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Warming up your car engine on cold mornings may be a bad idea


Everybody likes to get into a roasty, toasty vehicle with the heat blasting full force on a cold winter morning.

And the best way to do that is to warm your ride up by letting the engine idle for 10 minutes or more, right?

Not so fast…

RELATED: How Clark Howard saved me 43% on my auto insurance!

Report: Why you shouldn’t warm up your engine in the morning

A lot of people think that a cold engine needs to warm up in the morning. But the engineers at Road & Track magazine believe otherwise.

The idea that engines need to warm up to a certain operating temperature dates back to the time of carburetors. But today’s fuel-injected engines can warm up quickly even in the coldest weather.

Besides, the mainstream car magazine notes the real warming up takes place when driving — not when sitting idle.

So not only do you not need to warm up your engine, you can actually harm it by doing that over time! The idle time allows raw gasoline to get into the oil. That engine oil dilution will compromise the lubricants in the oil and actually increase wear on your engine.

OK, then…what should you do?

“Start it up, make sure all your windows are clear of ice/snow/fog, and just drive the thing! The engine will warm up faster, and therefore you’ll get nice warm heat coming out of the vents sooner, which is what you want anyway,” Road & Track writes online.

Oil changes — challenging the conventional wisdom

If you’re surprised by how the conventional wisdom on warming up your engine was challenged, what about the question of oil changes?

A 2009 Consumer Reports study put the brakes on the myth of the 3,000-mile oil change. Most owner’s manuals for newer vehicles will tell you it’s acceptable to go 5,000 miles between oil changes under normal conditions.

Between 5,000 and 7,500 mile intervals have become something of the new norm for oil changes. In fact, the magazine did not find any noticeable difference in engine protection whether you changed the oil every 3,000 or 7,500 miles.

But just because you don’t have to change your oil as often as you grew up thinking you did, don’t fall into the trap of going too long between oil changes. Experts say a $20 oil change is the best preventative maintenance you can do.

Read more: The secret to putting 1 million miles on the odometer

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