Do I need to idle my engine to warm it up?

A question from Brian that we've never got before

car gauge cold

We can’t help but feel like we should have covered this earlier in our Car Advice category – how best to warm up a car engine?

Brian sent in the question and its great that he prompted us to write this article because we reckon there are plenty of urban myths around when it comes to getting your car up and running in the morning.

Related: Road safety group warn against engine idling

Idling an engine after a cold start is a practice that goes back to the early days of motoring, and continued right through until around the mid-1980’s,

What happened in the mid-80’s that changed things? The introduction of fuel injection.

Previously, when cars had a carburetor (or carburetors in some cases) and a ‘choke’, sitting for a minute or two in the morning to get some warmth in your engine wasn’t just a good habit, it was essential.

You simply couldn’t rush engines back in the day, if you did, well you more often than not ended up stalling the engine and possibly flooding the carburettor.

With fuel injection, and electronic engine management systems, those old habits were generally thrown out the window.

Today’s engines require no warming up (in fact idling a cold engine can actually damage it) and 99.99% of the time will happily get you moving even in very cold temperatures.

So, no, Brian you don’t need to warm-up your modern car, but you do need to follow a simple rule – take it really easy on the engine/car until it reaches normal temperature.

Same as with you and I, if we jump out of bed too quickly we are likely to pull a muscle or do some other damage, cars also need to be eased into their day.

Keep your speed under 60km/h, your revs down, and avoid any harsh braking or accelerating for the first five minutes of your drive.

Related: Why it’s safer to back in to parking spots

Get in the habit of doing this and you’re engine and other drive components should see a long and happy life.

Do you have a motoring question for us? Send us an email at feedback@behindthewheel.com.au or use the Contact page.




1 Comment

  1. After starting the engine let it idle for ten seconds to ensure that lubricating oil has circulated to all lubrication points. Remember that the coolant will reach operating temperature long before the engine components, transmission and drive live has, so keep loads and speeds for the first five minutes.

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