Should you start your car and warm it up in cold weather? Here's why you don't.

With single-digit temperatures coming to Nashville and conditions below freezing remaining for up to 85 hours, many car owners may be wondering whether they should start their car to warm it up.

According to the National Weather Service in Nashville, "dangerous and potentially life-threatening" temperatures are expected overnight Thursday and into Friday morning.

"Dangerously cold temperatures will continue across Middle Tennessee through early Monday, with lows in the single digits and highs only in the 10s and 20s," NWS says.

So what do you do if you have to safely venture out in your car after the storm?

Should I warm up my car before driving in winter weather?

Meghan Finn scrapes her car on Hancock Street on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.
Meghan Finn scrapes her car on Hancock Street on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

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

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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."

How to prepare your car for freezing temperatures, winter weather

Ahead of winter storms and long periods of winter weather, drivers should check antifreeze, engine coolant levels and batteries.

Checking these 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."

During frigid temperatures, battery posts and cable connections with clean corrosion ensure a reliable start.

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In case of power outage, can I use my car to charge electric devices?

It might not be a good idea, according to Ruud. "Since many people store their vehicles in an area that is not well ventilated like a garage, AAA does not recommend using a car to charge devices," said Ruud.

"Instead, it would be best to invest in a few portable chargers that can be kept on hand in the event of an emergency."

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

Precaution is key. "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."

Coral Murphy Marcos, Dalvin Brown, Ben Tobin of USA TODAY contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Winter storm weather: Why you shouldn't warm up your car