For several years, we’ve been hearing experts say to let your vehicle warm up before driving it in cold temperatures. Drivers sometimes let their car warm up for 10 to 20 minutes, thinking it reduces wear and tear on the engine. While it’s nice to get into a warm car on a cold winter day, you don’t need to let the engine warm up. Letting your car sit for a minute or two to defrost the windshield is fine, but there isn’t a need to let the engine idle for longer than that. 

Engine lubrication 

The rule of letting the engine warm up was useful for older cars with carburetors, but modern car engines only take 20 or 30 seconds to get fully lubricated. So, by the time you’re settled in, start the car, and get buckled up, the car is fine to drive. Your heater may be still working hard to warm up the car’s interior, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start driving.  

Wastes fuel & damages the engine 

Letting your car idle is a waste of fuel. When it’s cold, your vehicle uses more gasoline in the air-fuel mixture. And because gasoline is a solvent, it removes oil from the cylinders and pistons, and over time, the engine’s performance can decline. In addition, you’re wasting gas and wasting money.  

Driving warms it up faster 

So, what’s the fastest way to heat up the engine? Driving! After letting the car warm up for 30 seconds, you can hit the road, which will cause the engine to heat up. Then, you’re not just wasting gas and causing damage to your engine. 


Emissions from letting your car idle are putting carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to pollution. According to Carfax, warming your car up for 10 minutes releases a pound of carbon dioxide. 


It can be surprising to learn that letting your engine idle does more harm than good, especially after so many years of hearing the opposite. You’ll likely still hear older generations giving you the advice to let your car warm up before driving, but just remember that after 30 seconds, you’re fine to drive!  

Auto Works has been Woodbury’s number one choice for auto repairs since 1993. Make an appointment on our website or give us a call the next time your vehicle needs servicing.