Get our free mobile app

You see it often this time of year in Minnesota: people waiting for their cars to warm up before driving them. But can warming up your vehicle before driving it actually damage the engine?

Minnesotans Have Warmed Up Their Vehicles In the Winter For Years

Warming up a vehicle before you drive it in the frigid weather is as much a part of a Minnesota winter as the cold and snow itself, right? Heck, many new vehicles are equipped with remote start devices that allow you to start the car while you're still toasty warm inside. But several mechanics say that letting your car idle could be causing more harm than good.

The crew over at Firestone Complete Auto Care posted some important information about how letting your vehicle idle for a while-- letting it warm up-- before driving it could be shortening the life of your engine.

The Reason We Started Letting Our Cars Warm Up in the Winter

Firestone says it's a leftover practice from the days when cars had carburetors that regulated the air-fuel mixture in the engine and couldn't accurately adjust the air-to-fuel ratio in cold weather. So, the answer was to let the car run and warm up before driving off.

Now, though, Firestone notes that modern cars have electric fuel injection systems that help maintain the perfect air-fuel mixture needed to get the engine running, no matter how cold it might be outside. So, there's no real need to warm the car up before driving off. (And, it could be illegal in Minnesota, depending on the local laws in your city!)

Why Letting Your Car Warm Up In the Cold Weather Could Cause Damage

Firestone even goes a step further and says that excessive idling could actually damage your vehicle's engine. That's because letting your car idle in cold temperatures can actually strip away oil from the engine’s pistons and cylinders — two critical components that help your engine run.

Plus, Firestone also says that your car will warm up inside faster if you drive it instead of letting it idle, seeing as most vehicles only need between 5 and 10 minutes for the engine to reach its optimum operating temperature and start blowing warm air.

Here's the Proper Routine For Starting Your Car in Cold Weather

So what SHOULD you do on a frigid winter day in the Land of 10,000 (Frozen) Lakes? Firestone has some advice:

“Your cold-day-driving routine should look something like this: bundle up, start the car, scrape the ice off the windows and mirrors, get in the car and get going,” Firestone said in the story.

Just make sure you don’t accelerate too fast or rev your engine too much in the first few moments you start driving in the cold, they added. Keep scrolling to see other items experts say you should have in your vehicle during the winter, as well as a look at the laws regarding vehicles in the winter in Minnesota too.

Listen to Curt St. John in the Morning
Weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on Quick 
Country 96.5

Are You Prepared For A MN Winter? Keep These 10 Items in Your Car

The cold is here, and that means the snow isn't far behind. Are you ready to tackle Minnesota roads this winter? Do you have these ten items in your car?

20 of Rochester, Minnesota's Winter Parking Rules - The Biggies

Every year there is a lot of confusion about what the winter parking rules are, why they are, and how to follow them. You'll be surprised at some of the questions the city gets asked, but this is 985 from the City of Rochester's FAQ, so it's true as true can be.

More From KRFO-AM