Is Winter Car Idling Good or Bad?

Winter Car IdlingLetting your car idle for a minute first thing in the morning is an age-old practice. This is especially so in winter when it’s supposedly necessary to warm the engine up before backing out of the driveway. Is idling your car in winter weather, though, really a good thing? Our auto service experts have an answer that may challenge conventional wisdom.

Winter Car Idling Is NOT ALWAYS Necessary

When it comes to winter car idling, Stephen Ciatti, an ex-drag racer who also holds a PhD in mechanical engineering, explains why car idling may actually do your car more harm than good.

A car engine runs on a mixture of air and vaporized fuel. The mixture is compressed by the piston, and is then ignited by a spark. This generates the combustion that powers the engine.

Ciatti explains, however, that in the winter, cold temperatures may prevent the gasoline from evaporating completely. When this happens, the engine compensates by using more gasoline. Some of the fuel does not ignite, which leaves liquid gasoline in the cylinder.

When there is extra fuel in the combustion chamber, some of it can get into the cylinder walls. In turn, the fuel can act as a solvent that strips the wall surface of oil and lubricant. This leads to premature wear of parts, such as the cylinder liner and piston rings.

If idling the car is counterproductive, then what is the best way to warm the engine? The answer? Driving your car! Driving your car warms the engine up faster and just as well as idling.  Letting a car idle is not necessary for a gasoline engine or a hybrid car.  However, if you want your heater blowing warm air by the time you get into your car, that’s a judgment call you’ll have to make on your own.

Diesel is Different

Many diesel engine manufacturers, however, do recommend that you warm your car up for a period of time before driving.  This is especially true for Cummins, a large diesel engine manufacturer.  As always, be sure to follow manufacturer recommendations when it comes to caring for your car or truck’s engine.

We’ll Check Your Engine

The engine works harder under extreme temperatures. Bring your car to Monroe Foreign Auto Repair to have the engine checked. Our auto repair crew can tune up your vehicle to prime it for winter driving conditions. As for winter car idling this year, you can discount this myth.

Edited by: Justin Vorhees

Full Car Engine Inspection and Maintenance

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