By Jordan W. Charness

Anyone who reads my column on a regular basis knows that I am not an ardent fan of winter. As I’ve pointed out several times, I hate the cold, the snow and everything that goes with it. I do however like cars and own a few of them. For reasons that my wife can’t seem to understand I prefer to store my Corvette nicely wrapped and toasty warm in my garage throughout the winter and keep the 4×4 that I use on a daily basis outside. She is however gracious enough to say that as long as her car is in the garage I can do whatever I want with mine.

What I want to do is change the climate we live in to something way more temperate. Since that is not really an option the best I can hope for is to get into a car that was warmed up before I entered. These days, remote starting devices are fairly cheap and efficient. Modern cars use their onboard computers to adjust the mixture and other items required for starting. You no longer have to pump the accelerator a few times and jiggle with the key in order to get your car to start in winter.

Since the car itself takes care of all of the settings (fuel, air, choke, etc.), a quality remote starter will easily start your car even in the coldest of temperatures – but then what?

The way that your remote starter works is fairly simple. It turns your car’s engine on and then lets it idle until you get into your car. Once the engine has warmed up the interior of your car will be warm as well if you have left the heater switched on. Presto! You have a nice warm car to get into and you may even think to yourself that you have done your car a service by letting it warm up before you drive away.

Unfortunately that’s not really the case. My mechanic expert Stan Zeba tells me that excessive idling could actually be bad for the car. It could damage some of the components like spark plugs, cylinders and the exhaust system. Idling only warms up the engine but does nothing to warm the transmission, axles and tires.

The best way to bring your car up to a warm operating temperature in the winter is to let it idle for 30 seconds or so and then drive slowly without excessive speeding up or slowing down for the first five kilometres. This will allow all the components of the car to heat up at the proper rate. For even more efficiency and a quicker start you should install a block heater with an electric timer set to turn on about two hours before you are ready to leave. This will warm up your oil, engine block and lubricants so that the engine can more quickly reach its peak operating temperature.

In addition, unnecessarily idling your car for more than 10 seconds wastes fuel and damages the environment. It pollutes the air we breathe and increases greenhouse gases. You might also be amazed at the amount of gasoline that you burn up going nowhere. If the total amount of time that you spend idling during the day amounts to just 10 minutes you use about 80 litres of gas a year. With today’s gasoline prices running at about $1.10 per liter that comes to $88 a year without moving an inch. That’s not particularly good gas mileage!

Even if we don’t use a remote starter, most of us voluntarily idle our cars in the drive-through lanes of fast food restaurants, when we chat on the side of the road, or are waiting to pick someone up. Natural Resources Canada suggests that you turn off your engine if you’ll be stopped for more than 10 seconds except if you are in traffic.

According to their studies, if all Canadians reduced idling their vehicles by just five minutes per day it would prevent the dumping of over 4500 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere. It would save almost 2 million litres of fuel a year and cut spending on gasoline by about 1.3 million dollars.

Anytime there can be that much saving to the economy and the environment you can be sure that the lawmakers will be passing a law to regulate the activity. In this case many cities have passed bylaws making it illegal to leave your car idling for more than a few minutes unless you’re stuck in traffic. If you do have a remote starter installed it should have a timer that turns your car off after four minutes. You may not be warm as toast but you’ll avoid paying a fine.

Now that my car is outside all winter did I install a remote starter? What do you think?

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