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Idle Talk

164627542_d17318f0c6_m Cars and trucks idling has been a contentious issue among drives, but I don’t see people taking the sort of advice that I’m reading these days – That leaving your vehicle running, if you are stopping for more than 10 seconds, is worse than shutting it off and starting it again.

I’ve included a bunch of excerpts and links for your reading pleasure. More after the jump…

Idle in Invermere No More! | Wildsight

Turning vehicles off while quickly running in the house or grabbing a cup of coffee has more advantages than one might think. Contrary to conventional knowledge, leaving your car running for more than 10 seconds uses more gas than restarting. As well, many toxins found in vehicle emissions have been linked to serious health problems.

CAP Join | Sierra Club Maine Chapter

Over 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine. Idling a medium-duty vehicle for even 5 minutes a day wastes more than 13 gallons of gas a year. Just by turning your key you can save money.

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Anti-Idling Primer: Every Minute Counts

Old habits are hard to break. To most, idling a car may seem fairly innocuous, but it is actually detrimental to the modern automotive engine, wastes gasoline, and is often done based on mistaken assumptions or outdated logic, or simply out of habit. Each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline by voluntarily idling their cars….

The city of Aspen, Colorado, launched a program called Idling Isn’t Cool, which targets people who let their cars idle to warm them up in cold weather or while running errands. Environmental health specialists walk through town and place small, laminated placards featuring an image of the earth sweating from heat on windshields of offenders. The placard reads, “Turning off your engine when you are not driving is one of the easiest things you can do to lessen your contribution to global warming.” It goes on to explain that 30 seconds of idling is ample time to get engine oil circulating. It also cites the city ordinance that makes it illegal to idle an engine for 5 minutes or more and provides a link to calculate personal carbon emissions.

3260062_c81619e9d1_o And trucks and buses have another reason to stop the idling…
Recent Study Finds Bus Idling Worse Than Re-starting Engines : TreeHugger

But a recent EPA study of school buses found that when they idle for more than just three minutes they’re actually generating more pollution than stopping and re-starting the engine. That’s an important point, because it debunks a widely held belief by some drivers who think otherwise, most likely reasoning that “just a couple of minutes” won’t do much damage. Of course using that new knowledge and turning off the engine cuts carbon monoxide, fine particles, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide emissions which otherwise go wafting out into our lungs and our atmosphere. In fact, during the study the level of pollution from buses that idled for any more than three minutes was actually 66 percent higher in fine particulate matter than pollution generated from shutting off the buses and then re-starting them.

I feel lazy linking to so many articles, but my point is simply that the research has been done – shut down those vehicles. The issue of comfort and warmth in winter is interesting,

Conservation tip: Idle engines are the devil’s tools | | TerraPass: Fight global warming, promote alternative energy

The EPA agrees, and states that longer idling actually causes engine damage. The owner’s manual in my Audi warns, “To avoid unnecessary engine wear and to reduce exhaust emissions do not let your vehicle stand and warm up. Be ready to drive off immediately after starting your vehicle.”

Read that – "unnecessary engine wear and tear" from idling – don’t turn on the engine until you’re ready to go, wear gloves if you have to – thankfully around here the winters aren’t that cold, in Canadian terms anyway.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.