Myth Buster: Stop Hurting Your Engine By "Warming Up" When It's Cold Outside

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    Myth Buster: Stop Hurting Your Engine By "Warming Up" When It's Cold Outside

    Any BGP auto mechanics out there? Thoughts?


    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/bigges...164138459.html

    Harsh driving conditions in winter are already hard on your car, but you could be making things a lot worse if you're turning your vehicle on in the morning so it can 'warm up' before you drive off.
    If you're one of the many drivers who thinks it's important to idle your car turn it on and let it sit in these frigid winter months to protect the engine, you've likely fallen victim to a myth that may be doing more harm than good.

    We spoke with mechanical engineer and former drag-racer Stephen Ciatti about the pervasive myth that you need to warm up your car in the winter.

    For the last 26 years, Ciatti has worked on combustion engines engines that generate power from burning fuel, like gasoline and currently oversees all of the combustion engine work at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

    To get straight to the point, Ciatti said that idling your car in the cold not only wastes fuel, but it's also stripping oil from critical components that help your engine run, namely the cylinders and pistons.

    How it works

    Under normal conditions, your car engine runs on a mixture of air and vaporized fuel, gasoline in this case. When that mixture enters a cylinder, a piston compresses it, which at the risk of oversimplifying generates a combustion event, powering the engine.

    But when it's cold outside, gasoline is less likely to evaporate. Your car compensates for this initially by adding more gasoline to the air-vapor mixture what Ciatti calls running "rich" and that's where the problem begins.

    "That's a problem because you're actually putting extra fuel into the combustion chamber to make it burn and some of it can get onto the cylinder walls," Ciatti said. "Gasoline is an outstanding solvent and it can actually wash oil off the walls if you run it in those cold idle conditions for an extended period of time."

    Over time, that washing action can "have a detrimental effect on the lubrication and life of things like piston rings and cylinder liners," which are critical to running the cylinders and pistons that breathe life into your engine, Ciatti said.

    The bottom line: Contrary to popular belief, idling your car does not prolong the life of your engine, rather it shortens it.

    A simple solution

    Thankfully, your car doesn't run rich the entire winter. It only happens when the gasoline is cold. Once your engine warms up to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the car transfers to normal fuel consumption rates.

    So you might think by idling your car, you're warming it up, which will prevent this problem. But don't confuse warm air coming from your car's radiator with a warm engine. Idling is, in fact, the root of the problem.

    "Idling isn't really getting the engine up to temperature, and until that happens the little brain box on the engine is going to keep sending rich fuel mixture to the cylinders so that it can ensure that enough is evaporated for a consistent combustion event."

    The fastest way to warm your engine up is to use it, aka drive!

    Some might tell you that the power steering fluid the oil that pushes on pumps enabling you to control the car's wheels might be too cold to flow properly. To that, Ciatti said no way.

    "You will get the oil warmer, faster so that it's flowing exactly the way it's intended if you drive the car lightly reasonably quickly [after turning it on], within say 30 seconds to a minute," Ciatti said. "The power steering pump is certainly going to groan a little bit ... but idling the car for five minutes isn't doing a thing for the power steering fluid. Nothing. You're not making the power steering fluid do anything because you're not steering and moving the pump."

    In the time it takes you to scrape the snow and ice off of your windows, your car will be ready to go.

    Don't gun it

    Be gentle with the gas pedal at first. It takes time for your engine to warm up once you step on the gas between five to fifteen minutes depending on driving conditions and you'll put unnecessary stress on the it if you go racing down the road immediately after turning your car on.
    Moreover, because your car is going to run a bit rich before the engine reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you're going to get lower gas mileage than usual.

    In fact, your car will be at least 12% less efficient at burning fuel when it's cold, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department.

    If you put your pedal to the metal straight out of the driveway, you're just wasting gas, MIT mechanical engineer John Heywood told Business Insider.

    "[Idling] does of course use fuel, and the bigger the engine, the more fuel," he said.

    Roots of the myth

    Some myths die hard, and the notion that you need to idle your car in the cold is no exception. The basis for this thinking extends to an age when car engines relied on carburetors.
    Before 1980, carburetors were the heart that kept car engines pumping.

    From the 1980s onward, however, electronic fuel injection took over and is still what powers today's car engines.

    The key difference is that electronic fuel injection comes with a sensor that feeds the cylinders the right air-fuel mixture to generate a combustion event. Carburetor-run cars lacked this important sensor.

    Therefore, if your gasoline was too cold, your car wouldn't run rich, it would simply stall out. In those days, it was important to get the carburetor warm before driving. But those frustrating times met their end long ago, and so too should pointless idling.

    Yes, you're going to be cold during the first few minutes it takes your radiator to warm up and start blowing air that feels comfortable. But you'll be saving yourself fuel as well as a lot of time and money.
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    BirdBrain's Avatar
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    Hard to disagree with the data, based on the claims, however....

