Cold Vehicle Myths, Facts

By Rachel Slavik, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the temperature dips, Minnesotans tend to fall into a winter weather routine with their cars. But in 2011, it may be time to update that winter car care checklist, especially if you want to save some cash.

“There’s antifreeze to put in your gas line to keep fuel injectors from freezing up,” said Robert Hanzalik, who buys anti-gas freeze products.

However, according to Gordy Leach of Gordy’s Garage Blog, if you’re spending money on something called gas line de-icer you’re probably wasting your money. Leach says that vehicles these days are built to prevent ice in the gas tank.

“Cars are fuel injected and operate at higher gas line pressure, so it combats gas line freeze,” said Leach.

The gas we buy also acts as a safeguard, since it is a mix of 10% ethanol. That alcohol prevents gas line freeze.

“Let it warm up in the morning, that’s about it,” said car owner, Nicki Donlon.

If you’ve been trying save a few minutes by not warming up your car, it might be a good idea to start giving yourself that extra time.

Leach said it’s easier on your engine to let it warm up before driving.

“You got to remember that what saves an engine is the oil circulating through it. And when you first start at subzero temps, that oil is cold and doesn’t flow well,” said Leach.

  • Lauri M

    Many, many car experts say warming up modern cars longer than 30 seconds in below-freezing temps is an unnecessary waste of gas and even harmful to the engine in some ways. Driving slowly for a few minutes (e.g., on the way to the highway) does a much better job warming and gently acclimating the engine than idling. I think your “expert” is working with old information and this report just gave people who leave their cars idling in their driveway for 20 minutes so it’s warm inside validation for their wasteful behavior. At the very least, he should have specified a certain length of time. This kind of sloppy reporting really annoys me!

    • Unconcious

      I like to start my car and sit in it while I warm it up inside the garage.
      But sometimes I get really sleepy.

      • Darwin


        For ‘Unconcious’
        Gosh, I thought I was the only one! It’s nice to see I’m not alone. Here’s what you need to try, it works great for me. I have one of those $129.00 tarp garages from sam’s club with the full siding set up in my front yard, only my sides are clear vinyl. Whenever I go out to start the car and listen to the morning news, I usually pass out about the time Mike Lynch starts the weather. Well, just like that, the guy down the street is leaving for work and sees my head slump. He pops in to wake me up! Then I say holy cow! You are right on time bronco billy! What a great buzz! See? you just have to live in a great neighborhood like I do.

      • Green Driver

        We drive a hybrid car. When we “energize” it, we can back up out of the garage and close the door even before the gas engine fires up.

        My next car will be all-electric (Nissan LEAF) so only the battery has to warm up, which will happen once you start pulling current out of it. Pretty start ‘n go!

      • ebonhauser scrooge

        With a potato in your exhaust pipe.

    • markH

      You’re absolutely correct there. I moved to northern CA a few years ago from Minneapolis and am always shocked at how soft the people here are. On mornings when it’s 40F, people let their cars warm for 15-20 minutes! I think if these babies spent one Jan. day in Minnesota they would simply drop dead.

    • Steven Rush, Dealer Automotive Services

      Lauri, you are absolutely right about sloppy reporting. The comments from Gordy Leach really should have been verified. In particular, his information on remote starters is completely inaccurate. Remote starters can be installed in virtually any vehicle (new or old) and are a safe way to warm up your vehicle WITHOUT the keys in the ignition. My company sells and installs hundreds of them each year and if you have children they are a must have. There is absolutely no reason to put children in cold cars in the winter or hot cars in the summer. In addition, you can decide how many minutes you want the car to warm before driving it.

      • WHO CARES


    • Irrelevant Name

      Maybe I agree Lauri, but who are your “many many experts”?

      For now I say good reporting until I hear from a credible source.

