Green Tip #176: Car Idling

So you got off work early on a Friday so you can surprise your kids by picking them up at school, but best yet, you are taking them camping for the weekend.  It’s the end of June and the weather is warm.  You pull up to the school, put the car in park and leave the air conditioning running.  This is not a way to save gas!  Idling uses gas and will not help you reduce gas consumption.  Sure, idling for 30 minutes “only” uses about 1/10th of a gallon of gas, and to savings by turning off the engine is probably off set by the need to replace the starter – but you are still burning fossil fuels that will eventually deplete to zero.  And the air we breathe will be cleaner too.

How often do you leave the car idling?

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8 comments to Green Tip #176: Car Idling

  • brad

    I remember reading somewhere that you could turn your car on and off 20 times a day, 7 days a week, for 12 years and still not have to replace the starter; I don’t think it’s an issue anymore. Same with shutting down your computer: in the old days they used to say that your computer’s lifetime would be shortened if you shut it off at night, but that hasn’t been true since the early 1990s, according to engineers I talked with at IBM and Apple back then.

    • It sure is hard to separate the fact from the fiction. If what you’re reporting is true brad, there is little reason to idle but I suppose some will hang onto any reason / myth / excuse to keep that precious a/c running.

      • brad

        Well, although I’m a sample size of one, I can at least corroborate that I’ve never had to replace the starter on any car I’ve had. Several of the cars I’ve owned were ones I kept for 10 years or more, I never let my cars idle except when necessary (e.g. at a traffic light). If I can find a good reference for the expected lifetime of starters, I’ll post it here.

        • Well I’d have to report the opposite. The starter went on my car after only about 3 years (from brand new) and I would say I’m about an average person as far as idling goes. I’m am slightly conscious of it, but not overly so.

  • brad

    It’s hard to find a “neutral” source on this, but here’s a study by the Environmental Defense Fund; they claim that idling does not reduce starter wear compared with restarting the vehicle:

    http://www.edf.org/documents/8193_Idling_Gets_You_Nowhere.pdf

    On the other hand the U.S. government’s fueleconomy.gov site says that “excessive restarting may increase starter wear.” They don’t define what “excessive” means, though.

  • Jay

    Absolutely correct – both for cars and computers. The days of worrying about wear and tear from shutting down are long gone.

    Some municipalities have already passed anti-idling bylaws where you can be fined for idling longer than 30 seconds. Time to wake up and do the right thing, whether it is legislated in your area or not.

  • Leave the car idling while running an errand? I couldn’t even think of doing that.

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