How often should I start my car and let it idle in cold weather? Answer: Don't.

How often should I start my car and let it idle in cold weather? Answer: Don’t.

Coral Murphy
,
Dalvin Brown
,
Ben Tobin

| USA TODAY
Does starting your car before you get in it to warm it up work?Cold temperatures are hitting the U.S. quickly this year, and people are wondering what to do when it comes to starting their cars.The East Coast is bracing for one of the most significant winter storms in years with some areas expecting over a foot of snow starting Wednesday. With temperatures dropping and expectations of heavy snow, many car owners are asking: How often should I start my car to warm it up?Experts at AAA, a federation of motor clubs, say it’s not a good idea to warm your car up to keep it from freezing. Drivers should start their engine and allow it to idle only for the time it takes you to fasten your seat belt.This time ensures lubricating oil gets to all of the engine’s vital parts.”Driving the car normally and avoiding hard acceleration brings the engine to a warmer temperature faster, and also reduces wear and exhaust emissions,” said Cliff Ruud, Managing Director of Automotive for AAA. “Naturally, a little longer idle time is okay in the winter while you clear snow and ice from the windshield and other car parts.”Electric vehicles: Factory ZERO’s first year of production set with 10,000+ Hummer ordersIIHS: Bad headlights have been a problem for years, but they’re getting betterTo prevent any mishaps during the winter season, drivers must check their engine coolant level, or antifreeze, according to Ruud. Checking it frequently prevents engine freeze-up in winter and also protects against rust and corrosion year round.”Only check the coolant level when the engine is cold and not running,” said Ruud. “If the coolant is low, add to the lowest level marker and not any higher. If you’re unsure, visit a trusted repair facility and they can assist.”Ruud also recommends taking time ahead of the season to give your vehicle the proper care.Another tip is checking your battery and charging systems to make sure they’re in good shape. During frigid temperatures, battery posts and cable connections with clean corrosion ensure a reliable start.Drivers should also make sure they clean their headlights, replace old wiper blades and inspect their tires’ tread depth and pressure for good visibility and traction. Precaution is key during snow days. “Slow down and allow three times more space than usual between your car and the one ahead,” said Ruud. “Avoid using cruise control in slick conditions and avoid making unnecessary lane changes – which increase the chances of hitting patches of ice between lanes.” This story originally published in January 2019.Follow Coral Murphy on Twitter @CoralMerfi


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