To Idle or Not to Idle? That is the Winter Driver’s Question

Winter is here and that means drivers are preparing their vehicles for colder weather. If you drive in an area where temperatures drop below freezing, you might prefer to warm up your vehicle for several minutes for personal comfort, to defrost the windows or to protect your engine from wear and tear.

But advancements in engine technology are reducing the need to idle, even in colder temperatures. In fact, many auto experts say that preheating your vehicle before driving is unnecessary.

Experts from AAA and the U.S. Department of Energy report that driving a gas-powered vehicle warms it up twice as fast as idling. Most auto manufacturers also recommend starting your car, then driving slowly after only 30 seconds of idling in colder temperatures.   

If you’re worried about protecting your car this winter, instead of idling, you’ll be better off taking time to winterize your vehicle. AAA recommends checking these five areas:

• Check your battery. Cold weather can reduce battery power by 50 percent. Batteries in use for three years should be tested. Make sure posts and connects are free of corrosion.

• Consider an oil change. A full synthetic or synthetic-blend engine oil, such as CENEX® AUTO GOLD®, flow better at lower temperatures for easier cold startups and better wear protection.

• Inspect wipers and fluid levels. Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition and your windshield washer fluid reservoir is filled with no-freeze washer fluid.

• Top off your antifreeze. Make sure your radiator contains the proper 50/50 mix of coolant and water.

• Check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires maximize traction on wet or icy roads and help protect against wheel damage from potholes.

If you prefer to idle on the coldest winter days to warm the interior, you can save gas by turning off your car after a few minutes and restarting it when you’re ready to go. Using less fuel idling, you’ll have more gas available for fun activities, like a winter road trip. 

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