Is warming up a car for 45 minutes (!) every morning harming the car?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband, Gary, reads your column every week, and since he and I are
disagreeing about a car matter, I thought I'd write and ask your opinion
(unbeknownst to Gary). The first thing Gary does every morning during the
winter is start his 1990 Ford Escort (140,000 miles). He then comes in to
shower, eat, etc. His car remains running for about 45 minutes in all before he
leaves for his three-mile ride to work. Is this bad for the car? We depend on
both of our cars and would hate to see his car getting unnecessary wear and
tear. We'd appreciate your input. -- Cynthia

RAY: YOU may appreciate our input, Cynthia, but when Gary reads it this
morning, while sitting on the throne, with his Escort warming up in the
driveway, he may not feel quite so appreciative.

TOM: Actually, the truth is, it's not terribly harmful to the car.
Fuel-injected cars can run indefinitely without damage, as long as their
cooling systems are working properly. And 45 minutes is long enough so that the
engine really heats up, so you don't create the rust-producing condensation you
would get with a partially warmed-up engine. Plus, he's got 140,000 miles on
this junker, so how can we argue with his methods?

RAY: On the other hand, even if it's not terrible for the car, it is terrible
for the environment. He's belching 45 minutes worth of pollutants into the air
for no reason whatsoever -- except to make his tootsies a little warmer during
his measly three-mile ride to work. What kind of tree-hating wimp did you
marry, Cynthia?

TOM: If he really is such a wuss that he can't make the three-mile trip in a
cold car, a much more environmentally responsible thing to do would be to buy
an engine block heater. You plug it into an extension cord at night, and let a
timer turn it on a few hours before work. It heats up the engine block (the
coolant, actually), and serves the same purpose as a 45-minute warm-up without
all that pollution and excess gasoline.

RAY: And it should be especially appealing to that lazy bum husband of yours,
Cynthia, since the thing works on a timer, and he won't even have to trudge out
to the car in his PJ's before he showers!

* * *

TOM: Hey, do you think you're taking good care of your car? Are you sure?

RAY: If you're like many of our customers, you may be RUINING YOUR CAR WITHOUT
EVEN KNOWING IT. Yes, even you! Find out how. Send for your copy of our
informative pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even
Knowing It!"

TOM: Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed No.10 envelope to Ruin
No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

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