There are many myths out there when it comes to vehicles, but oddly enough a number of them have sprung up around the simple task of starting your engine. It seems as if everyone has a different tip or trick designed to increase performance or avoid mechanical problems. Unfortunately, many of these myths are simply not true.
Cold weather is one reason that a lot of engine-starting myths have lasted. Some drivers maintain that you have to treat your car significantly differently in cold weather as opposed to warmer weather. While there are a few things you can do differently, a lot of the conventional wisdom surrounding starting your engine in cold weather is simply false.
For example, one of the most popular theories is that drivers should let their engines idle on cold engine days. The idea is that as the engine idles, it will "warm up," which is better for the car. Like many myths, there's a hint of truth to this - engines do function better when they're warmed up as opposed to being completely cold. Unfortunately, idling your engine does nothing but waste time. The inside of your car may warm up if you turn your heat on, which is obviously preferable to sitting there shivering. But the engine itself won't warm up until you get the vehicle up to a moderate speed. Thus, idling the engine just delays your trip, really.
Another cold weather myth related to engine starting has its roots in older cars. Like many myths, the idea of pumping the pedal before turning the key has its basis in truth. When cars had carburetors and chokes, pumping the pedal before starting the car ensured a richer fuel mixture, which is beneficial on cold weather days.
Yet drivers nowadays do not need to worry about such things. Electronic fuel injection systems are completely computerized, and the computer knows to check for temperature and adjust the fuel mixture accordingly. In fact, unless there's some kind of computer problem, drivers of modern cars have no need to worry about their fuel mixture at all.
Many myths are based around the idea of saving fuel. Just about everybody wants to save fuel, especially with the high gas prices this country has seen over the past few years. Unfortunately, listening to misinformation can actually cause a driver to use more fuel when they're trying to save it.
Some people believe that when the car is parked, it's better to idle the engine rather than turn it off and restart it. Many people believe that starting the car takes a large amount of fuel compared to normal driving. However, that's just not the case.
For evidence of this, one only needs to look at the new "stop-start" technology that's becoming popular on many cars, especially hybrids. This new feature detects when a car is stopped and turns the engine off, even at short stops like a red light. When the driver presses the pedal, the car instantly comes back to life, so quickly that many drivers do not even notice the difference. However, that act of turning off the engine for a few seconds and restarting it can make a big difference when it comes to fuel economy. Thus, restarting an engine is not a major drain on your fuel, and compared to idling it's the better choice if you want to save on gas.