Recently, in Roseville, MI, a man was issued a citation for warming up his car in his own driveway. The vehicle in question was running, unlocked and unattended. And it is apparently illegal in certain places in the U.S. to leave your car like this no matter where it's parked.

If you live in an area where the weather gets chilly during the winter, warming up your car may be a regular habit. However, you might want to check the rules in your state/municipality just to make sure that you're not breaking the law.

Why Warming up Your Car is Illegal in Some Areas

Car Warm-up

To be clear, as long as you have a remote starter that allows you to start your vehicle while it's still locked with no key in the ignition, you won't be breaking the law by warming up your car. But if you start your vehicle with a key and then leave it unlocked, this may be considered a public safety hazard.

Here's why:

  • Your car could be stolen by any thief who happens to be passing by.
  • If your vehicle is stolen, your local police department will have to devote time to resolving a situation that could have easily been avoided.
  • In some areas, drivers who leave a car idling are ticketed because of the extra air pollution they're causing.

Throughout Ohio, it's illegal to leave your car unattended and running for any length of time. In Flint, MI, officers are encouraged to impound vehicles left with keys but no drivers. It's clear that they take idling cars seriously in Washington, D.C. Here, they fine anyone who leaves a standing car running for more than three minutes $5,000.

In Denver, they seem to be fairly pragmatic about their unattended, running car law. It's illegal to leave a vehicle running with the keys inside, except when it's below 20 degrees. This allows drivers to take the safety of their cars into their own hands when it's really, really cold outside.

An Argument against Warming up Your Car

Most insurance providers will not pay out if a vehicle is stolen while unlocked, with the engine running. This is definitely something to think about even if you live in an area where warming up your car "the old-fashioned way" isn't illegal. If there's even a slight chance that your vehicle could be stolen, it might be best to brave the cold instead of risking a theft.

Or, if you live in a part of the country where winters are brutal, warming up your car may seem necessary. In this case, it makes sense to invest in a remote starter. The good news is that more and more vehicles are being equipped with a keyless entry feature. So it's very likely that when you buy your next car, this option will be fairly affordable.

Also, you may have been told that you need to let your car warm up for 10-15 minutes when it's cold. But unless your vehicle was built in the nineteen-eighties or earlier, the engine doesn't need this much time. Some experts even claim that you should just start driving immediately to save gas. But most mechanics agree that you should give your engine one to two minutes to get warm.

So, the only real reason there is for warming up your car for a long time is to be comfortable. Therefore, if you don't have a remote starter, you may just have to bundle up and think of spring. At least you'll know that you're not doing any damage to your vehicle by skipping the warm up session.

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