      • Joe

        look it up on the internet and you will find many many experts that say this

    • Dale McKeen

      right on Lauri

      • Brad J

        You are 100% Correct. Oil will be somewhat thicker at first start, however it really only takes 30 seconds to get everything lubricated. Driving a vehicle to warm it is 100% more effective then letting it sit and idle. I have timed my pickup and from start it takes 2 minutes driving the pickup for the engine to warm and start heating the cab. That is not a long time at all! This was at subzero temps. All you have to do if you want a warm vehicle is plug in your block heater, put it on a timer for about an hour before you leave and start the vehicle, drive it and in 2 minutes you will be warm. Way way more efficient. Thanks Lauri for seeing right through this nonsense!

    • Jack -O- Trade

      Lady- warm it up. Use common sense.

  • Bryan

    You can ask 5 different people about warming a car up, and you will get 5 different answers.
    If you want to get in a warm car let it run for a bit, if you want hemmoroids jump in on that cold seat……………lol

    • Flanders


  • Tom

    I let it warm up for 5 mins…then I hit the road…slooooowly….

  • Kaye

    Yes most cars can take off in the morning without warming up. I live up near Duluth MN and when the temp is -27 you dont start your car early in the mnorning for your car but for the people riding in the car. It is the same as having to wait in the car for 20 minutes during the day, I can promise you that you would not sit in the car when it is that cold with out the heater running.

  • Bryan

    using synthetic oil helps a great deal on the cold engine, doesn’t thicken up like conventional oils.

  • John B

    Lauri M, just who are these ” experts” ? there is a big difference between below freezing and below zero temperatures. I Have two vehicles with manual transmissions that are filled with “modern” synthetic fluid and they can not be shifted until they warm-up a little. So regardless if it is a John Deere tractor or your car you just can not start them up and start operating them when it is this cold;to do so is detrimental to them. Also, I bought the gas and if I want to use some of it to warm my machines up a bit I should be able to and no it is not wasteful.

    • Chilly in Mpls

      I agree with John. I drive a manual transmission Subaru and have noticed two things in subzero temps. One: First gear can be very challenging to get into. I’ve had the gear oil checked, but no resolution. Two: Thick condensation on the windshield which deems it impossible to see and therefore drive. I may not enjoy sitting in a chilly car for 10 minutes on a morning like this, but it makes my car much easier to drive.

    • Brad J.

      I disagree. Yeah, if you have a 1980 pickup with a carburetor, yeah you have to let it warm, that is if you are lucky enough to get it started. Modern vehicles especially ones manufactured from the year 2000 on. do not need to sit and idle. Wait 30 seconds to let everything get lubricated and take off (don’t floor the hell out of it, just drive it normal). I had a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup for 8 years and all I ever did was start it wait about 30 seconds and drove off. I had over 250,000 miles on that pickup with the engine still running strong. Fuel injected engines do not need to idle to warm, that need to be driven to warm. I now have a 2010 F-150 and I do the same thing. 20,000 miles on it already and running just fine. With these new engines it is actually harder on them to let the engine idle. As far as John Deere’s, guessing most of them are diesel and that is another story for another day.

    • Michelle

      John I agree with you. I also have a manual transmission car and it can take 5 to 20 minutes to warm up enough to let me shift gears depending on how cold it is. So the oil and the engine may be better off driving slow and not idling, but that is impossible if you can’t shift the car to get it moving!

      • USS Atlantis

        I’d check the gear oil in your transmission

        I also have a manual, and I have no problem shifting after a 20-30 second warm up

        And this is on a 1998 1/2 ton pickup

  • Lee

    I live only about 8 miles from my job so I need to start my car and let it run for a bit otherwise it’s not even warm by the time I get to work/home and my husband has told me that it’s pretty bad to start the car, run it for a short time, then turn it off when it gets this cold. I can tell, too, that when it’s this cold it cranks hard, runs hard, everything is stiff… more or less paying attention to my car and how it performs is how I decide what’s best for it.

  • dennis

    Please don’t warm up your car more than a minute. It’s wasteful and unnecessary. In some situations it’s against the law.

