Of the many futilities that winter forces you to endure, few feel more pointless than idling in a cold car watching your breath for 10 minutes while you wait for the engine to warm up. Contrary to belief, this is not best or only solution to the problem. In fact, the process wastes gas (and therefore money), and is also woefully inefficient. Mechanics and researchers say there’s a better way.
Thanks to automotive advancements, it’s no longer necessary to turn on the engine and wait for your car to warm up. In the era of onboard computers and fuel injection, it will takes one minute — at most — for the temperature to adjust, regardless of how booger-freezingly cold it happens to be outside. Why? Because that’s how long it should take for the oil to get from the bottom of your engine to the top. In fact, as Chris Lague, a service writer at Partner Tire & Service in Colchester, Vermont, explains, “Most cars are engineered now so they’ll actually warm up faster if you drive them than if you just let it sit there.”
So what’s the best way to feel the heat? The clever folks over at TipHero have a solution: Turn on your ignition without starting the engine. This might seem like it’s hindering the heat from pumping, but it’s actually the best way to get hot air quickly and, after about five seconds, you should hear the fuel pump priming the engine. A primed engine is an engine that’s ready to produce heat. So now you’re good to start the car.
At this point, you’re not going to want to turn on the heater right away. Because when you first get to your car, you’re still dealing with a cold engine. And if the engine is cold, everything is cold, including the air being pumped out from the heater core. And the cold air will actually keep the engine from getting hot as quickly as it should, leaving your car — and your extremities — cold for longer.
So, what to do? Now you want to idle your vehicle. You want to do it for about 30 seconds (a minute if you have an older car), as that will allow the heater core to produce warm air. After that, you can begin your drive and turn on your air, which should be nice and toasty by then.
Once you’re on the move, you should initially point the warm air at your and your passenger’s chest, as that will help your bodies warm up as quickly as possible. When you’re warm enough, direct the heat toward your feet. This, of course, is simple science: As heat rises, the entire car will stay warm.
Will this process work for every single car? Unfortunately not. But it’s an efficient, effective solution — and one less humiliation to endure at the icy hands of winter.