QOTD: Warming It Up

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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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)

  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.
  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.
  • El scotto BAH! No dividers in the trunk for bags of onions or hooks for hanging sardines! Hard Pass.