Many of us grew up in the Midwest with parents who taught us to warm up the car on cold, winter days before driving off to school and work. Today, there is an often heated (pardon the pun) debate on whether to continue this habit. Do modern cars need to warm up before hitting the road?

The conventional wisdom was that letting the car idle for a few minutes would help it run better, prevent stalling, and prevent wear and tear on the engine. Critics will say you’re just wasting fuel and that the engine will warm up while you’re driving.

For us average vehicle owners, how do we know who is right? What rules should you follow to ensure your car remains in good condition during cold winter months?

Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving?

The Short Answer

Yes. (But keep reading)

Whether you have an older car or a newer car, heating up your car’s internal temperature is probably a good idea when it is cold outside. Heating your car in the winter before driving can help ensure the engine and the car’s interior are warm so you and your passengers are comfortable.

Heating: Older & Newer Cars

There are differences between older and newer cars that you should know about before coming to a conclusion on whether or not you should take time to warm up your car before driving.

Older cars can take longer to heat up, while newer heating systems can be more efficient. This is true for both the idle time and the energy it takes to achieve the ideal driving temperature.

While newer vehicles can still be affected by the cold weather, especially in winter, older cars are still likely to be more affected.

Older and newer cars can both benefit from heating up before driving.

Why Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving?

Heating Function

Warming up the inside of your car before driving is a great way to make sure that the heating function in your car works in the first place. It’s not uncommon for drivers to spend months or years in a car, just to turn something on one day and realize it doesn’t work.

Check the heating function and its efficiency often.


When you drive your car cold, you’re gambling with the engine. Engines can struggle in extreme temperatures. Icy weather leads to starting failures, and it can even cause your engine to cut out while you’re on the road.

If you warm up your car before driving (about a minute), you guarantee that your vehicle’s engine (and most important functions) have a bit more of a head start. Hotter cars function better.


A vehicle that has been left outside or sitting in a cold garage is more likely to pick up frost, and it can stick to your windows. Always scrape frost, ice, and snow off your windows and windshield, clearing your entire field of view.  If you have your car running while you do this, it can warm up helping to melt it all away.


A warm car is also more comfortable for both the driver as well as passengers. Arthritis and other health conditions can flare up in the cold, and a warmer driver’s seat almost guarantees a safer, more comfortable drive from start to finish.

A Reason not to warm up your car

Car theft

The Omaha Police Department says auto thieves target vehicles that are running, unlocked, and easy to steal. They urge car owners to always lock their vehicles when they leave them and never leave valuables inside.


Winter Car Care Tips

Dave & Rays Automotive Repair Shop in Omaha, NE

Our team has learned one thing: automotive problems are as varied and unique as the customers who bring them to us. Fortunately, our decades of experience in auto service and repair also mean that our skilled network of professionals is ready to accommodate an impressive scope of automotive issues. Contact us today.

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