QOTD: Warming It Up

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

qotd warming it up

It's cold outside. Really, really cold. Cold enough that the car washes are closed and anyone who doesn't need to be outside isn't.

Growing up, we used to warm up our cars in weather like this. My first car -- a 1984 Ford Bronco II -- needed to idle for quite some time after a cold start on days like today or it would stall out when put in gear.

But technology has changed, and fuel injection, in particular, was a big leap forward. I remember reading in Road&Track in the 1990s that modern cars, generally speaking, don't need much time to warm up -- at least not in terms of letting the oil/lubricants circulate. I believe I read this in one of Dennis Simanaitis's tech columns, but I couldn't find it in a quick google search. If I recall correctly, he said that an engine/transmission could be "warm" enough to drive without worrying about mechanical damage pretty quickly -- in about the amount of time it would take to get your seatbelt on, adjust the seat, and change the radio station.

Of course, there's a huge difference between what an engine needs and human comfort. It takes a few minutes for interior heaters and heated seats and steering wheels to warm up. So some folks will warm up their cars for 5-10 minutes, even if it wastes some gas (or, for an EV, a bit of charge). Remote starters are ubiquitous, both from the OEM and on the aftermarket. Automakers love to advertise how their cell phone apps can be used to remotely start the vehicle and/or set the temperature.

So, I ask, if you live in the frozen North, what do you do? I don't currently warm up cars often. I park in a "heated" garage -- I am using quotes there because the garage is still chilly, but it's warmer than the outside -- so that's one reason I don't. I do, on occasion, use a test vehicle's remote start when parked outdoors at the grocery store or whatnot, but it's rare -- today's cars seem to get the interior heat going pretty quickly.

What about you? Do you warm your car so that when you get in, it's nice and toasty? Or do you get in ASAP and just wait for the heater to get to the proper temperature?

[Image: fotodrobik/Shutterstock.com]

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3 of 58 comments
  • Wolfwagen Wolfwagen on Feb 02, 2023

    IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.

  • Fred Fred on Feb 06, 2023

    You think it's cold here, go to You Tube and check out the video for "How We Drive a Car at -50°C (-58°F) | Yakutia, Siberia


    • Tim Carter Tim Carter on Feb 25, 2023

      Yup, watched that one...so crazy (so much work too just to drive)