Ryan Snodgrass: Idling cars unnecessary


— I recently heard that warming up vehicles that are less than 20 years old is unnecessary. After hearing this, I did some research of my own. I found many sources confirming this, and many cities and states have put ordinances in place to reduce pollution from idling cars and trucks. I read government agencies and mechanics agreeing that vehicles need to idle for only 30 seconds when temps are above 0 degrees.

I told my friends about this and they all scoffed and laughed, refusing to even look at the information I had found. If this information is true, I find it alarming that so few people are aware of it and continue to unnecessarily create massive amounts of pollution.

Ryan Snodgrass

Steamboat Springs


weststmbtres 6 years, 2 months ago

On warmer days (15 degrees and above) I have no doubt that getting in and driving immediately wastes less fuel and warms up the car quicker. I've heard that for years and subscribe 100% to the idea. I'm at the 20 year threshold with my car so this may not apply. However, I can't drive my old 1991 Subaru until the heater core has warmed up for at least 10 minutes on days below 15 degrees. It's a hazard to me and others on the road because of the window frosting that occurs on the inside of the glass. However, my wife's 2005 Outback isn't much better.

Here's the scenario. If I start up the car and take off immediately, warm coolant has not yet made it to the heater core. Air flowing thorough the ventilation system, which by 7:30 AM is usually slightly warmer than my heater core after the car sits all night, causes frost to form on the fins of the heater core. When the thermostat finally releases a rush of hot coolant to the heater core, the frost melts and my ice cold windshield gets a blast of moist air which immediately turns to ice lowering my visibility to zero. I then pull over sit on the side of the road for 10 minutes in my idling car waiting for the inside of my window to melt. I can either let my car sit in the driveway 10 minutes while I'm inside sipping my coffee or I can dangerously wait while parked along side the US 40 in my frosty vehicle. It's six of one half dozen of the other for me and no fuel is really saved either way.


Zoomie 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't know why they (the big auto makers) don't offer electricly heated windshields here in the U.S. like they do in Europe? If they did, it would elieviate problems like weststmbtres and many others have. But then again, with the size of the gravel (not sand) they spread on the roads these days in Colorado, I couldn't afford to have my broken, cracked, or chipped electricly heated windshield replaced every season.


weststmbtres 6 years, 2 months ago

Didn't some of those wedge shaped Pontiac Minivan's in the 80's and early 90's have the window heating system you're taking about. The windshields had a weird metallic look when you saw them approaching in the opposite lane. Anyone else ever notice those?


weststmbtres 6 years, 2 months ago

Found this photo on Wikipedia.


This is the funny looking metallic windshield I was talking about. Now that I look at it I think it might have been some form of tinting to block out all the sun that came in the massive front window on those things. Can't say for certain if it was a defrosting system or not.


ftpheide 6 years, 2 months ago

The metallic windshields,you are talking about,sometimes used gold flakes. The theory behind this was the heat from the sun would defrost the windshield. They worked ok but if they needed to be replaced the replacement cost was outrageous!


OnTheBusGus 6 years, 2 months ago

Here is an interesting discussion on the topic: http://ask.metafilter.com/30641/Should-I-warm-my-car-up-before-I-drive

My brother, an auto mechanic, tells me to let it run for a minute or two, then drive gently until the engine temp gauge moves away from "C".

And here's what the Car Talk guys say, officially: Unless it's below freezing, cars don't need to be warmed up at all. Driving them gently is the best warm up there is. If it's 25 degrees out, you might want to let it warm up for 30 seconds. If it's 10 degrees out, warm it up for a minute. If it's -10 degrees out, move somewhere warmer.


sledneck 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm goin out right now and start my truck. Not going to drive anywhere but what the...


Colette Erickson 6 years, 2 months ago

Would hate to buy a used vehicle from anyone who subscribed to the idea set forth in this letter.


kathy foos 6 years, 2 months ago

Several people said that their brake lines froze,they had to pull over and wait for them to thaw out during the extreme cold last week.Does warming the car up in 35 or 40 below help this?I admire every effort to help conserve energy.


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