It may be time to dispense with another long-held drivers’ myth before you damage your engine
Not that long ago, it was necessary for motorists to let their vehicles run for a few minutes before they started driving – especially in the wintertime. The logic behind it was straightforward enough: when in the grip of winter, drivers need to warm up their vehicles to allow the engine’s lubricants to warm up and begin to flow to ensure everything runs smoothly. But here’s a reality check: unless your car is a decades-old carburetor and choke-powered model, or you live in Canada’s far north, chances are you don’t need to warm your vehicle up on icy cold winter mornings.
Modern vehicles feature sophisticated onboard computer systems in the engine block that manages the outdated functions of their erstwhile predecessors. In fact, it’s possible that clinging to the old-world warm-up methodology may do more harm to your engine than good.
Despite the advancements in automobiles and automotive technology, many motorists insist warming up a vehicle during the cold months will help prolong the life of the engine. However, this popular belief is not an indisputable truth, no more so than the arguments stick shift enthusiasts clutch to in defence of driving a car with a manual transmission versus one with an automatic transmission.
With the electronic fuel-injection systems that are built into modern vehicles, there are more factual reasons for not allowing your vehicle to idle than there are in support of it. Idling produces additional levels of carbon monoxide, a poisonous, invisible, odourless gas, it’s a waste of fuel, and it can degrade your engine over time.
The naysayers will often agree with all of the above before they revert to the oil lubrication argument. That is, when the mercury plummets below zero, you should run your engine for a couple of minutes before driving since the motor oil in your car will largely settle in the oil pan overnight, and it’ll thicken, affecting its viscosity. They may have a valid point.
Can cold weather negatively impact your vehicle’s transmission? It’s possible frigid temperatures can be a contributing factor to gear slippage or difficulty changing gears. Although subzero temperatures may trigger transmission problems, they are not necessarily the direct cause, but merely a foreshadowing of what’s to come. In other words, if you’re experiencing transmission warning signs, you should have your vehicle inspected by a certified technician regardless of the temperature outside. So how long to warm up before driving? It’s likely not even necessary if you have a modern car.
For more than 50 years, Mister Transmission has kept Canadian motorists on the road by ensuring the transmissions in their vehicles are in tip-top shape. If you have a question about your transmission or want to book a service appointment, contact the Mister Transmission service centre nearest to you.