Turns Out, You’ve Probably Been Heating Your Car Up Wrong This Whole Time

Grab your winter coats — the northeast is about to see it's first real cold snap of the year. Sure, we had one day of really cold weather in early November, but nothing prolonged until now. This week it's supposed to snow. Which has many parents wondering about keeping their kids warm while traveling. If puffy coats are off limits in car seats, is there a hack to heat up your car fast?

As it turns out, it's not a single hack that will get your car started and warmed quickly in the cold winter months, and a variety of factors come into play when considering how to go about heating up your car. However, the one absolute truth of car warming is that it will warm faster in motion than while idling. An idling car is getting a steady stream of energy to the engine, but it's different from the actual work of the engine required as it moves and drives.

This, however, is mostly helpful for internal combustion engines that use the waste heat supplied by gasoline to heat the compartment of the car, according to Danielle Humphries, an engine repair specialist in frosty Cleveland, Ohio. Electric engines, and even hybrid engines to a point, rely on a different type of heating system and the power of the battery to warm up your car. Because batteries tend to perform at a lower capacity and efficiency in cold weather, this means they may take longer to heat and provide less dense heat than your standard engine.

Humphries tells Romper that a lot depends on the make and model of your car, where you park it, and how you drive it. She says, "If you get to park in a warm garage, it's going to warm significantly faster than if you park outside. Just make sure you open your garage door before heating your car." Carbon monoxide poisoning is no joke, y'all. "If you can't park in the garage, try parking in a sunny location. It does help, even if you can't feel the difference on the outside of your car."

She notes that the bigger your engine, the quicker it's going to warm up. "If you are sitting on a V-12 engine, that beast is getting hot quick. A four-banger," Humphries says, "will take significantly longer because it has to work a lot harder and doesn't put off as much waste heat or use as much fuel. It's great for your credit cards and bad for your toes."

When asked about a tip I received about recycled air versus air brought in from the outside, she says, "It may, but never turn on the recirculation button in cold weather because that traps in humidity leading to fogged windows, which means you'll have to run the defrost. When you're running the defrost, the car takes longer to warm because the hot air is being shot at the cold windows and bouncing back in the cabin of the car, keeping it cool."

Humphries' best tip is simple. "If your car is a newer model, and doesn't perform like complete jack crap in the cold, just get in it and go. Driving makes it go faster, and highway driving is the best because you're running your engines at a high RPM, moving all that nice heat over you and your hands." I'd throw in to buy a car with seat warmers if you can, because nothing says warm and cozy like some very toasty bums courtesy of a little button on the center console.

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