If we haven't done it ourselves, we've all heard the old wise tale about turning your car on to warm it up during these cold winter months. But is it really necessary? More importantly, is it even worth the potential damage it does to your car?
Thanks to very smart people, we have an answer.
According to a mechanical engineer named Stephen Ciatti—who specializes in combustion engines at the Argonne National Laboratory—turning a car on to warm it up in the winter does more damage on your car's engine than you might expect, as it strips oil away from the cylinders and pistons, per Cosmopolitan.
"That's a problem because you're actually putting extra fuel into the combustion chamber to make it burn and some of it can get onto the cylinder walls," Stephen Ciatti, a mechanical engineer who specializes in combustion engines at the Argonne National Laboratory, told Business Insider. "Gasoline is an outstanding solvent and it can actually wash oil off the walls if you run it in those cold idle conditions for an extended period of time."
So what's the alternative to warm up your car without killing the engine? It's recommended that you actually drive the thing, taking it nice and slow for the first 5 to 15 minutes as the engine switches back to a normal fuel to air ratio. No, don't gun it—that will just hurt your engine even more.
While we've all been told for years that running our car prior to getting into it during these colder months is the smart thing to do, it's actually a practice that your grandparents were doing to keep their old rides from stalling out—so you needn't worry anymore, guys.
Just man up, put on some gloves and a hat and bear the cold for the first few minutes before the cabin warms up.