Is it necessary to warm up my car?

I’ve heard so many conflicing opinions.

I have a 2000 Acura Integra GSR.

I heard that there is no need to warm up a Japanese car buton the other hand, it’s crucial to warm up a domestic.

what’s the deal?

If by “warming up” you mean “going easy on the first couple of minutes of driving”: that goes for ALL cars.
And it’s not so much about temperature. It’s about oil. When your car sits in the driveway (not running), the oil in the engine and transmission logically flows to the lowest point (don’t ask me to name these parts, I’m not a mechanic). When you start her up in the morning, the oil takes a while to reach all parts of the engine. So, when it’s “cold”, you’re basically driving without oil. If you really floor it then, you’re possibly damaging the valves et cetera. If you wait (about 5 minutes of driving will do the trick), the oil is evenly spread, and the car can handle high revs much better.

Peppy, I agree with Coldfire, but would like to ask a follow-up question: how cold is it outside when you’re starting your car? If it’s really cold, then the other fluids (the steering fluid and the brake fluid) can also be pretty viscous, and that means your power steering and power brakes may not work very well until they get warmed up.

For example, the other day here it was -32° Celsius. I didn’t let it run long enough, and the first intersection I came to, the brakes were pretty sluggish - I slid into the intersection a bit. So, if it’s really cold, let it run for oh, five minutes, and be sure to pump the brakes a few times before you start out.

(I know that Click & Clack, as well as car manuals, say that you shouldn’t run the car as a warm-up, but that’s assuming reasonably warm temperatures, like in the -5 to +10 range.)

If you get a block heater and plug the car in overnight, there’s much less need to run the car in the morning - the oil will still have settled, but it won’t be as viscous, and won’t need as much time to get evenly distributed.

You can also get oil for cold temperatures. The usual rating is 10W30, where the “10” is the viscosity of the oil before it starts up. For really cold weather, you can get 5W30, or even 0W30 - but check your owner’s manual to see if those oils can be used in your engine. If you do use one of those cold weather oils, there’s less need for the warm-up.

Peppy, why don’t you look at the owners manual??? Cars come with those things & let us know what it says.

Also, when you read it, would you check on the oil change
interval? Some guy told mee this week that a Honda 2001 can go without oil changes or adding oil for 10,000 miles but I don’t think this is possible.

Handy: Sure, a Honda 2001 could go 10,000 miles without an oil change, but you’ll be in need of a new engine a heckuva lot sooner than you were planning :wink:

I have a 94 Civic and the manual says to change the oil every 7,000 miles. But that’s under ideal driving conditions. Fortunately, I don’t live in the harsh winter climes any more, but I still do a lot of city driving. i change my oil every 3,000 miles whether it needs it or not, and that includes the oil filter. Oil and filters are cheap compared to a new engine.

Freezing temperatures are hell on automobiles.

With that out of the way…

It isn’t necessary nor desirable to “warm up” an engine, either foreign or domestic, for an excessive amount of time, say 20 minutes. The reason for this is simple. Careful studies have shown that getting the engine to normal operating temperature as fast as possible is best for engine wear, oil dilution, emissions, mileage, etc.

So, a sort of modified warm up procedure is to let the car idle for 2 to 5 minutes in subzeroish weather to allow oil to circulate, and then put the engine under a light load, that is, driving till the temperature indicator is in the normal range. That means no highway speeds for about 15 to 20 minutes. Makes sense to me.

This may be somewhat unrelated, but in response to the earlier mention of brakes being sluggish at first - the tires might be part of that problem, too.

They warm up after awhile, and when they do, your grip on the road increases. Witness the Indy drivers weaving back and forth on the caution laps to keep their tires toasty.

I worked for Chevrolet Motor Division a few years ago and we got this question a lot from our customers. Our tech group had this opinion:

Your engine will experience more wear and tear when the engine is cold. Cold oil doesn’t circulate as well as warm oil, so your cylinders and rings don’t get as much protection. However, idling your car for a few minutes after starting it isn’t the answer. You will get the same amount of wear and tear whether you are driving normally or idling.

You might see sligtly more damage if you run your engine at very high rpms when cold. However, if you are racing your car around all the time, you’re probably causing all kinds of damage and a cold engine is the least of your worries.

One way you can protect your engine from cold starts is a block warmer (an electric warmer used to heat your engine block in cold weather).

Of course you will probably spend more on electricity than what it cost to rebuild or replace your engine. Block warmers are really only necessary where the average temperature is so cold that your car won’t start, like the Arctic Circle.

