It’s one of those bitter cold days. As you head out to start your car, you’re conflicted about just how long you should warm it up before you drive off. If you are like me, your dad or grandfather may have told you that it was best to let it run a few minutes to make sure the engine was properly lubricated and enough gas was getting into the engine. But a lot of us have also been hearing that’s no longer necessary. In fact, how long anyone should warm their car has been the topic of national auto call in shows and many automotive blogs and articles.

The bottom line is that times have changed and the advice to warm the car a few minutes is apparently no longer valid. The modern answer is that warming your vehicle (unless it’s a diesel) wastes gas, pollutes the air and may actually be bad for your engine, not to mention illegal in many states if you leave it unattended. Here is what the experts are saying.

First, modern fuel injected vehicles adjust to the cold and don’t need warming. The idea of warming a vehicle is a throwback to cars and trucks that had carburetors.

Second, modern oils and lubricants are now designed to maintain their viscosity even in abnormally cold weather. The days of warming the oil to coat important moving parts are over.

Third, it now only takes 10 to 30 seconds to warm a car or truck.

Fourth, the engines in most autos actually warm quicker when they are being driven. Idling actually works the engine and its components harder than when it is moving.

Fifth, idling costs you money in wasted fuel. Unnecessarily running your vehicle for just a few minutes a day can add up to hundreds of gallons of gas.

Sixth, warming the car in a garage can be deadly. Even if the garage door is open, dangerous carbon monoxide can seep into your home which can cause serious health problems or even death.

Seventh, idling engines produce more pollution. Nobody wants to breathe that stuff in.

Now, that we know it’s not a good idea to over-warm your car, let’s not forget the places where it’s illegal to leave it running unattended. Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin have passed so called “puffing” laws, fining owners of unattended cars left running. Cities including New York, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Reno have also enacted ordinances against cars left idling. The only exception is if you have a remote starter and the car remains locked. That’s because it’s too easy for criminals to climb in and steal it.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that a vehicle is stolen every 33 seconds; many of those were cars or trucks that were left running or had the keys left in them. That adds up to 6.4 billion dollars, which we all pay for in higher automobile insurance rates.

To help prevent auto theft, the NICB advises to:

  • Never leave your vehicle running unattended
  • Always lock it
  • Never leave any keys in the car, even a spare set
  • Always part in well-lit, high-traffic areas
  • Get windows, doors and fenders etched with the vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Consider installing a tracking and recovery device

Another way to protect your vehicle is with insurance. Don’t forget to purchase comprehensive coverage in case it catches fire, it’s damaged by a falling tree, or someone breaks in or steals it. Before that happens, contact a California Casualty advisor today for a no hassle policy comparison or review at 1.800.800.9410 or visit www.calcas.com. It just might warm your day.

Resources for this article:







California Casualty

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