With dangerously cold weather moving into the greater Rochester region Thursday evening, many car owners may be 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 to fasten a 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.
AAA offers more winter weather tips for New York drivers
In addition, it's best not to let your car just sit during a stretch of frigid weather, according to AAA of Western and Central New York.
"Extremely cold temperatures in the forecast will cause many car batteries to fail, especially if they are not driven over the weekend," it said in a statement. "Driving your car is the best way to maintain its charge."
In fact, car batteries lose a third of their power during freezing conditions, because as the air temperature plunges, motor oil thickens, making it harder to turn engines over.
The agency is expecting high call volumes on Monday, Feb. 6, because of people choosing to stay home over the weekend and then finding that their car batteries are dead upon trying to return to work.
"Motorists should keep this in mind, and they shouldn’t wait until the last minute to make sure their vehicle car starts," AAA said.
Check antifreeze ahead of winter storms
To prevent other mishaps during the winter season, drivers should check their engine coolant level, or antifreeze, frequently, Ruud said.
Doing so prevents engine freeze-up in winter and protects against rust and corrosion year-round.
"Only check the coolant level when the engine is cold and not running," Ruud said. "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."
Other winter driving tips
The weather system that will usher in extreme cold on Thursday evening is not expected to bring much snow — perhaps 1 to 3 inches.
Regardless, drivers should make sure to clean their headlights, replace old windshield wiper blades and inspect their tires' tread depth and pressure for good visibility and traction.
Precaution is key when it snows. "Slow down and allow three times more space than usual between your car and the one ahead," Ruud said. "Avoid using cruise control in slick conditions and avoid making unnecessary lane changes, which increase the chances of hitting patches of ice between lanes."
(Contributor: USA Today Network)
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester NY Weather: Should you let your car warm up in winter?