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Let Your Car Warm Up Properly on Cold Days

Cold weather is tough on a car's engine.

© iStockphoto.com/JasonDoiy

If you were about to go jogging on a 30-degree day, you would probably stretch first, right? So why drive your car on a cold day without letting it warm up first?

Cold weather is tough on a car's engine. It takes more energy to start an engine when it's frosty out because the battery carries a lower charge. The oil is cold and thick, which makes it harder for the moving parts to operate. In addition, gasoline is harder to burn when it's cold.

So what should we do when it's cold outside? Most of us probably will sit there and let the engine idle in the garage or parking spot until the engine temperature gauge moves out of the "cold" range. However, this isn't necessarily a good idea.

Letting the car idle actually warms the engine at a slow pace, because the engine isn't really doing much. Also, cold engines emit more hydrocarbon pollution than your catalytic converter (the device which helps clean tailpipe emissions) can handle. Letting the car idle with more hydrocarbons coming out can plug up the catalytic converter and make it cease to function properly, causing poor mileage and dirty emissions [source: Mother Earth News].

Your best bet is to turn your engine on, wait about 30 seconds to a minute (at most), and then gently drive the car until it warms up without working it too hard. If the temperature is below zero, five minutes (at most) may be in order.

Another good weather tip is to avoid running your car too hard on extremely cold or hot days.

Next, we'll look at the effects speed has on your motor.

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