Does Warming Up Your Car Actually Help?

We know, we know: Florida winter isn’t really that bad. While the other 50 states are experiencing snow, icy roads, and below-zero temperatures, Floridians look a little pathetic when whining about a brief cold front. In our defense, though, it was pretty cold. We still had to break out the sweaters, cover our plants, and worst of all, get into our chilly cars to drive to work. No matter where you live, from Minnesota to Georgia to even Florida, we can all agree that getting into a cold car is the worst.

This is why so many people let their car idle in their driveway for a few minutes. On a cold day, idling, or running the engine when the car is not in motion, seems like a great idea. Idling the car warms up the engine, gets the fuel flowing, and most importantly, prevents a cold steering wheel. However, idling might not actually be that great.

The Argument Against Idling

First of all, it’s bad for the environment. Most people know about fuel emissions, greenhouse gases, and global warming. Still, it’s easy to forget the consequences of just one vehicle. Whenever you run your engine, you’re releasing about a pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On a smaller scale, vehicle emissions have also been linked to cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and asthma. Plus, warming up your car in a garage can lead to a deadly buildup of CO.

Idling is bad for your wallet, too. According to National Resources Canada, idling for five minutes increases fuel consumption by up to 14%. If you’re not moving, why waste that fuel? When you let your car idle, you’re just using gas without going anywhere, which is ineffective and expensive. Plenty of other cold-weather factors take a toll on your car and its mileage, so save yourself some money by ending your idling habit.

In some states, warming up your car isn’t just unhealthy or ineffective — it’s illegal!  One man in Michigan earned himself a $183 fine for idling his car in his own driveway. Local police say that idling and unattended cars increase the risk of robbery and theft. In Florida, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive a ticket for idling your car. Still, be wary when leaving your car unattended.

Finally, if you’re driving a car built after 1990, it’s probably not necessary. Older cars relied on carburetors, which could stall if not properly heated, but cars now use electronic fuel injections. This means that the car’s sensors can adjust and respond to temperature conditions. Thanks to these changes, it only takes about 30 seconds for the car to get warmed up and ready to go.

The Final Answer

As you can see, idling can do more harm than good. Hurting the environment, subjecting yourself to theft (or a ticket) and wasting money isn’t worth it just to warm your car up – especially when it’s just plain unnecessary!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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