A few decades ago, warming up your traditional gas-powered car when it was cold out was a necessary task. If you didn’t give the carburetor a few minutes to deliver the right blend of air and fuel to the engine, the car would sputter and stall once you started driving it. With hybrid cars employing some relatively technology, some drivers might be concerned that they have a similar need to the carburetor-run vehicles of old.
Do I need to warm up my hybrid car? No, you don’t need to warm up your hybrid car. It’s not necessary. Letting your hybrid car idle in the cold may actually hurt your vehicle’s performance.
To learn why warming up your hybrid car isn’t necessary ‒ as well as some general tips for maintaining your hybrid car in cold weather ‒ read on.
Why hybrid cars don’t need to be warmed up
Hybrid vehicles don’t need to be warmed up because it doesn’t do anything for the engine. Your hybrid car is ready to drive as soon as you start it up ‒ even if the temperature is absolutely frigid out.
You only need to wait for the oil to be pushed out of the crankcase and into the oil passages ‒ which only takes a few seconds after the car starts. Once that’s done, you’re free to drive your hybrid vehicle as you please.
In fact, it’s in your best interest to get your car moving as soon as possible. It takes time for the electric engine to heat up to the optimal temperature for fuel economy. The longer your car runs without moving, the worse your fuel economy will be
Tips for maintaining your hybrid car in cold weather
Although hybrid cars don’t need to be warmed up in the winter, there are a bunch of maintenance tasks they do need to decrease the chance of a breakdown and to keep you safe.
Winterize your hybrid car
When the temperature starts dropping below freezing, the first thing you should do is winterize your hybrid car. This process is basically the same as winterizing a non-hybrid car, and includes the following steps:
Test your antifreeze
A quality stockpile of antifreeze is one of the most important things to have during the wintertime. If your antifreeze is subpar or has inadequate freeze protection, your car can freeze up and leave you stranded. You can gauge the level of protection your coolant offers by performing a diagnostic test with a multimeter.
Change your oil regularly
While changing your oil at the appropriate mileage markers is always a good idea, it’s especially important during the wintertime. Oil has a tendency to thicken when it gets cold out, which can affect your car’s performance and potentially necessitate additional repairs.
Here are a few primary reasons you need to change your oil:
- Newer oil is better at maintaining engine lubrication.
- Newer oil is better at cooling the parts that make up your engine.
- Newer oil is better at getting rid of particles and sludge in your engine.
- Newer oil will improve your fuel economy and save you money.
- Newer oil will make your hybrid vehicle last longer and increase the amount of time until you need to buy a replacement.
Check your tire pressure
Maintaining a safe tire pressure is helpful in preventing blowouts, premature wear, and tread separation. This is extra crucial when the roads have ice and snow on them, as a blowout is more likely to lead to an accident.
When checking your pressure, you need to be concerned about both overinflation and underinflation.
An overinflated tire will become stiff and rigid, which will significantly decrease the amount of rubber that comes into contact with the road. With lessened road contact comes a lessened ability to control your vehicle, and you’re also at a higher risk for a blowout if you hit a pothole or road debris.
An underinflated tire has the opposite problem ‒ too much rubber is in contact with the road, which can reduce its overall lifespan by as much as 25%. An underinflated tire will also impact your fuel economy, as the engine will need to use extra power to adequately turn the tire. Lastly, a tire without enough air in it is a tire that hurts your ability to control your car. If you get into a situation where an accident might occur, an underinflated tire will increase the chances of a collision actually happening.
Get your engine serviced
The last critical maintenance task involved in winterizing your hybrid car is getting the engine serviced. When the end of autumn nears, you should take your car to your mechanic and ensure the ignition wires and spark plugs are cleaned. If any of the components are beyond cleaning, you may need to get replacements.
In addition to preparing your car for winter, servicing your engine has a number of other benefits:
- Regular servicing will make you and your family safer. Mechanics can detect steering issues, braking issues, tire issues, and other problems that might jeopardize your car’s integrity on the road.
- Regular servicing will eliminate malfunctions that could cause your car to stall or seize up. The small cost of an engine servicing is far less than the cost of renting or buying a new vehicle because your car broke down due to a preventable cause.
- Regular servicing will increase you car’s resale value. The engine is one of the most expensive parts of your car. Ensuring the components that make it up are working properly will let you sell the car for more money if you ever decide to let it go.
- Regular servicing will increase your car’s performance and improve its fuel economy. Engines are finely tuned machines ‒ even a minor imperfection can have a compounding negative effect on the way your car drives and processes fuel.
Insulate the front grill
After you’ve performed the basic winterization tasks, the next thing you should consider doing is insulating the front grill with pieces of foam pipe insulation. If you cut and fit the pieces correctly, you can improve your fuel economy significantly when driving in cold weather.
Sticking pieces of foam in your car grill will improve fuel economy because it will lessen the amount of cold air that hits your engine when driving ‒ which will keep your engine warmer. And the warmer your hybrid car’s engine, the sooner it arrives at the optimal temperature range that provides maximum fuel economy.
If you don’t have foam pipe insulation, pool noodles are a suitable replacement. And if you block your grill with foam, make sure to remove it once the weather gets warmer.
Decrease the weight
If you’re driving a hybrid sedan, the front-wheel drive it probably has can be extremely helpful in snowy and icy conditions. But if you weigh down your car with too much excess junk, the benefits of front-wheel drive are significantly diminished. If you do carry a lot of stuff in your hybrid car, consider leaving it in the garage before embarking into wintry weather.
Buy snow tires
Snow tires ‒ or winter tires, as they are more accurately called ‒ will drastically increase your safety on snow or ice. There are a few reasons for this:
- They have tread patterns specifically designed to give better traction on slippery surfaces.
- They are made out of a special rubber compound that enhances grip on all surfaces ‒ but only when it’s cold. Snow tires shouldn’t be used in the summer, because the soft rubber and open tread pattern will drastically increase their rate of wear.
If you are considering buying snow tires, I recommend beginning the shopping process by the end of September. This will give you enough time to compare models and schedule an appointment with your mechanic.
Remove ice and snow
If you’re frequently driving in ice and snow, both of these frigid substances will inevitably build up in the undercarriage of your car. Not only does this look unsightly, the additional weight can also reduce your fuel economy. Regular car washes should be enough to combat this, though you can remove the wintry precipitation yourself if you don’t want to spend the money on a professional wash.
Defrost the windows as little as possible
Defrosting your windows is almost always a necessity in the wintertime. Ice and frost can frequently build up on your windshield, especially if you leave your car outside at night. While defrosting is the obvious solution to this problem, it does use up your battery power.
I recommend getting a quality ice scraper and some high-tier windshield wipers to remove the majority of the ice so you only need to use the defroster for a little bit. While the upfront cost for better wipers might be tough to justify at first, the improved visibility and decreased amount of time you will need to use your defroster will almost certainly make it a worthy investment.