QOTD: Hot or Cold?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd hot or cold

Last week’s ball-shattering polar vortex flash froze much of the U.S. and Canada, sending Netflix viewership soaring and no doubt spurring a mini baby boom in nine months’ time. While it may have been toasty in your home (sorry, Michigan gas customers), your car’s engine block found itself in a climate POW camp.

Hailing from the Great White North, I know all too well the prayers muttered while twisting the ignition key, knowing all too well your oil’s as thick as fudge and hoping with all your might that good wishes can be converted into cranking amps. Now, let’s say you succeed in firing up that ice-cold engine. What next?

There’s plenty of debate raging this week over the best strategy for reducing wear on your frigid engine block and precious moving components following a polar startup. Most of that debate raged over at Jalopnik, where some readers took exception to the idea that a car should be allowed to warm up for a short time before hitting the road.

Perhaps those ornery readers reside in sunnier climes? On January 30th, GM logged 1.59 million remote engine starts (via mobile app) from owners unwilling to sit in an ice locker, cursing, waiting for a breath of warm air to drift from the dash vents. That’s a 70 percent increase over an average January day in the United States, by the way.

While these GM owners probably had their own comfort in mind, not their engine’s, the controversy still rages. Should you get in and drive off right away, confident in your engine oil’s temperature-cheating viscosity, or let it sit? Chances are there isn’t 10W-30 in your crankcase. Should be fine, right?

Not necessarily, but there’s no perfect solution for this age-old conundrum. The best advice anyone can scrounge up comes from Dr. Andy Randolph, technical director at ECR Engines, who explained (in extreme detail) to Jalopnik that a two-minute warmup is probably your best bet.

This author, after 30 seconds to a minute or so of dicking around with the radio, climate controls, etc, is a fan of letting the clutch out and idling down the block at 10-12 mph or so, traffic permitting. The higher RPM upon cold weather startup allows an upshift to second gear. Why not make headway while the car warms up at idle?

So, B&B members, are you already a follower of Dr. Randolph’s advice, or do you start your cold car to the beat of a different drum?

[Image: Genesis Motors]

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2 of 59 comments
  • Macmcmacmac Macmcmacmac on Feb 06, 2019

    My Focus gets put into gear and driven off at -30 as soon as I can fix my seat belt. It has been running flawlessly like this for 10 years now, 6 of which have involved a commute to work which is so short the temperature gauge does not budge. No block heater, no battery warmer. I replaced the original battery 2 years ago, which seems to be the one component which takes the worst of it. If I didn't have a reason to come back to the house at lunch, I would walk. Oddly enough, the biggest problem my Fords have given me is a driver's door that won't latch when it gets cold. Now THAT is a big issue.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 07, 2019

    A distinct advantage of electric vehicles (straight up battery electric) is instant heat as soon as you get in the vehicle - no waiting for the engine to warm up. It is amazing to get into a 'cold' EV, start the defroster and watch the ice begin to melt right away. Also eye-opening to have the cabin comfortably warming as soon as you start driving - no waiting to turn on the heater. I checked with some authorities - pretty sure ICE vehicles get zero MPG while idling with remote start. (... considers reporting the 10-minute internal combustion warm-up DEFECT to asdf.... lol)

  • Hugh I bought my 2014 Volt in 2017 with 29K miles on it- all ICE. The lease person never charged the battery. Lifetime MPG was 41. I have owned the car over 5 years now. Lifetime MPG is 151. All I have had to do to maintain it was tires, brakes and an oil change every two years (at 50% oil life). It has been incredibly dependable. It is small and cramped for passengers, but I love it. It did cost more than the Cruze it is based on, but a friend at GM said was sold for half of what it cost to make. GM pulling the plug on yet another EV is no surprise.Two months after I bought it my brother went into an ICU 200 miles away. I was able to spend every weekend with him. I could not have done that in a Leaf. I drive a 39 mile eaxh way commute. The Volt is perfect for that, except when temperatures drop below 45. Even then, when it has to run the ICE, I get 145mpg at least. I have saved enough money on gas to pay for the car and then some. CO2 is about 20% of what my Tacoma was based on the 12KW it takes to charge eaxh way. Now that it is an orphan, it is getting harder to find a qualified technician. Parts are also hard to find and expensive. I have bought (and may actually actually receive) a 2023 Maverick Hybrid. If Ford makes a Maverick PHEV I will trade for that.If I could find a Gen2 at a reasonable price I would have bought that instead of the Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts What a bizarre idea. Keep it legible. There's absolutely nothing wrong with A4E, Q5E, etc. At this point the Q5, Q7, and A4 in particular are such well-known brands that it's just dumb to monkey with them.
  • Ajla After the success this sort of thing brought Infiniti and Cadillac I can see why Audi is joining in.
  • SCE to AUX A plug-in hybrid requires two fuels to realize the benefit of having that design. This is where the Volt fell down.It could be either:[list][*]A very short-range EV[/*][*]A long-range ICE with mediocre fuel economy[/*][*]An excellent mid-range vehicle that required both a plug and gasoline.[/*][/list]If you wanted a short-range EV you got a Leaf (like I did). If you wanted a long-range car with good fuel economy, you got a Civic/Elantra/Cruze/Corolla. In my case, we also had an Optima Hybrid.I'd personally rather have a single-fuel vehicle - either gas/hybrid or electric - rather than combine the complexity and cost of both into one vehicle.
  • Bobbysirhan The Pulitzer Center that collaborated with PBS in 'reporting' this story is behind the 1619 Project.