How long should Carolee let her VW warm up on those chilly Chicago mornings?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 2002 VW Passat. I live in the Chicago suburbs. I park it outside in a public lot all day while I'm at work. How long should I let the car warm up before driving it home at the end of the day? Keep in mind, while it is getting warm, I am very cold. My late husband was obsessive about this, but I've been told that new cars and oils don't need to warm up. I don't have time to read the manual. Please help. Thank you so much. -- Carolee

RAY: You don't have time to read the manual? What about all that time you spend shivering while waiting for the car to warm up!

TOM: Actually, what you've been told is correct, Carolee. Modern cars don't need to be warmed up at all. Nor do older cars.

RAY: If your car starts and doesn't stall when you put it in gear, it's ready to go. In fact, the best way to warm it up is by driving it.

TOM: It's best to drive it gently for the first three to five minutes, to allow the oil to fully warm up and thin out. So, you don't want to pull out of the parking lot and immediately floor it on a highway ramp. But driving it gently is an ideal way to warm it up.

RAY: The only exception is when the temperature is inhumanely, butt-freezingly frigid (like below 10 degrees Fahrenheit). Then it's not a bad idea to let the car idle for 30 seconds or a minute before heading out.

TOM: But generally speaking, you don't need to warm it up at all. Turn the key and drive, Carolee. And now that we've saved you all this warm-up time, use some of it to read the manual.

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