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Why you shouldn't leave your car parked in the cold

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Leaving the car idling when it’s cold outside can shorten the life of the engine.

Winter is officially here — and winter storms are hitting many parts of the United States.

In cold temperatures, it is a common practice for many drivers to let their cars warm up for a few minutes before hitting the road. Some vehicles even have a preset feature that allows drivers to start their car remotely.

But a VERIFY viewer wants to know if it could harm his car’s engine.


Can warming up the car before driving in the cold damage the engine?



This is true.

Yes, warming up the car before driving in the cold can damage the engine.


It’s true that warming up gasoline-powered vehicles before driving in cold weather can cause engine damage, according to Firestone Complete Auto Care and Smart Motors Toyota, a dealership based in Madison, Wisconsin.

“If you’re one of the many drivers who think it’s important to start your car and let it rest for a while before hitting the road in the winter, you could be doing your engine more harm than good,” says Firestone.

In a blog post on its website, Smart Motors Toyota says that idling your car in low temperatures can shorten your engine’s lifespan by stripping the engine’s pistons and cylinders of oil — two critical components that help the engine run smoothly. work, Stephen Ciatti, Ph. .D., PACCAR’s lead battery systems engineer, told Business Insider in 2016.

“Less oil means more friction, more wear and a shorter life for your engine,” says Firestone.

While some people let their car idle to warm up the interior, others may actually be trying to protect the engine because of outdated guidance.

Firestone and Smart Motors Toyota say that most cars made before 1980 needed to “warm up” when it was cold. This is because older car models had carburetors that regulated the air-fuel mixture inside the engine and could not precisely adjust the air-fuel ratio in cold weather.

“At low temperatures, the carburetors couldn’t vaporize all the gasoline they let into the engine, so some of it would be left behind as a liquid rather than being burned off during combustion. To function properly, a carburettor needed to heat up or else you risk seizing up,” says Firestone.

But times have changed since the 1980s. Today, virtually every car sold in the United States has an electrical fuel injection system that helps maintain the perfect air-fuel mixture needed for a combustion event, regardless of the ambient temperature. according to Firestone and Smart Motors Toyota.

Rather than waiting for your car to warm up in the winter, most manufacturers recommend driving smoothly after about 30 seconds because the engine warms up faster when the car is being driven, according to the US Department of Energy.

“That means your cold-weather driving routine should look something like this: bundle up, start the car, scrape the ice off the windows and mirrors, get in the car and drive!” says Firestone.

Just make sure you don’t accelerate too fast or rev your engine too hard the first few moments you start driving in the cold.

“This can add unwanted stress to the bearings and flood the combustion chamber with gas, which in turn will shorten engine life,” says Smart Motors Toyota.

For electric vehicle owners, who don’t have traditional motors, the above information does not apply, according to a blog post on the NAPA Auto Parts website. Instead, the NAPA advises EV owners to warm up their cars before shutting them down, as this can help preserve battery range.

“EVs need to consume electricity to heat the interior. If you get into a car with a cold cabin and start driving, the vehicle needs to draw on stored electricity to bring the interior air up to a comfortable temperature. This will overcharge the EV battery and leave you with less range,” says NAPA.

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