Vehicle Idling

Transportation - Vehicle Idling

When we drive, we take a number of precautions to reduce pollutants from vehicle use, one of the easiest things you can do is simply turn your vehicle off. Vehicle idling is a waste of fuel and contributes unnecessary pollutants into our air. Here are some idling facts…

  • If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada avoided idling for just five minutes a day, we would save 1.6 million litres of fuel and prevent more than 1.4 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
  • Once a vehicle is running, the best way to warm it up is to drive it. With computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines, you need no more than thirty seconds of idling on winter days before driving.
  • Warming up the vehicle means more than warming the engine. The tires, transmission, wheel bearings and other moving parts also need to be warm for the vehicle to perform well. Most of these parts don’t begin to warm up until the vehicle is driven.
  • Driving a vehicle cuts warm-up times in half. That means reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and re-starting it again. If you’re going to be stopped for more than ten seconds — except in traffic — turn off the engine.
  • Every ten minutes of idling costs you at least one-tenth of a litre in wasted fuel — and up to four-tenths of a litre if your vehicle has an eight-cylinder engine. Keep in mind that every litre of gasoline you use produces 2.4 kilograms of CO 2.
  • Excessive idling can be hard on your engine. Because the engine is not working at its peak operating temperature, fuel combustion is incomplete, which leaves fuel residues that contaminate engine oil and foul spark plugs.
  • Restarting a car numerous times has little impact on engine components like the battery and starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will be recovered several times over in fuel savings.
  • It is important to drive as soon as possible after a cold start, but you should avoid high speeds and rapid acceleration for the first five kilometres or so. This allows the whole vehicle to reach peak operating temperature as quickly as possible without paying a fuel penalty.
  • If your vehicle has a diesel engine, idling will actually lower the coolant temperature faster than shutting off the engine. In other words, switching the engine off will keep the engine warm longer. A poorly tuned engine will use up to 15% more energy at idle than a well-tuned vehicle. Proper vehicle maintenance is a key to fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Using a block heater is a much more efficient and effective way to warm the engine than idling. A block heater warms the engine block and lubricants, which means the engine will start easier and reach its peak operating temperature faster.
  • You don’t need to leave a block heater plugged in overnight to warm the engine — two hours is more than enough. Many people use an automatic timer to switch on the block heater at the appropriate time.
  • When you are idling your vehicle with the air conditioner operating, emissions can increase by 13%.

Page Last Updated: 17/02/2015