    • Chuck

      Maybe only against the law if left in a public place with the keys in it to provide a theft target… If we want to run it for 10 minutes (normal for those with auto starters) that is great and a lot more comfortable! It is our choice and works very well for us…

  • D

    I leave my car running in the morning for 25 mins…… Yay Me…

    • :)

      Dennis…it isn’t against the law to leave your car running because it is wasteful. Check your facts.
      I’m going to continue to warm my car up before I go anywhere in this cold…my fingers and toes appreciate it when I do & it makes me feel better. If you have a problem with that I suggest you deal with it. I’m just wondering if YOU drive every day to work or take public transportation…because I take the bus and only use my car in the evening & on weekends. Please don’t get preachy about waste unless you are actively taking part in combating it.

      • Brad J

        I see what you are saying but Dennis is correct. It is against the law in many jurisdictions to idle your car, and no not because it is wasteful, rather because somebody could hop in at any second and steal it. I know 1 person who received a ticket in Marshall MN for letting their car idle. Also most places in Colorado do the same thing. Basically it’s an invitation for thieves to take your car.

  • Shari Dixon

    i will start my car in the morning b4 getting my son off to school for 10 mins in my garage it is still very cold when we get into it but its better then what it was, if my car is outside for many hours then it will run anywheres from 20-30 mins b4 getting into it as it doesnt want to turn over good and i want a semi warm car for me and my kids not somthing freezing. How about this. TO EACH THERE OWN!

  • Barney

    I don’t warm up my car at all. I spend winters in Arizona.

    • Ha


  • gg

    We’re spoiled rotten kids. We should go back to horse and buggy.

  • Tim

    When it’s -15, You need to let your car warm up at least 10 minutes or it becomes a safety issue. My driveway is right onto a road that is 55MPH, And if anyone has ever tried, If you start a cold car and immediately start driving 55MPH, Your windows are going to fog over completely on the inside in about 3 minutes. Sometimes it can happen quite suddenly too. Then you are sitting on the side of the road for 15 minutes until your car warms up enough inside to defog your windows. 15 minutes you could have been sitting in your warm house.

  • John B

    Brad J, actually those old carberated engines were better for starting in severe cold, but thats about it. But regardless of what method is used to deliver fuel into the cylinders it is true that combustion chamber temperatures are much lower in an idling engine. That being said I prefer to let my 2003 Jeep idle for 10 min. so I don’t damage the manual transmission or the power steering. One does not drive their car to warm it up, but rather they warm it up so they can drive it.

    • Brad J

      I can completely understand wanting to warm up your vehicle for driving purposes. The comment left by Tim is so very true, I used to live on a road where you had to speed up to 55 right away and when your windows fog and turn to ICE on the inside that is no fun at all. Where I currently live I have the luxury of going 20 for about 3 miles before getting to the main road. Plus I have my block heater plugged into a timer that sets off an hour before I leave. I guess I just hate idling my engine at all, it idles enough sitting at red lights. My point was the fact it is not hard on an engine if you don’t let it run 10 minutes in the morning.

  • john

    remote starts FTW!!

  • Knows Better

    Oh yeah, when it is -20 just start up your car, wait 30 seconds, and drive it away. I’m sure that engine oil will be up to temp (not), and how about the transmission fluid? Bunch of idiots.

    • Brad J

      Actually it will be. It is the best thing for a car to start it up and drive it. Letting it idle just puts wear on the parts and a waste of money. By driving it everything is warmed and lubricated within seconds. Sure your interior won’t be warm, however your engine, transmission will be warm enough in 30 seconds for nothing to be damaged. People think this is so hard on vehicles and it is not. It is harder on vehicles to let it sit there and idle. Condensation builds up in the engine and will cause even more problems because now you have water in your oil. Let me tell you something, when its -20 outside you don’t want water in your oil! Even check the owners manual, most of them state cold weather starts (Including -20 wx) are OK. The manual will state warming up the engine is not necessary.

  • Ann

    I could care less, In the morning my car will be started 15 minutes before i get in. You got to LOVE the heated seats.

    • Chris

      Ann, More power to you and keep doing what you do, so do we… and it works great… we get 300K miles on vehicles and ride in comfort!

