Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving To Work? Temperatures are dropping across the country this week and many people are wondering if they should warm up their cars before driving to work. NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with Ray Magliozzi, of Car Talk fame, about what he does and what's best for cars.
NPR logo

Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving To Work?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/574693579/574693580" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving To Work?

Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving To Work?

Should You Warm Up Your Car Before Driving To Work?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/574693579/574693580" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Temperatures are dropping across the country this week and many people are wondering if they should warm up their cars before driving to work. NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with Ray Magliozzi, of Car Talk fame, about what he does and what's best for cars.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's a cold winter morning. You get into your car. You turn on the engine. And then what do you do? Do you immediately start driving, or do you sit and let your car idle for a minute before driving off? Which should you be doing in the cold weather? Well, we're going to put that to Ray Magliozzi, longtime co-host of NPR's Car Talk. Hello, Ray. How are you?

RAY MAGLIOZZI: Hi, Robert. How are you?

SIEGEL: What do you do up there in Boston? Are you a warm-up-the-car kind of guy?

MAGLIOZZI: Well, yeah, I think so, a little bit. I'll explain why. In the old days, Dad went out and warmed up the car in the morning. And there were lots of reasons to warm it up, the biggest of which was that the oil was like molasses. I mean, back in the old days, if you tried to pour oil out of a can in, you know, 5-degree weather, it wouldn't budge.

SIEGEL: Right (laughter).

MAGLIOZZI: And similarly, the oil that was in the engine, that - whose job it was to lubricate all these important parts really couldn't do its job very well when it was thick like that. So that's one of the reasons you wanted to warm it up at a lower engine speed before you started driving at 60 miles an hour.

SIEGEL: What you're saying is around 1959, this made perfect sense to do that.

MAGLIOZZI: And it made perfect sense until probably the '80s, until we switched over to fuel injection.

SIEGEL: We found a fact sheet from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. They say that your car will warm up quicker by being driven...

MAGLIOZZI: That's correct.

SIEGEL: ...Than warming up, and you shouldn't warm it up for more than, say, 30 seconds.

MAGLIOZZI: Oh, yeah. I would say that's true in normal weather. You know, if it's 20 degrees out, which I consider normal weather for the winter, you should get in your car, start it up and drive it away. The oil is diluted already 'cause it's been improved. And the fuel injection makes sure the car runs well. It's not going to stall out and refuse to start. So yeah, get in it, and drive it. And it'll warm it up faster because when the engine is doing the work of pushing the car...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

MAGLIOZZI: ...It warms up a lot faster than when it's just sitting there in your driveway.

SIEGEL: Any other winter car tips that we should keep in mind these days?

MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, well, you know, almost all cars now have anti-lock brakes and traction control and all that. But when it's - when the roads are icy and extremely slippery, if you go too fast, you're going to crash, you know, so - and staying home is good, too. Working from home is a wonderful thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGLIOZZI: I recommend it highly.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) So you recommend telecommuting as a solution...

MAGLIOZZI: Absolutely.

SIEGEL: ...To lots of automobile problems...

MAGLIOZZI: Yes.

SIEGEL: ...That we might have this time of year or any other time of year, for that matter.

MAGLIOZZI: Exactly. If it's too hot, you shouldn't drive your car, either. In fact, I think you should drive just primarily in spring and fall and just kind of...

SIEGEL: (Laughter).

MAGLIOZZI: ...Stay home.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Well (laughter), I'm not sure if that's news one can use. But it's...

MAGLIOZZI: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: It sounds like very good advice.

MAGLIOZZI: Oh, I don't know about that.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Ray Magliozzi, co-host of the longtime NPR program Car Talk, thanks so much for talking. It's great to hear from you.

MAGLIOZZI: Nice to talk to you, too, Robert - my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHICORY TIP SONG, "SON OF MY FATHER")

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.