Should you start your car and let it warm up in cold weather?

Bundle up, Rochester, bitter cold days are ahead.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo said to expect several extremely cold days in the region. Temperatures in Rochester this week will remain in the 20s.

Should I start my car and let it warm up in cold weather?

With temperatures plunging during the next several days, many car owners are asking: How often should I start my car to warm it up?

Experts at AAA, a federation of motor clubs, say it's not a good idea to warm your car up to keep it from freezing.

Drivers should start their engine and allow it to idle only for the time it takes you to fasten your seat belt.

This time ensures lubricating oil gets to all of the engine's vital parts.

"Driving the car normally and avoiding hard acceleration brings the engine to a warmer temperature faster, and also reduces wear and exhaust emissions," said Cliff Ruud, Managing Director of Automotive for AAA. "Naturally, a little longer idle time is okay in the winter while you clear snow and ice from the windshield and other car parts."

To prevent any mishaps during the winter season, drivers must check their engine coolant level, or antifreeze, according to Ruud.

Checking it frequently prevents engine freeze-up in winter and also protects against rust and corrosion year round.

"Only check the coolant level when the engine is cold and not running," said Ruud. "If the coolant is low, add to the lowest level marker and not any higher. If you’re unsure, visit a trusted repair facility and they can assist."

Colder temperatures created ice pancakes on Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY on Thursday, January 13, 2022.   The first few feet of the shore line is actually frozen water from the shallow end of Lake Ontario.
Colder temperatures created ice pancakes on Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY on Thursday, January 13, 2022. The first few feet of the shore line is actually frozen water from the shallow end of Lake Ontario.

Ruud also recommends taking time ahead of the season to give your vehicle the proper care.

Another tip is checking your battery and charging systems to make sure they're in good shape. During frigid temperatures, battery posts and cable connections with clean corrosion ensure a reliable start.

Drivers should also make sure they clean their headlights, replace old wiper blades and inspect their tires' tread depth and pressure for good visibility and traction.

Precaution is key during snow days. "Slow down and allow three times more space than usual between your car and the one ahead," said Ruud. "Avoid using cruise control in slick conditions and avoid making unnecessary lane changes – which increase the chances of hitting patches of ice between lanes."

(This story section originally published in January 2019.)

Contact Victoria Freile at vfreile@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @vfreile and Instagram @vfreile. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester NY Weather: Should you let car warm up in cold weather?

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