You could also use an oil with a different viscosity (5w30 rather than 10w30) in cold weather, though that is not recommended on a lot of newer cars.

hockeynut writes “However, if you are racing your car around all the time, you’re probably causing all kinds of damage and a cold engine is the least of your worries.”

I hate to get away from the OP, but I have to ask… my brother says that cars are built to endure high rpms and that you’re not doing much damage at all by “racing” around at 4 or 5000rpm (assuming that’s not red-line range). I may do this at a stoplight once in a while, just to get the old testosterone flowing, but like my suv too much to do it more often. Is he right, or should I keep it at lower (read: less manly) rpms?

I had some difficulty with my car earlier this year and had to take it in to a mechanic, who replaced the transmission-clutch solenoid. After he did it, he advised me to always warm up the car after I started it, which I did (not wanting any more trouble). Was he mistaken?

First off, I agree pretty much with what hockeynut says.

Second, yes, many cars are designed to run at higher engine speeds than others. Often this is out of necessity, as the power band of the engine may require a much higher rpm than other cars - especially true on small displacement and/or short stroke engines.

When someone says a car’s engine is “built for higher rpms”, it typically means, in a real-World situation, that the engine is much more able to withstand the cyclic stresses of the higher engine and piston speeds, and has a better design that reduces unwanted vibration - both the annoying type, and the destructive type.

That having been said - a higher engine speed means a higher peak piston speed, and thus (normally) a higher amount of piston ring wear. So while the engine may be well suited to running at higher rpms, this by no means says that you are not causing additional, extra, unneeded wear.

Short answer - lower rpms, within reason, typically mean less wear.

Just to back up what hockeynut said…

I own a Camira, built by General Motors’ Australian Division, Holden. It’s actually a local version of what was sold in Britain as the Vauxhall Cavalier. i believe the original idea was a J-car concept designed by Opel.

In my owner’s manual, it states clearly that idling a car to warm it up is both unnecessary and a waste of fuel. The manual recommends that the car be started and driven as normal, even when it is stone cold.

I think idling a car makes little sense, but doesn’t the manual warn for TOO much pressure on the car during the first minutes? “Driven as normal” is NOT the same as “Driven while cold” in my book.

I mean, that’s an OZ Opel Vectra right there. If their European counterpart is any indication, these things need all the precautions you can supply them with. :wink:

To add some more info here…

What do I actually do with my car, my Mustang? Well, I have it in a heated garage, so it never gets terribly cold. Still, I let it idle for about 3 minutes each morning, just for my own peace of mind and to let it warm a little bit. And I don’t step on the gas hard at all until the temperature needle is past the bottom of the “Normal” band on the temperature gauge. I also change the oil every 3000 miles; for debate about this topic do a search - this has been covered ad nauseum.

Since my car has the 4.6 liter “Modular” engine, 5W30 is the recommended oil. But Ford will allow 0W30 for cold climes, and many Modular performance enthusiasts will run 0W30 in it anyhow, to get a little more power at high speeds (with a cost of more potential engine wear).

My manual states to let it warm up for 10 seconds at least, which is reasonable. It let’s the choke work right, see?

Plus, don’t forget there is a specific starting sequence that youll only find in the manual for the car. For some reason people don’t read the manuals. e.g. when cold, push the gas pedal all the way, start, wait 10 seconds push pedal half way. duh.

I don’t doubt your cite in the slightest - but I’m suspecting that the advice may be different for Australia and Britain because (generally speaking) temperatures don’t get anywhere near as cold in those two countries as they do in the middle of North America, where for months on end large swathes of territory never even get to the freezing point. I’m willing to bet that the Plains and Great Lakes regions of North America have the most extreme annual temperature shifts of any place on earth (in Farenheit, a normal year might range form -20 to +105), with the exception of a few thinly-populated areas of central Asia.

Oh, and Detroit’s smack in the middle of it.

No, not “duh”. “Huh?” is the right answer.

Are you suggesting you should start a car with the gas pedal floored, or even slightly applied? It is my understanding that a modern fuel-injected car (which in 99% of the cases means it has an automatic choke) needs to be started without any use of the accelerator. Stepping on it causes the fuel lines to pen too wide, thus providing the engine with too much fuel for a start-up combustion. A modern cars motor management system handles temperature changes just fine. I’ve started my car (1996 Peugeot 306) in temperatures ranging from -25 Celcius to +45 Celcius, never applying the accelerator. IF it’s cold, the engine just revs higher on the automatic choke.


A modern car with fuel-injection must be started without using the accelerator, as you said Coldfire. Handy’s advice is only applicable to those clunkers that still have carburetors, if there are any left.

Oh, BTW, cars with fuel injectors don’t have automatic chokes. They don’t have any choke. The computer decides the proper mixture of fuel and air.