Warming Up Your Engine & Air Quality

Experts ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the government of Canada and “Car Talk” agree – idling before you start moving has basically zero benefit for your engine. Sometimes, idling can make your car more comfortable to a slight degree, but even then, actually driving the vehicle is the best way to increase the engine's temperature.

Regardless, a 2009 scientific survey of about 1,300 U.S. residents found that on average, people believe that cars and trucks need to be idled for more than five minutes when the outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees. The results of that misconception are as follows:

  • On a national level, 40,000 tons per day of unnecessary carbon dioxide emitted into the air
  • More personal breathing of polluted air while sitting in unmoving cars and trucks
  • On a national level, $5.9 billion per year in wasted fuel
  • For each auto “warmed up”, more than $100 per year in wasted gas
  • For each car, almost $10 annually wear and tear costs

The beginnings of this idea that cars need to be warmed up are based on a time when it was true. Before the advent of fuel injection and electronic starters, automobiles used carburetors to mix air and fuel for the engine to burn. If a car was driven cold, that mix could be off, causing the engine to stall. Almost all new cars have new technology. In addition to saving gas when you turn the ignition, new mechanisms measure the engine temperature and make up for the outdoor weather. Now, experts say to idle your car for no longer than 10 seconds before driving.

When you stop warming up the engine, there will be many positive effects. Your car or truck will run better and heat up faster. A vehicle that is on the road also begins the process of cleaning the tailpipe air faster. When you are stopped, the catalytic converter doesn't kick in for approximately twice as long, and the polluted air your car is emitting invariably gets to your lungs because, clearly, you're not going anywhere.

If you have questions about whether your auto needs to be heated up before driving, reach out to the auto professionals at Christian Brothers of Mooresville. Not idling saves you time and is good for your car, better for the air quality and good for your budget.