Archive for Monday, December 8, 1997


December 8, 1997


Warming up your engine on a cold day won't hurt it, say local car experts.

It's likely that a heavy frost is waiting this morning on your car's windshield.

A decision awaits. Should you scrape off the frost, start up the car and take off?

Or should you start it up and go back inside for a hot cup of coffee while the defroster does the job?

There might be some urban myths floating around that running your engine on idle is bad for it.

But a check with a few local car experts Thursday indicated that you shouldn't feel guilty about it -- as long as your car is in good condition and has all of its fluids.

"If my car sat outside, I would probably do that," said Loris Brubeck Jr., president of Jim Clark Motors, 2121 W. 29th Ter.

"As long as it's idling at a reasonable idle speed, I don't see that it would do any damage to your engine," Brubeck said. "But when people do that, they should expect to see a decrease in their fuel economy."

Rodney Cleaver, a service adviser at Laird Noller, 23rd and Alabama, said it should probably take between seven and 10 minutes for a car to warm up at idle.

Running it beyond that won't necessarily hurt it,"it's just a matter of fuel economy and engine wear," he said.

Cleaver warned against starting up a car in an enclosed area. The carbon monoxide buildup can be deadly, he said.

One problem with letting a car run while unattended is that if the engine dies and electrical components, such as the radio, lights and fan are still on, the battery could run down. There's also the danger of theft.

Craig Walker, president of Red Ink Racing Ltd., 728 N. Second, said "I don't see any problem in idling the car for 15 or 20 minutes."

"The biggest thing people can do for themselves this time of year is to make sure that the vehicle is in a good state of tune," Walker said. "And if it is, it will start easily. It will run efficiently almost immediately. And the car will sustain itself while you go back in and finish your coffee."

Danny Fox, owner of Lawrence Automatic Diagnostic, 2858 Four Wheel Dr., said "the longer you can let it warm up, the better."

"When you start it up cold, the oil is thick in the transmission and in the engine," he said. "If you get that warmed up, it flows better and lubricates more efficiently."

There's also another cold weather question some drivers have -- should you keep the car running while your spouse runs into the store for something, or will the idling hurt it?

"I would suggest letting it run," Fox said.

That's because it not only keeps the vehicle warm, it's harder on the car to start it up again after it's become cold, he said.

Cleaver said if he was the person sitting in the car, he wouldn't shut it off.

"Actually, a lot of on-off startups are harder on a vehicle than letting it run," he said.

-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is

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