It is probably most people's idea that in winter, your car needs a little time to warm up before you can drive it. And that's why the driver used to park outside of my office often fire up their engines long before they start driving. With remote control, people might even start the car before leaving the office.
But this idea of idling your car during the winter turns out to be wrong!
Before looking at why it is wrong, let's look at what is true and how people start from the truth and reach something wrong.
It is true that cars get worse fuel economy when it's really cold out -- they are at least 10% percent less fuel efficient and it takes longer for the engine to warm up and reach an optimal driving temperature in cold weather. Moreover, older cars that rely on carburetors as a crucial engine component do need to warm up to work well. Without warming up, the carburetor would not necessarily be able to get the right mix of air and fuel in the engine.
During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, however, the auto industry did away with carburetors in favor of electronic fuel injection, which uses sensors to supply fuel to the engine and get the right air and fuel mix. This makes the problem of warming up the car before driving irrelevant, because the sensors monitor and adjust to temperature conditions.
Therefore, contrary to popular belief, excessive idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The engine will warm up faster being driven. The best way to warm it up is to drive it. In fact, with today's computer-controlled engines, even on cold winter days, you should warm up the car no more than 30 seconds before you start driving – but make sure that windows are free from snow and properly defrosted before driving away! So idling does nothing for your vehicle.
But it does have several big (and avoidable) costs:
1) Idling increases the amount of vehicle exhaust in our air. Exhaust contains many pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX) that contribute to air pollution and smog are linked to asthma and other lung diseases, allergies, heart disease,increased risk of infections and cancer and other health problems (that's why the environmental safety and health committee takes actions right after we report the issue).
2) An operating vehicle emits a range of gases from its tailpipe into the atmosphere, one of which is carbon dioxide CO2– the principal greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. For every litre of gasoline used, a vehicle produces about 2.3 kilograms2 of CO2. With internal combustion engines, no technology exists for eliminating CO2 emissions, an unavoidable by-product of burning fossil fuels. One simple and effective way to reduce the production of CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles is by choosing to eliminate unnecessary vehicle idling. This is an action that you – as a driver – can take.
3) Idling wastes fuel and money. An idling car uses between 1/5 to 7/10 of a gallon of fuel an hour. An idling diesel truck burn approximately one gallon of fuel an hour. Idling for a few minutes everyday can cost you several dollars per week – which doesn’t seem like much, but adds up in the long run
For people who are used to idle the car, welcome to use
Some interesting fact about idling:
- The amount of idling a driver does tends to increase with the number of people in the household.
- A driver living with children is more likely to idle than one without children.
- The frequency of idling appears to decrease as a person ages – a retiree is the least likely to idle.
- A person living in a rural area is more likely to idle than a driver living in an urban centre.
References and more to read: