I hate winter. Okay, maybe I don’t hate it, but I’m definitely not a fan. I like the idea of winter, though. The picturesque winter you see in pictures of snowy treetops and frozen lakes. Not New Jersey winter, which is usually just a slushy, cold mess that’s more aggravating than beautiful. That’s the winter I have to deal with. So when I start my car in the morning, I’ll usually go back inside while it warms up so I don’t have to sit in the cold while I wait. Apparently this isn’t the best idea.
I thought, like most people, that driving your car when the engine is ice cold was bad for it. It isn’t really anymore. That was true during the days of carburetors, as they wouldn’t work well when cold. But now that cars are fuel injected, this is no longer an issue. In fact, driving the car, albeit somewhat slowly, is the best way to warm the car up. It’s also the fastest way to get the heat working.
I’m no Eco-Mentalist, but I can also agree that it isn’t best for the environment to be pumping out exhaust fumes longer than necessary. Especially when the engine is cold because catalytic converters need to warm up to work properly, so emissions aren’t the best when cold. This may not sound like the type of thing BMW enthusiasts care about, but there’s no sense in hurting the environment while idling. It’s way more fun to hurt the environment while driving fast.
Also, idling for more than ten seconds is actually less economical than restarting the car. It was always said that shutting the car down and then restarting it was bad for the engine, and worse on gas. Again, maybe during the carburetor times, but not so anymore. Especially with direct injected engines which are extremely efficient as the cars brain can figure out the exact amount of fuel necessary for any given moment.
So, the moral of the story is: don’t idle when the car is cold, just drive it to warm it up. However, a friendly word of advice, let the engine get up to operating temperature before really giving it the beans. I don’t like to rev my car past 3,000 rpm until it’s warmed up and my car’s made it to 237,000 miles and still runs beautifully. So don’t idle, just take it easy until it’s warmed up, then punch it.