Most people don’t think twice about warming up the car on a cold winter’s day.  We also don’t worry about idling our cars when chatting with a friend walking by as we pull out of the driveway, or as we run a quick errand or pick up the kids from school.   But idling a car burns fuel and emits gasses that are harmful to the environment and to human health.

Image by found_drama

A car’s engine idling for 10 minutes consumes 0.14 liters of fuel, a big waste of money especially with today’s high gas prices.  Avoiding idling can save up to 19% on fuel economy.  Newer cars don’t need to be warmed up anyway unless the weather is below 25 degrees, and even then it only takes 30 seconds.  The best way to warm up your car is to drive it. Idling actually wastes more gas than restarting the car and increases overall engine wear by having the car operate for longer than necessary.

Car emissions can also cause health and environmental problems.  Idling an engine for 10 minutes produces about 90 grams of carbon dioxide.  The compounds in vehicle emissions are known to damage lung tissue and can lead to and aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, and even heart disease and cancer.  Children, the elderly and those with chronic health problems are most at risk.  Motor vehicle pollution contributes to the formation of acid rain and adds greenhouse gases that cause global climate change. Carbon dioxide is the primary contributor to global warming.

A good rule of thumb is if you are waiting for more than 10 seconds, then turn off your car.  For every 10 minutes your car is off, you’ll prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.  If people left their cars running for one minute less each day – or 365 minutes less a year – approximately 225,200 fewer tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted, and 350 million liters of energy would be saved.  That’s not asking much, is it?

It’s encouraging to see communities now ban idling at school zones and elsewhere.  We are making progress.

Some information compiled from the Environmental Defense Fund,


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