To warm or not to warm your vehicle – you decide

You’re dressed and ready for work. To start your morning, you probably showered, had some breakfast, checked on the news (possibly the weather) of the day and now it’s time to hit the road.

Warm your vehicle

Coffee and computer bag in hand, you head for the door. But first, you stop to put on your coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Why? Because it’s FREEZING outside. The weather guy said so. Your weather app says so. The thermometer outside says so.

So, altogether, you probably took somewhere between 30-60 minutes to get warmed up and start your day. Give or take … Then you donned winter gear to keep you warm in the cold temperatures.

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?

Granted, 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.

Warm your vehicle

However, as we head into the wintery months, much of the northern United States awakens to single-digit or sub-zero temperatures – hardly what most would call “normal” temperatures. In addition, most do not allow an extra 10 minutes of “gentle drive time” (30-ish mph on a relatively level, smooth surface), but rather jump right in and hit the highway, or in my case, hills and mountains.

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

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 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.

Warm your vehicle

When I moved from that environment to my first home in New Hampshire – at the top of a mountain, with no garage, northern winter temperatures and a LOT of snow – however, 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 vehicle 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.

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

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.