Consumer Reports on Warming Up Your Car Before Driving in 2022

Depending on where you live, warming up your car, truck, or sport utility vehicle might be an everyday thing. However, warming up your car before driving isn’t necessary for most modern passenger vehicles. Where did this advice come from, and why does Consumer Reports say you no longer need to worry about it in winter 2022?

Should you warm up your car before driving?

While the jury is still out on warming up the car before driving, Consumer Reports did a deep dive to find out more. The appeal of warming up your car before driving in the winter is obvious: it’s cold out! However, some drivers are convinced this is a necessity for the engine.

John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, says running the engine for a bit is a good idea before taking off. This helps get the cabin to a more comfortable temperature and can help defog the windshield. Beyond that, there isn’t much reason to warm up the car before driving.

Consumer Reports suggests that letting a car run for an extended period wastes fuel and generates emissions. It won’t waste a lot of fuel, but leaving your Kia Telluride SUV running for 20 minutes before getting into it will waste a lot of gas over time.

Warming up your car before driving isn’t necessary for modern vehicles and engines

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Modern engines are lubricated and ready to drive before the engine reaches the ideal temperature. When your car does not move for an extended period, the oil drains to the bottom of the oil pan. Once the engine turns over, the oil pump moves all the oil to the necessary places. The initial engine lubrication process is quite fast, with a cold engine idling at 1,200 rpm.

“There used to be a saying about older engines that the worst thing you could do for a motor was to start it, because for a split second those engines were somewhat dry and weren’t well lubricated with oil.”

Consumer Reports

Ensuring you do oil changes and other routine maintenance is more important than warming up your car before driving. Most engines will last 200,000 miles or more these days with regular maintenance, which is undoubtedly less expensive than buying a new vehicle or engine.

It is worth noting that engines vary from car to car and year to year. If you have a specialty engine or an exotic vehicle, it is best to follow the instructions given to you in the manual. Your Lamborghini Aventador might not be the best winter vehicle anyway.

You can heat your engine by driving as usual

Consumer Reports on warming up your car before driving
An SUV on a snowy road | Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP via Getty Images

Modern vehicles can have an entire engine lubricated within 20 or 30 seconds. That is barely enough time to get seated and buckled in properly. While the cabin might not be heated through yet, the engine is ready to drive.

The idea that warming your car before driving is necessary comes from a time when that might have been true. Older engines needed time to lubricate the engine and prepare it for driving. Running the car for 20 minutes before hopping in just isn’t a thing anymore. The best way to get your engine warmed up is simply by driving it like normal.

If you live in a very cold climate, five minutes is really all you need to get the cabin to a comfortable temperature. So hop in your reliable sport utility vehicle, buckle up, and hit the road.

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