The Facts Behind Idling Your Car’s Engine

Professionals such as the Environmental Protection Agency to the government of Canada and the late host of NPR’s “Car Talk” program agree – idling in the driveway has virtually zero benefit for your engine. In some cases, idling can make your car more comfortable a little, but even then, getting the car or truck moving is the best way to increase the engine’s temperature.

Nevertheless, a survey of 1,300 U.S. residents found that, people think automobiles ought to be “warmed up” for about five minutes when the temperature is below freezing. The results of that myth are as follows:

  • For each car or truck, almost $10 annually in unnecessary wear-and-tear costs
  • More personal exposure to pollutants while sitting in stopped automobiles
  • 13 million tons per year of unnecessary carbon dioxide emitted into the environment
  • Nationally, 3.8 million gallons in wasted gas
  • For every car or truck, more than $100 annually in wasted gas

The beginnings of this idea that automobiles need to be idled to warm up are based on truth. Before electronic starters and electronic fuel injection, automobiles used carburetors to blend air and fuel for the engine. If a car wasn’t properly warmed up, that mixture could be wrong and make the engine stall. Today, the vast majority of cars have updated technology. Besides conserving gas during ignition, electronics measure the engine temperature and make up for hot and cold conditions. Now, it is widely agreed by experts that you should idle your engine for just a few seconds before hitting the road.

If you stop idling, there will be many beneficial effects. Your car or truck will drive better and get to a good operating temperature sooner. A car that is moving also starts the process of filtering its emissions more quickly. When you are just idling, the catalytic converter doesn’t start working for about twice as long, and the dirtier air invariably gets into the cabin because, of course, you’re not going anywhere.

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