  • Blaa Blaa Blaa

    Cop cars and taxi cabs sit at idle for hundreds of hours each year with NO ill effects.

    • AMSOIL Dealer

      Tell that to the guys that fix them. Excessive carbon deposits on intake valves, shorter oil change intervals, more valvetrain and camshaft wear, and numerous EGR system problems. But yeah no ill effects whatsoever.

      Use group IV synthetic motor and transmission oils like AMSOIL and they will stay liquid down to -54F. Warm up until idle calms down (30-90 seconds), and then drive away. Ask the engineers, they’re the ones that went to engineering school 4-8 years more than you or your mechanic did.

      But what the hell do they know.

  • Cold Vehicle Myths, Facts | News Business Blog

    […] Cold Vehicle Myths, Facts When the temperature dips, Minnesotans tend to fall into a winter weather routine with their cars. But in 2011, it may be time to update that winter car care checklist, especially if you want to save some cash. Read more on CBS Minnesota […]

  • BP

    I love that adding ethonal takes care of the freezing. When that bio-diesel freezes all the time.

    • AMSOIL Dealer

      BP, ethanol absorbs moisture. It still sucks, but at least it takes care of moisture. On a short-term basis, that is. If you have oxygenated gasoline (i.e. E10) that sits for a while and doesn’t get burned, then you run into problems–the moisture in the air will pull the ethanol out of the mix and form a water puddle in the fuel system. Not good.

      And biodiesel doesn’t freeze; biodiesel has a much higher CFPP (cold filter plugging point) which causes it to clog fuel filters at a much higher temperature (as high as 40F) than regular #2 diesel (usually about 5F-20F)

  • Doug J

    I just start my truck before going to bed and leave it idle all night while I sleep. (just kidding).
    On a slightly related note, seat warmers are a wonderful invention. Perfect for those first ice cold minutes before the interior starts to warm up.

    • Never Stops

      I actually never shut my vehicle off. Starting and starting the engine is the worse thing you can do for it.

      Final consensus: It’s a good idea to let the engine run for 30 seconds before you take off. Anything more than that is unnecessary unless you want the interior of your vehicle warm when you take off.

      Why would letting my engine idle for more than 30 seconds be “BAD”?

  • Albert

    A lot of this sounds like a modernized version of an argument between the bachelor farmers in Lake Wobegon.

  • Scotty

    Well I for one have a nice heated garage at home..Keep it at 70 and I love getting ni a warm car..and I do put gas line stuff in my tank when it gets cold because I have a new car and have left it out in the cold and the gas line frezzes up..And I think that really matter to most people is if you want to get in your cold cold car let it idle for 30 sec and drive away and be shaking going down the road thats or be like me and let it warm up so I can ride home in a nice warm car and lets all be honest…doesnt matter what any one does but for me common sence would be let it warm up…let me ask you all this sure we have all done this get in a cold car and drive away..I know for one thing is you drive down the road your breath starts to fog everything up on the window and then you cant see out boy thats real safe….so all I am saying is if your one that likes to drive cold so be it if your one that likes to drive warm so be it who cars I prefer a nice warm car and safe to drive in that way..You all have a BRRRRRRRR day

  • todd

    This story, and have the comments afterwards, especially the ‘wasteful’ ones are so half-assembled that this is just perpetuating the myths in the first place. Yes, the oil warms up and spreads quickly, but the heater runs off the cooling system fo the car and can take a significantly longer time to warm up enough to safely allow you to see out of your windows in driving conditions. When it is this cold your breath can freeze right to the window glass and reduce visibility. So, as far as do you need to warm up your car to reduce wear and tear, probably not more than a minute. Do you need to warm up your car to operate it safely, yes.


      Todd, that’s why windows roll down! F you Old Man Winter! That’s what I say, anyway.

  • Andrew

    You can install remote start in almost any vehicle. It’s just more complicated now with the added security devices in cars. You often have to sacrifice a spare key if your vehicle has “chipped” keys.

    • Daryl

      Actually only Volvo’s, VW’s and Subarus are the only ones I know of that still have to have a key placed under the dash in a box.

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