If you’ve been skipping this “necessary” step and are worried that you’ve been hurting your car, have no fear. It is not necessary to warm up modern vehicles before driving. The practice is also bad for the environment and can put you at risk of having your vehicle stolen if you leave it running unattended.
However, this is a myth that just won't die because like every myth, there's a bit of truth to it that allows the misinformation to thrive.
How the Myth Got Its Start
Like much automotive advice that gets passed from one generation to the next, the reason this myth seems so accurate is that for many years, warming up your car was, in fact, required.
Carbureted vehicles, which were produced into the mid-90s, had a choke that would restrict airflow into the engine when you started your car. “If you attempted [to] drive the vehicle with the choke engaged, the engine would run rough, perhaps ‘buck’ and maybe even stall out,” said David Bennett, senior automotive manager at AAA. “Once the engine warmed up—after a minute or two—the choke was no longer needed, and you could drive the vehicle normally.”
Another common myth surrounding the instructions to warm up your car is the belief that doing so allows the oil to thoroughly lubricate the engine. The idea here is that when the car sits, engine oil collects in the oil pan. However, most vehicles circulate the oil as soon as you start the engine, which means they are ready to drive immediately.