Back before 1995, cars used a carburetor to deliver the fuel and air to the engine. The engine would need to be warmed up in order for the carburetor to function optimally. If the car were to run without the engine and carburetor warmed up, the engine would often stall. After 1995, cars used electronic fuel injection (EFI) as a way to adjust the fuel to air ratio, ignition, and timing on the fly. It let the engine operate optimally without the risk of stalling. With today’s technology and in the advent of EFI, the need to warm up the carburetor became a thing of the past for the most part
Having a computer now in charge of fuel injection lets the car run optimally without the fear of stalling. With fuel injection, the engine is able to operate optimally despite being cold, by adjusting the ignition and timing of the engine. Having a computer as the brain of the engine has been a point of contention between the experts. Some say that you can drive your car at slow speeds and low RPMs so that the engine will warm up as you drive. Doing so allows you to get to your destination faster without waiting around for the engine to warm up and wasting fuel. Modern engines are also built to different tolerances. This means that fitment is more precise as compared to the engines of old. Engines have come along way, but this doesn't mean you can abuse it, these machines still need to be taken care of.
Others say that you should let your car warm up before setting off. Allocating time for the engine to warm up allows the fluids in the engine to get up to temperature and flow properly. Different oils have different viscosities when hot and when cold. While it is true that it will take the engine time to pump the oil to the moving parts of the engine, the difference is only in a moment. Oils used in the past were of the mineral variety, which needed time to warm up to get to the right thickness. Newer engines, however, use synthetic oils that don't need as much time to warm up and reach the optimal heat.
So to answer the question if this is still a thing the answer is yes, it's still a needed step for older engines still on the road today. For newer engines with newer technology, less time is needed to warm up the engine. The machine should be ready to go the moment it starts. By the time you set off, the engine will already have circulated oil around itself and gone up to optimal temps, but you should still err on the side of caution and not push it too hard right off the bat.
Another thing to consider: Transmissions
There is one precaution however, that one should take before setting off. The engine should not be up under heavy load and should only be run at low RPMs. This may cause strain on the transmission provided it’s a fluid-filled automatic. The gearbox needs time for the fluids within in to start flowing and to get heated up. Not allowing the transmission to get up to temperature will hinder its effectiveness and may lead to grinding of gears. It takes time for the fluid to get to all the places within it and since it is further from the main heat source, warming up takes a bit of time.
Better to be safe than sorry
Modern engines do not need to be warmed up for a long period of time like before, but the transmission still may be a factor for modern cars. It takes time for the fluids to get up to temperature and work optimally for smooth and reliable performance in the long term.
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