    I go out each morning and start Mrs. BB's car and let it warm up...typically more than 15 minutes. I have always warmed engines during cold weather, maybe it's a farm thing, a military thing or just something that was passed on from my Dad who knows more about internal combustion than I can read.

    I have always been under the assumptiont this practice was to warm the engine oil so that it would lubricate upon driving...viscosity is a funny thing, when it's cold, oil doesn't flow so lack of oil in the engine cylinder walls I buy, the reasons it "washes" away I also buy. My solution is to use a block treatment, like Engine Honey. Mixed reviews on this as well, but I feel better adding it to the vehicles since I can't see the walls and know any different.

    The real reason I warm Mrs. BB's car each morning: She hates the cold and everything about it, especially a cold car in the AM.

    The way I figure it, idling a car for 20 minutes helps her start her day in a better place thereby increasing the chances that when she gets home my day will end better...I'm not a rocket scientist, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once...

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    Quote Originally Posted by BirdBrain View Post
    Hard to disagree with the data, based on the claims, however....

    I go out each morning and start Mrs. BB's car and let it warm up...typically more than 15 minutes. I have always warmed engines during cold weather, maybe it's a farm thing, a military thing or just something that was passed on from my Dad who knows more about internal combustion than I can read.

    I have always been under the assumptiont this practice was to warm the engine oil so that it would lubricate upon driving...viscosity is a funny thing, when it's cold, oil doesn't flow so lack of oil in the engine cylinder walls I buy, the reasons it "washes" away I also buy. My solution is to use a block treatment, like Engine Honey. Mixed reviews on this as well, but I feel better adding it to the vehicles since I can't see the walls and know any different.

    The real reason I warm Mrs. BB's car each morning: She hates the cold and everything about it, especially a cold car in the AM.

    The way I figure it, idling a car for 20 minutes helps her start her day in a better place thereby increasing the chances that when she gets home my day will end better...I'm not a rocket scientist, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once...
    You could increase your chances even more if you didn't make Mrs. BB work!

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    doomer's Avatar
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    I follow advice read long ago...just warm up enough for fluids to circulate. I perceive that to correlate when the idle speed lowers which is usually < 1 minute.

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    woodsrider's Avatar
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    But don't confuse warm air coming from your car's radiator with a warm engine. Idling is, in fact, the root of the problem.
    This statement has me beyond confused. How does he think the radiator got warm?

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    spindoc's Avatar
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    I don't keep a vehicle long enough to worry about any of that garbage. I worked for two summers at Ashland Oil, the APAL lab where they tested the oils and viscosity and engine wear, etc. After seeing the crap they did to an engine block, I certainly can't kill one.

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    theguru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spindoc View Post
    I don't keep a vehicle long enough to worry about any of that garbage. I worked for two summers at Ashland Oil, the APAL lab where they tested the oils and viscosity and engine wear, etc. After seeing the crap they did to an engine block, I certainly can't kill one.
    Agree

    Additionally, I wonder if there are any statistics that measure accident rates for distressed drivers. In other words, if you are cold in your car I believe it is more dangerous to your personal safety than being comfortable in your car.

    Seems like more of a tree hugger agenda to me.

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    I have no idea but I will continue to warm it up for a few minutes.

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    BigVMan23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodsrider View Post
    This statement has me beyond confused. How does he think the radiator got warm?
    I was thinking the same thing...for the water to be warm enough to put out hot air, the engine had to get hot enough for the thermostat to open for the hot water to start circulating to the radiator.

    What he say, however, does make sense as far as warming up the engine. My auto shop teacher even back in the early 80's said it was a waste to do that, you should start it up, wait a few seconds to make sure everything is working and then go, though he never explained it in these terms. I have always been one who starts the car up and goes...it will warm up faster driving it than I will sitting there idling.

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    HammerTime's Avatar
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    My Dad was a diesel mechanic for 25 years. He calls BS on that and says it's fine. :dunno: Of course your car doesn't need to be sitting for 15-20 minutes, but 5-10 minutes is fine.

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    woodsrider's Avatar
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    I always warm mine up so the heater is blowing hot air. To hell with the engine, I just don't want to be cold

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    Hangman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodsrider View Post
    I always warm mine up so the heater is blowing hot air. To hell with the engine, I just don't want to be cold
    Amen. Gotta get that windshield defrosted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawildcat View Post
    You could increase your chances even more if you didn't make Mrs. BB work!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangman View Post
    Amen. Gotta get that windshield defrosted.
    That's about how long I might warm mine up for. I've gotta be able to see to drive it, whether that includes me sitting and watching the car defrost or not is irrelevant.

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    Are any of you really bad about only scraping a little circle for you to look out of? I hate scraping the window so the moment I can sort of see, I hit the road. IT drives my wife nuts.

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