Editorial

Why Do People Still Think That They Have To Warm Up Their Car Before They Drive?

Does this myth still have any validity?

Warming up an engine was once a popular myth that actually had a lot of truth. A few decades ago cars were not built as well as they are today and benefited greatly from being warmed up before they were driven. We have tried to debunk this myth before, but it might not be that easy. Even though there is a ton of evidence to suggest that new cars no longer need to be warmed up, there are still a large majority of people who believe that they need to warm up their car before driving it. What keeps this myth alive?

In order to simplify this issue, we will go out on a limb here and make a generalization. If you own a brand new "normal" car (Camry, Accord) or even a "normal" luxury car (3 Series, A4), you should be fine if you don't warm up your car. Warming these cars up for more than a minute is a waste of time and does little more than hurt the environment. These cars all have computer systems that regulate temperature (among other things) to make sure that all systems run optimally. We think that the myth has lasted this long because of a few misconceptions regarding turbocharged cars. Early turbocharged cars really needed to be warmed up and cooled down, but that may no longer be the case.

Warming up a turbocharged car would heat up the engine oil as well as other powertrain components. It was also recommended that if you just drove your turbocharged car to let it run for a minute before you shut it off. This would let the turbocharger stop spinning. When turbos spin they get hot which can possibly overheat the oil. Even though newer cars like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 still use turbochargers, the modern computers in these cars make it perfectly safe to start and stop them without waiting. Turbochargers used to be the sole domain of the performance car, which may be why this myth has lasted as long as it has.

Performance cars throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the equation. For instance, if you own a high-performance model like a Ferrari, you may want to give it a second to warm up. These cars are known for being delicate and expensive to repair, so you may not want to go full throttle immediately after starting it in the middle of winter. For these types of cars it pays to check your owner's manual to see if the manufacturer recommends warming or cooling the vehicle. BMW M cars have a very cool feature where the redline is actually brought down until the engine reaches its optimal temperature. When the engine warms up, you will then be able to reach maximum RPM. So, how do you know if your car needs to be warmed up?

Like we said, you can normally check the owner's manual to see if warming the engine is recommended. If you own a brand new "normal" car, you are probably fine. If you own something that is a bit older, this myth may turn out to be reality. For instance, if you own an older performance car like a BMW E39 M5 or a Porsche 930 911 Turbo, warming up and cooling down the car is still important. We hope that we have cleared up this myth and you now know whether or not you should be warming up your car.

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