Many new drivers are confused about warming up the engines before normal driving. They might have read somewhere that it increases the lifespan of your car, or might have seen someone doing it.
But this article will put this misconception to an end once and for all, and explain how it is bad for you and everyone around you.
Should You Warm up Your Car in Summer?
No. Warming up the engine is unnecessary in any season- Summer, Spring, or Winter. It wastes time and fuel but does not achieve anything more than just driving off normally without waiting for several minutes.
Cars used to need to warm up as the fuel had to evaporate inside the engine for efficient combustion. But as the temperature was low, it could not evaporate easily. But in modern cars, there are sensors to read the temperature, which allows the Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) system to inject more fuel into the engine to address this problem.
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Why Warming up Your Car in Summer is Bad?
1. It is harmful to your engine
When the car is warming up, additional fuel is introduced into the engine to tackle the problem of fuel not evaporating. Some of the fuel that is injected into the engine can stick to the walls of the engine.
As you may know, gasoline and diesel are very potent solvents. It is used to clean machinery, as it can dissolve almost all types of oil with ease.
So the fuel that sticks to the walls of the engine strips away the oil lubricant which is necessary for the smooth operation of the engine. When all of the oil is washed away, the piston comes in contact with the walls of the engine.
When the engine is left idling for too long, it can result in metal-to-metal contact inside the engine, which is a recipe for disaster as it can cause uneven wear and tear in components such as the piston rings and cylinder liners. And in the worst-case scenario, it can cause the engine to seize up. When the engine is running at the normal driving pace, it constantly lubricates itself, preventing any harm to the engine.
It can also increase the carbon deposit on the spark plugs, which can reduce its efficiency and cause misfires. Idling for too long can put additional stress on the exhaust components and the cylinders as well.
2. It will waste fuel
Additionally, idling the car can use up a lot of fuel. Depending on the size of the engine, your car can consume anywhere between 1 – 2.5 liters of fuel for every hour the car is left idling.
If you leave the car idling for 10 minutes every day, that is almost 60 hours a year, which means that it will waste 60 – 150 liters of fuel every year. The fuel economy will take a huge hit, and the cost will add up to a huge sum over some time.
3. It will increase the amount of pollution
Too much fuel inside the engine can exponentially increase the number of harmful pollutants escaping out of the exhaust. As the engine burns a rich mixture (which means that the engine is using too much fuel and not enough air) due to the injection of additional fuel, partially burnt hydrocarbons will be emitted through the exhaust, which is bad for the environment.
Cars emit a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when the engine is running. It can emit around 4-6 pounds of carbon every hour. When the engine is idling, the exhaust will not be able to achieve its operating temperature. This means that the exhaust will not be running at full efficiency, and a lot of pollutants will pass through the exhaust, which otherwise could have been filtered.
The amount of carbon emitted will amount to 240 – 360 pounds a year. In this day and age when everyone is doing their part to decrease their carbon footprint and slow down global warming, refraining from idling your car for too long is one of the easiest solutions to decrease the amount of pollution in our atmosphere.
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4. Your car could get stolen
Warming up your car while it is left unattended can also increase the chances of your car getting stolen. Cars that are stolen while left idling amounts to a significant percentage of all the reported car thefts. A car thief will be able to access your car and drive off within 60 seconds, making it an easy target.
On the other hand, warming your car up by idling inside a closed garage is not a good idea either. It can result in the build-up of carbon monoxide inside the garage, which can cause serious harm to your health, such as leading to asphyxiation or other respiratory diseases.
How to Properly Switch on an Engine and Drive Away in Summer?
Turning on the engine and driving it aggressively from the get-go is not a good idea, as it can harm the engine in the long run.
Turn on the engine first thing when you get inside the car. By the time you put on your seatbelt and maybe adjust the temperature and put on some music, the engine will have adequately circulated the lubricants and all will be good to go.
It is always good practice to keep a light foot on the gas for the first few miles. This is because the oils inside the engine are designed to perform at their best under the average running temperature of the engine. It might take some time for the oils to reach this ideal temperature range in which they can perform their jobs with maximum efficiency.
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By that, I do not mean to say that you have to be overly careful about the RPM and oil temperature of your car. You just should not rev up the engine all the way to the redline first thing after starting your car in the morning.
Modern engine oils are a complex cocktail of chemicals designed to perform over a wide range of temperatures and conditions, and they can handle a lot more abuse than they encounter under normal driving. Just adopting these most basic precautions is more than enough to ensure the health of your engine.
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Why Do so Many People Think it’s Necessary to Warm up a Car Even in Summer?
The practice of warming up the car dates back to when the cars used carburetors to regulate the amount of fuel that flowed into the engine. The carburetor is tuned to allow a certain amount of fuel into the engine. But due to low temperature, some of the fuel that got into the engine could not combust.
Those cars had a ‘choke’ to start the engine and run the engine with a rich mixture while it warmed up. Once the car got up to temperature, the choke could be disengaged, and the car could run like it normally would.
It would take several minutes for those cars to warm up and deliver the correct mixture of air and fuel to be delivered into the engine. It made sense to warm those engines up, as they would misfire and stall without doing so, leaving the drivers stranded.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, almost all of the manufacturers switched to Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) for delivering fuel to the engine. EFI allowed us to achieve more accurate air-fuel mixtures, cleaner combustion, sharper throttle response, and better fuel efficiency.
EFI is controlled using a central Electronic Control Unit (ECU) which can gather various information such as temperature and pressure using various sensors. The ECU then adjusted the air-fuel mixture to run leaner or richer based on the available data.
This ensured that the engine always has the perfect air-fuel mixture irrespective of the temperature of the engine. Warming up the engine is therefore unnecessary in cars that use EFI technology.
If your car was made in the last two decades, and it still has trouble during a cold start, the culprit might be a clogged injector or fuel line, or a dead battery.
Old habits die hard. So the practice of warming up the engines stuck around after all these years passed on from one generation of drivers to the next. Also, there is rampant misinformation spread by many uninformed sources. It is high time that we let go of this misconception and save us some time and fuel.