Idling your vehicle each morning is unnecessary and can be costly

Mechanics say engines of newer cars heat up in a minute or two
Idling your vehicle each morning is unnecessary and can be costly
Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 20:36:36-05

GREAT FALLS — While it may be incredibly tempting on our many subzero degree mornings to leave your car running for 15 or 20 minutes, it could introduce some problems with your car's engine and your wallet.

While we all long for a nice and cozy commute, cars built in the 2000s do not require more than a minute or two of heating before they are ready to go. In fact, the car will actually heat up quicker when driving as opposed to idling.

This does not mean you should avoid warming up your car altogether, of course - be sure to heat the windshield enough to drive safely - but waiting for the entire interior of the vehicle to be heated is unnecessary.

Overall, other than minor wear and tear, idling will not cause major damage to your vehicle. However, the cost can begin to add up.

With a midsize vehicle, you would waste around a quarter of a tank of gas by idling each morning during a work week for a 15-20 minutes. This amounts to 12 to 15 gallons wasted each year and with gas prices averaging $3.50 per gallon, this adds up.

In a recent report that recommends against warming your car for longer than it takes to defog the windshield, the chief mechanic for Consumer Reports said that extensive idling in the winter is ineffective, unnecessary and huge waste of gas. John Ibottson said that while old engines needed a bit more time warming up and self-lubricating to get ready to drive, modern engines are much more sophisticated.

“Modern cars have improved on technology to the point that your engine is fully lubricated within 20 to 30 seconds,” the story quotes Ibottson as saying. “When temperatures drop during winter, it’s a good idea to let the car run for about a minute.”

This is not to say you shouldn't warm your car up when its 30 or 40 below zero outside - but making a habit of it can be harmful to your wallet and the environment.

Still, old habits die hard — and are passed onto the next generation of drivers who may have seen mom or dad letting their cars idle and been told it was necessary.

To help remedy this, some states and municipalities have anti-idling laws that come with fines if you leave your car running for too long, many of which are aimed at specific types of vehicles. Those states include Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas.