The Surprising Length of Time You Should Warm-Up a Vehicle

Think of it like a workout warm-up

The Surprising Length of Time You Should Warm-Up a Vehicle

The short of the long: warm up your car at idle for about 30 seconds. ONE minute if you’re feeling guilty. Now, read on to find out how to do that properly.

Your vehicle has a lot of similarities to you. For example, much like our human bodies, an engine needs to intake air (inhale), fire and produce power (work), and has exhaust gas (exhale). If we’re unable to breathe clearly, the work we do will be limited. If we’re unable to exhale, that will also restrict the amount that we’re able to inhale and our effectiveness in producing work. Your engine is the same. For example, if the air filter is dirty or clogged the engine will not perform well. If the exhaust system is plugged then the vehicle may seem sluggish. Are you beginning to see the similarities to our physical bodies? Don’t even get me started on our bodies aging and its likeness to cars that way! Suffice it to say that sagging seems to be inevitable in both cases.

If your auto technician says he needs to flash you, don't call the police. He's talking about this.

Think of a vehicle warming up like your own workout warm-up. According to Dara Duff-Bergeron, our resident Sweaty Mummy, warm-up benefits include raising your body temperature and heart rate to prepare you for the actual workout. Your warm up is usually short, maybe 5 to 10 minutes of light activity.  Then you’re ready to hit the weights or tackle your cardio challenge.

Your vehicle engine needs to warm up for the ride and there is a way to do this properly. Start your car and warm it up at idle for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then take it on a nice slow drive out of your subdivision before you hit regular speeds on the road. Even a slow, gentle drive on the main roads before you hit the highway is enough. The best way to warm up your engine to operating temperature is to drive it. Idling the car is ineffective in doing that.

What NOT to do:

Warm up the engine at idle for 30 seconds, put it in drive and hit full throttle. As you can imagine, you will cause damage to the engine with such a sudden increase in demand.

Long warm-up times have no additional benefit and it causes more pollution for the environment.  Just like our physical bodies, there comes a point when extended warm-up time no longer provides a benefit prior to our workout.

Speaking of fitness, here's a few simple exercises you can do at a stoplight!

For other winter driving tips, check out why your vehicle doesn’t like Canadian winters and why you should use your A/C in the winter. Want to pass on confident winter driving skills to your kids? Here's how I came to love winter driving.