Idling car engines waste gas, money

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote about engine idling and how most of the time it’s simply a waste of gas and money and pumps unnecessary pollution into the air.

I feel even more strongly about it today.

Everywhere I go, I continue to see people letting their engines run when there’s no need. They get into their car, start the engine, then light a cigarette and fiddle with their phones for two or three minutes before moving on.

That’s just one example. There are many others.

Multiple sources, from AAA to environmental organizations, say there’s no point in letting your engine idle for more than 30 seconds, or certainly no more than a minute, even in cold weather. Driving the car warms it up.

It’s a myth that it takes more fuel to restart a car than to run the engine for a minute or more.

“Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it,” according to the California Energy Commission.

For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile, the organization’s Web site states.

According to many sources, idling can even damage the engine.

“An idling engine is not operating at peak temperature, resulting in incomplete fuel combustion. Fuel residues can condense on cylinder walls, contaminate oil and damage engine components,” according to the group LEaP (Lowering Emissions and Particulates).

I realize that most people let their engines run without thinking about it. That’s why I’m writing about it again — so people will think about it.

I’ve caught myself doing it. I’ve gotten into the car and started it up, thinking I’m going to leave right away. Then I start looking for something in my backpack. I don’t do it much anymore, though, and when it does happen, I catch myself quickly and either start driving or turn off the engine to finish what I’m doing.

I can see idling when windows are iced over and need to be defrosted. And though some red lights take two or three minutes to cycle through, AAA doesn’t advise drivers to turn off their engines in those situations because it can hold up traffic, spokesman Dave Overstreet said.

Other than these instances, what would be the point?

Being aware of when the engine is running, and whether it needs to be running, is part of being a mindful driver.

Email us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

Learn more

AAA: http://tinyurl.com/GasWatcher

Lowering Emissions and Particulates: www.makealeap.org/idling_myth

California Energy Commission: http://tinyurl.com/IdlingCars

Mid-America Regional Council: http://tinyurl.com/AirMyths

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