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Warming Up Your Car in The Winter vs Driving Cold

Do you guys let your Honda Civic warm up in the winter or drive it cold, or does it really matter? I feel as if the transmission is a little stiffer when it is cold out, but does driving cold negatively affect the car in any way?

This was the chatter this morning at 10th Gen Civics group on Facebook, where a group of Honda Civic owners were discussing warming up their cars in the winter before driving vs driving cold. Here are some notable answers from current Civic owners that can shed some light on this question.

I drive it straight away, but I take it easy and stay out of boost until it warms up. - Andrew

I let my Civic warmup and idle quietly before taking off. I have heard it hurts your car to drive right away and I have also heard that was a myth. I guess its just preference really. But nothing wrong with letting it warm up a bit. I like my car sitting at 1k idle before leaving, which could take a good 5 minutes, but I believe its worth it. It helps the heat work faster too. - Evan

I have heard if it's really cold you should let any car idle for like 30 seconds before driving. Just to let the oil flow. - Kelly

"Auto experts today say that you should warm up the car no more than 30 seconds before you start driving in winter. "The engine will warm up faster being driven," the EPA and DOE explain. Indeed, it is better to turn your engine off and start it again than to leave it idling," reads this article in Washington Post.

Honda information, along with every other manufacturer states a warm up of more than a few seconds is not required and actually hurts emissions. But at the end of the day, do whatever makes you happy. I’m sure it’s very minor, but the quicker the cats get up to temp the better emissions. But in theory start and drive is the way to go. - Andrew.

Why It's Bad To Let Your Car Idle For Long Periods of Time

Do a 30 second Google research on why it's bad to let your car idle for long periods of time. There's a few negative aspects. The biggest being to the "environment." But some engines don't fully lubricate well idling low in park as well and can cause premature friction wear if you are a habitual idler over the years. - Jamie

Idling after a cold startup is what hurts engines. Initial Rich fuel mixture doesn't evaporate and strips pistons and cylinders of protective oil. Like others say, yay let it sit for 20 seconds, but start driving right away. Then, don't gun it for the first few minutes. - Paul

You May Need To Warm Up To Defrost

I warm my car up every morning, and by that I mean remote start to defrost windows and warm up the cabin. - Andrew

If you are in the north and the oil/coolant/trans fluid is 20 degrees F in the morning when you start your car and if you immediately go out gunning around the town the thick oil can't flow as easily and can cause reduced oil flow to parts of the engine. Personally, I have ktuner V2 on my dash. I wait until the engine coolant temp is 100* F. I figure by that point the fluids have had a chance to warmup and should flow relatively normally. I then stay out of hard boost for a couple miles while everything gets moving. - Tim

If you live in a cold climate you might want to think about getting a factory block heater for your Honda Civic. It only costs like 50 bucks. It will save you a ton of money on gas long-term and it will save your engine a lot of wear and tear. Remember cold starts below 30 degrees Fahrenheit do most of the damage to your engine. - John

You Can Drive Immediately, but Drive Gently

Your car is made of different metals. Between your piston your piston rings your connecting rod your cylinder walls a block I mean for whatever reason some aluminum or iron. They expand at different rates. That's why it's important not to womp on your car when it's cold. You can drive it to warm it up, but you have to drive it very gently: that means don't punch the gas don't rev it up high. Once you are up to temperature then you can go fast. Anything under 30 degrees Fahrenheit is technically a cold start for an engine and that's where most of your engine wear occurs so. If you have a block heater you sort of solve that issue. You can have a remote start, but your car is still getting that same engine wear. - John

Don't idle for more than a minute or so. You are not really solving anything by doing so, just wasting gas. The engine needs higher than idle revs to reach operating temperature. Just remote start and drive light-foot for a bit, and you should be fine. - Jack

How about you? Let us know about your winter driving habits in the comments section below. Let's discuss it. If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.

Image by Aiden DiRe of 10 Gen Civics. 2016 Civic Coupe.


Tien (not verified)    December 12, 2017 - 9:17PM

You'll get a lot of answers but. It's necessary for maybe a minute just to get the motor well lubricated. Obviously you need to "warm up" your car if your windows are frozen.. I personally don't drive my car hard until I've driven for 5-10mins so the motor is fully warmed.

Damian (not verified)    December 13, 2017 - 12:00AM

Usually if you are just driving, let it run without out moving or gassing it for like 20-30 seconds then you can drive. But absolutely do not floor it or rev it high when it is cold.

Austin (not verified)    December 13, 2017 - 7:10AM

If you need to defrost then you need to defrost but not necessarily need to warm up long period of time only matters for carbureted engines but my 9th gen does run better after it’s warmed up in the morning.

Christopher (not verified)    December 13, 2017 - 7:10AM

I pull my Civic out of my garage and go. However leaving work I usually let it warm up a bit.

Ryan (not verified)    December 13, 2017 - 7:41AM

It’s actually bad for the motor to just let sit an idle. Let idle for maybe a min an then start driving. It will warm up faster that way too.

Adam (not verified)    January 7, 2018 - 6:40AM

Here's a thought train for all of you cold car experts: Try just starting you car and driving off after 2 minutes of warm up when the temperature is -10. (In fact, this morning, right now in Vermont it is -20*F, and yes , this is relatively normal for this time of year. Stop being a pansy and calling it "extreme"). Add snowing weather that and the fact that when you parked the car (outside!) it was warm, which meant melting snow onto the windshield, which then results in....and ice covered windshield. So, brush off the car, start the engine, then scrape off the windshield and go!! WRONG!!! Your windshield will still be frozen over on the inside! Add to that your own body heat the breath, and you then have zero visibility. PLUS the distraction you have of your body trying to fend off the cold.... You're going to have a bad time.... Here's what you actually should do: Go out, brush off the drivers door, start the car. Go back inside. 5 minutes later go out and brush off the rest of the car and scrape the windshield. Turn on the heater onto feet and defrost. Go back inside. 10 minutes later, your car is now safe to drive (in theory, in reality it may take longer depending on the vehicle and age).