Even in a new decade, the great debate wages on.

To warm or not to warm?

As we head into the wintery months, much of the United States awakens to freezing temperatures, including some as low as single-digit or even negative in the Northern states.

Interestingly, this is a hot topic (pun intended) that renders strong opinions on both sides.


Warming vehicle ice scrape

Experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) have concluded that vehicles actually warm up faster when driven and encourage owners to idle for no more than 30 seconds before driving.

There is truth to this. In normal temperatures and normal driving conditions, where a driver can take a low-key, gentle drive for the first several minutes, yes, the engine will warm up faster than if it sits in the driveway.

I will admit, I used to be on the “no idle” bandwagon. Prior to living in New Hampshire, I did not start my vehicle before heading out to begin my day. Temperatures in Dallas, Texas, are relatively moderate (August notwithstanding) and the terrain is, well, flat. Besides all of that, I had a garage and I had a five- to seven-minute, low-speed drive from my house to Interstate 35, which I took downtown every day. There was absolutely no need to give my fuel-injected vehicle time to warm up.

THE CASE FOR WARMING YOUR VEHICLENot warming vehicle frozen window

Donning the winter gear to keep you warm in the cold temperatures can add some extra time to the morning routine.

Why, then, would you not also allow your vehicle, that prized possession that you work (or worked, as the case may be) hard for, the same luxury of having some morning warm-up time?

When I moved to my first home in New Hampshire – at the top of a mountain, with no garage, northern winter temperatures and a LOT of snow –I was quickly convinced that circumstances should dictate whether you choose to warm up your vehicle prior to driving.

Do I leave my vehicle idling for long periods of time? Typically no. Nor do I use warming my automobile as a method of clearing snow and ice from the vehicle. I have a snow brush, ice scraper and step stool (I’m short) for that.

Two or three minutes of idling is usually enough time to get the oil loosened up a bit and get things moving with ease.


Warming vehicle happy driver

Will the same plan work for you? Maybe. Or maybe you live in an environment where warming up your vehicle really isn’t necessary.

When it comes to driving in freezing temperatures, we have some tips you can remember when braving such conditions.

Here’s the long and the short of it – expert recommendations are made based off what is generally considered the norm. But when your own circumstances are outside the norm, it’s best to weigh everything and make the best decision for you and your vehicle.