tell their children is necessary. That isn’t completely unfounded as it was sometimes a must to wait about 10 minutes or so to get the fuel in the carburetor heated up. However, if your car has a sound system that advances beyond the days of cassette players, chances are that isn’t prudent anymore.

It doesn’t make the walk to the car in the morning any easier, though.

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