I grew up in the coldest state in the nation. In Alaska you can get your driver’s permit at 14 and have two years to practice. Of course you also need to learn to navigate the sometimes icy and snowy conditions so the extra supervised time can be  a benefit. (Although I probably didn’t think so at the time!)  

I was taught to run outside and start the car for a few minutes before heading to work or school on cold days!  I would dash to the driveway, turn the key, set the defrost to high and only return when I could see through my windshield knowing that a toasty warmed up vehicle awaited me.

From a safety standpoint always make sure that all windows are clear of ice and snow prior to driving. You no longer need nor should start the vehicle to defrost like I did in my youth – Instead, start the vehicle, scrape the windows and mirror and start driving!

In actuality letting your gas vehicle warm up could be doing more damage that you might think – both to the vehicle and the environment. Newer vehicles (Post 1980) have an electronic fuel injection system which uses sensors to supply fuel to the engine. This system maintains the perfect ratio of air and fuel replacing the vehicle’s need of a carburetor. This makes warming up your car obsolete because the sensors adjust to the outside temperature.  Instead you can be actually damaging the internal components of the engine. 

My 1980 cherry red Chevy Chevette, like other vehicles of its time had a carburetor and needed to warm up to avoid the risk of stalling and sputtering. Simply put carburetors struggle to vaporize all of the gas when running cold. These 1980’s vehicles needed the idle time.

Many today are saying that you should not idle your vehicle more than 30 seconds in the morning. All of that being said you should not “Floor it” right out of the drive – It typically takes 5-15 minutes for a vehicle to get to proper operating temperature. 

A few years back one of our local fleet customers called me and said that his employee complained that the check engine light kept coming on his service truck.  Yet, every time we looked at the truck there was no check engine light and we could find no issues. We called the business owner and he said that his driver complained that it only happened first thing in the morning.  So we had the business owner leave the vehicle here overnight so that we could start it cold and recreate the issue….. Still no check engine light. 

Finally I spoke to the driver myself and he confirmed that it happened when he first started the vehicle. So I scheduled to meet him at his house the next morning at 7am when he normally left for work. (His employer let him bring the vehicle home at night.)  I observed him start the vehicle and nothing – No check engine light.

Then the driver said, “Wait! I can make it happen!” He jumped into the cold rig and floored it cold down his sleepy street. And sure enough the check engine light came on.  Obviously, You can put unnecessary stress on your vehicle’s engine by running it hard first thing.

Another reason not to idle fleet vehicles in the morning is that it can be illegal! Some Southern Oregon communities actually have anti-idling laws forbidding vehicle to idle over a maximum amount of minutes.

Idling Limits

Of course the last reason is cost. Natural Resources Canada ran an idling experiment. They froze three cars to -18 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit)  and then they drove each vehicle the same distance after different amounts of idle time. What they found was that the vehicles with more idle time wasted more fuel and released more damaging greenhouse gas causing pollution. “The test results showed that with a 5-minute warm-up total fuel consumption increased by 7 to 14 percent and with a 10-minute warm-up total fuel consumption increased by 12 to 19 percent,”  the agency reported. Idling Experiment 

So, although idling your fleet vehicles is unnecessary and can actually be detrimental- Every business owner or fleet manager should have a Pre-trip Inspection Program where drivers are trained to check essential items daily prior to driving their company vehicle.

The team at All-Pro Fleet Services can help any business owner or Fleet Manager create a Pre-Trip Maintenance Program and educate drivers to extend the life of company vehicles. Contact a Service Adviser today at 541-826-0545 or email info@allprofleetservices.com to schedule a consultation.

All-Pro Fleet Services is a locally owned Fleet maintenance and repair company who specializes in providing mobile service to commercial fleets in Southern Oregon.  All-Pro Fleet Services is located at 174 Trout Way in White City. Their full service shop is equipped to handle major as well as minor repairs. All-Pro fleet Services also provides overflow service and emergency roadside repair.