The Facts Behind Idling Your Engine

The research is in, and the findings are consistent: You shouldn't “warm-up” your in cold weather before driving. This unwise practice creates unnecessary pollution.

Groups from the Environmental Protection Agency to the government of Canada and famous radio talk show mechanics agree - running your engine before driving has basically no benefit for your car's engine. On occasion, idling can defrost a bit, but even then, getting the automobile moving is the best strategy to raise the engine's temperature.

Nevertheless, a survey of 1,300 people in the U.S. found that, people think automobiles should be idled for more than five minutes when the weather is wintry. That belief has meant:

  • On a national level, 13 million tons per year of unnecessary carbon dioxide released into the air
  • More personal breathing of polluted air while sitting in stopped autos
  • Nationally, $5.9 billion per year in wasted gas
  • For each automobile that idles to warm up, up to $183 each year in wasted fuel
  • For each auto, almost $10 annually wear and tear costs

Historically, this idea wasn't wrong, however. Before electronics in the starting and fuel delivery systems, autos used carburetors to blend air and fuel for the engine. If a car wasn't properly warmed up, that blend could be off, causing the engine to stall. Almost all new cars have new technology. As well as conserving gas during ignition, new mechanisms measure the engine temperature and make up for it. Now, experts say to idle your engine for 10 seconds or less before driving.

When you make this change in your driving habits, there will be many benefits. Your auto will work better and warm up more quickly. An automobile that is on the road also begins the process of filtering the tailpipe air more quickly. When you are just idling, the catalytic converter doesn't kick in for about twice as long, and the dirtier air invariably gets to you because, clearly, you're not moving.

If you have concerns about this or want to find out whether your auto needs to be warmed up before driving, call the auto professionals at Christian Brothers. Avoiding idling saves you time and is better for your automobile, better for the environment and good for your wallet.