It used to be common knowledge that when the thermometer dips into the truly cold temperatures, a vehicle’s engine needs to be warmed up before driving. However, that’s no longer true – at least, not with newer vehicles. Letting your Toyota warm up for several minutes before you get behind the wheel every time you go somewhere can actually have a couple of negative impacts that you need to be aware of. We here at Westbury Toyota believe that it is time to put this falsity to rest, which is why we have put together this comprehensive overview of the benefits and drawbacks of warming up a vehicle engine in cold weather.
30 plus years ago, many vehicles had engines that relied upon a carburetor. Carburetors did not work well without being warm and had issues getting the proper mix of fuel and air into the engine, which in turn could lead to the car stalling out while driving. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s most automakers began to replace carburetors with direct fuel injection, which utilizes sensors to direct the right mixture of fuel and air to the engine. Without a carburetor, there is no real reason to start your car and let it idle for several minutes before driving during cold weather.
From an economic standpoint, it is never a good idea to let your car idle for extended periods of time, particularly in the winter. As the writers of The Washington Post explain, Natural Resources Canada conducted a cold weather idling experiment with results that revealed that all that really happened was a needless waste of fuel. A five minute warm up increased fuel consumption between seven to 14 percent and a 10 minute warm up increased it by 12 to 19 percent. Fuel consumption through idling is also linear over time and also increases in accordance with the size of the engine. To put it plainly, letting your newer Toyota idle in the winter does you no favors and actually wastes money due to the fuel that is being wasted.
Any time a vehicle is running there will be emissions. All types of idling, regardless of the temperature outside, contribute to greenhouse gasses. Excessive idling is never advised, though sometimes it is truly unavoidable, such as when you are stuck in traffic. Other than that, there is no reason for winter idling unless you are driving a vehicle of considerable age.
As it turns out, letting your vehicle warm up for several minutes before driving it can actually be detrimental to your Toyota’s engine. Jay Bennett of Popular Mechanics breaks it down by explaining that warming up an engine through idling actually strips oil away from the engine’s cylinders and pistons. With the loss of that lubrication, the lifespans of the cylinder liners and piston rings are reduced. What’s more, idling does not actually warm up the engine all that well – the fastest way to warm it up is to drive it. That said, do not hop into your vehicle and gun the engine immediately. The best way to proceed in incredibly cold temperatures is to drive in a nice and easy manner for between five to fifteen minutes until the engine is up to the desirable temperature.
Unless you’ve got a vehicle hailing from the 1970s, there is really no reason to start your vehicle well before you are about to depart for your winter commute. Start it, brush off the snow and ice, and then go on your way. Idling will waste unnecessary amounts of fuel and can do harm to the engine’s components over time, so in the interest of keeping your Toyota in good form, it is best to start your car only when you are ready to go.