Do cars need to warm up in the winter?

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.
John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.

Q. As the weather is getting colder, maybe you can help me end an ongoing argument with my husband. I thought I read it isn’t necessary to warm up a car; I just get in and go. My husband in cold weather thinks we need to sit in the car for 5 or 10 minutes and let the car warm up before we go anywhere. Dinner is riding on your decision.

A. Today you don’t need to warm up a car in cold weather. But you do need to take it easy. Once you have fastened your seat belts, adjusted the radio and mirrors start out, but take it easy. Drive reasonably until the car starts to warm up. In fact some cars have a blue light the illuminates warning drivers to avoid hard acceleration until the engine starts to warm up. This help get the maximum life out of your car. Enjoy dinner!


Q. I have a 1991 Buick Century and recently it will go through a fit of stalling. The car will start, run a few seconds, then stall, I’ll restart it is will stall again. But the real problem is the next day the car is fine. Then two days later back to the stalling. I live outside the city and usually take public transportation but it is nice to have a car. Help!

A. There are a couple of things I would look at. First check the coolant temperature sensor. The sensor determines if the engine is warm or cold. If the car’s computer thinks the engine is warm, when it is actually cold the engine will behave badly. I would also look at the valve the switches the EGR valve, if the valve is malfunctioning this could be part of the problem. Finally a sticking idle control valve could be a problem that would cause intermittent stalling. My suggestion would be to leave the car for a few days at your repair facility so they can experience the problem.

Q. In my 2010 Nissan Altima and we recently changed the battery because the car wouldn’t start. All was fine for a few days and now it’s not starting again. When you turn the key, everything in the dash flickers and clicks really fast, but the car doesn’t start, what is wrong? The interesting part is we just moved to a car with a garage, we never had this problem when we parked outside.


A. I would start with a complete check of the starting and charging system. This test will determine if there is a problem with the new battery, the alternator, starter motor or wiring. One possibility is that if the car uses keyless entry/starting and if the keys are within 10 feet of your car the electrical system may not be “going to sleep’’. This is a common issue with some cars when the owner leaves the keys in the car or hanging in the garage.

Q. Any one car or truck that surprised you—for better or worse this year?

A. The one vehicle that was a big surprise was the Ram 1500 with the diesel engine. This truck drove smaller than its actual size and the diesel engine in my opinion is one of the best ever. The engine is very quiet, never had a trace of diesel smell or smoke and returned surprising good mileage. The other car that I thought offered a lot for the money was the Chevrolet Corvette. It was powerful, comfortable and could easily compete with cars twice its price. Today it is hard be disappointed with any new cars although some are certainly better than others. As much as I generally like Scion vehicles the tiny iQ was a bit of a disappointment. The ride was choppy, the transmission/engine was noisy and for the money there are just better choices.

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