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Debunking The Ultimate Cold-Weather Car Myth: Warming Up The Car

With the recent dip in temperatures throughout Kelowna and the Okanagan, it’s time to debunk the most popular cold-weather car myth that seem to come creeping back each year.

Your Car Doesn’t Need to “Warm-Up” Before You Drive It

One of the most persistent winter vehicle myths is that your car or truck needs to idle and warm-up before you drive it. This popular misconception actually started as fact back before the days of electronic fuel injection when carburetors played a more important role, but most cars on the road (early ‘90’s or later) no longer need this idle period.

In actual fact, your car only needs to be “warmed up” for a maximum of 2-3 minutes, as the engine will warm up faster and more efficiently when it is being driven. Idling your vehicle will only warm up the engine anyway, so you will need to get behind the wheel and drive in order for the steering, wheel bearings, tires, suspension, and transmission to warm up.

But The Interior is Cold...

Of course, there are some people who are warming up the interior of the car, rather than the vehicle’s engine, when they are leaving it to idle in the winter time. On particularly cold days and mornings, it’s nice to get into a warm vehicle - we get it. But keep in mind that you are wasting a fair amount of fuel and pushing more emissions into the air for the sake of an extra minute or two of warmth (your cabin will heat up faster when you drive too!)

According to Natural Resources Canada:

“...a 5-minute warm-up total fuel consumption increased by 7 to 14 percent and with a 10-minute warm-up total fuel consumption increased by 12 to 19 percent.”

That’s a lot of fuel, and money, when you add it up over the winter season!

I Don’t Need to Plug My Car In - It Starts Just Fine!

Just because your car starts easily in cold weather, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use your block heater. Because of the inevitable cold weather in Canada, the majority of cars in the Okanagan will come equipped with a block heater.

Like most oils, vehicle lubricants and oils become more viscous when the temperature drops. When these lubricants are thicker and don’t flow as easily, your engine must work harder to overcome that friction. A block heater is designed to be plugged into electrical outlets and they help to warm the coolant. The coolant then warms the engine block and lubricants, taking some of the stress off of your engine.

In extremely cold weather (-20°C or so), a block heater can help reduce your fuel consumption by as much as 25 percent, versus cold-starting and driving the same route.

When it comes to your block heater, consider getting a timer and having it turn on 2-3 hours before you plan on driving, so that you aren’t needlessly wasting electricity.

Have a car or truck question? Send an email to us at [email protected] or give us a call

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