To Idle or Not to Idle – There’s No Question About it

In this day of high fuel costs, a tight economy, population growth, and climate change, it is imperative that we are all armed with the current facts about engine idling.

Idling is defined as running a vehicle engine when the vehicle is standing still. It sounds downright silly, really. Who would want to do that? We don’t go to work each day so that we can pay for our car to get zero miles per gallon. And we all need clean air to breathe – why would we needlessly spew exhaust into it?

Well, the majority of us in Bozeman do idle needlessly, most commonly when we’re warming up the engine, “running inside for just a minute,” using the drive-thru, staying comfortable while waiting inside a vehicle when it’s cold or hot outside, picking someone up, dropping someone off, or talking on a cell phone. While there are times when we are legally obligated to idle our vehicles, such as at a stop light, the above reasons for idling are typically unnecessary.

Many of our beliefs about idling are out of date, from the 1970s and earlier, and don’t apply to newer vehicles. Following are two of the most common myths about idling:

Myth: On a cold day, it is best for the health of a vehicle to warm up the engine by idling until the engine is warm.

Truth: For temperatures above 32 degrees, there is no need to warm up most vehicles. From 0 to 32 degrees, you should warm up most vehicles for 30 seconds. For temperatures under zero, you should warm up the vehicle for 1-3 minutes. In all cases, it’s best to idle for the recommended time, then drive slowly for the first minute or two. (Excessive idling can actually damage engine components.)

Myth: It uses more fuel and costs more to restart an engine than it does to let it idle for a few minutes.

Truth: If you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds (except in traffic) turn off the engine. (Actually, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than it takes to restart the engine, but in order to offset potential incremental maintenance costs, the breakeven time is 30 seconds.)

There are important reasons to change our idling behavior, perhaps the most compelling being our health. Idling releases hazardous chemicals into the air including carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter. These idling byproducts are related to ill health effects ranging from asthma to cancer, and no one is immune when it is in the air that we breathe. Ironically, some of the most common idlers are parents running their engines and spewing these toxins outside of schools and activity venues while waiting for their children.

Environmental concerns are also paramount. Emissions from idling contribute to smog, haze, greenhouse gas emissions, and ground level ozone. Has anyone looked out the window towards the north from Bozeman on a clear day? You may have noticed that the air is not so clear.

Saving money and fuel is another reason to stop idling. The average annual fuel cost for a vehicle that idles ten minutes each day is 20 gallons/$75 for a small car, 40 gallons/$150 for an 8-cylinder engine, and 15 gallons/$67.50 for a diesel engine. Remember, these savings could be yours by doing nothing more than turning off your engine when it is unnecessarily running. A no brainer!

We’ve all become familiar with the slogan “Hang Up and Drive.” Now it’s time to consider another – “Idling Gets You Nowhere.”

Elin Hert lives in Bozeman and is a volunteer member of the City of Bozeman’s Idle Free Bozeman working group. 

This article was first published as a guest column in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and can be found HERE.

20 replies

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. real work from home jobs

    […]always a massive fan of linking to bloggers that I really like but do not get a good deal of link appreciate from[…]

  2. ebay motors says:

    ebay motors

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  3. homes made from shipping containers

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated data, nonetheless genuinely really worth taking a look, whoa did a single master about Mid East has got far more problerms as well […]

  4. Auto loan says:

    Auto loan

    […]we prefer to honor quite a few other internet websites around the internet, even though they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  5. 11 piece dining set

    […]we came across a cool web site that you just could possibly get pleasure from. Take a search in case you want[…]

  6. wisdom teeth removal Daytona beach

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  7. dating sites for teenager

    […]Every once inside a though we opt for blogs that we study. Listed below are the most current web sites that we opt for […]

  8. bantningspiller

    […]always a huge fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but do not get a whole lot of link like from[…]

  9. Go Here says:

    Go Here

    […]check beneath, are some totally unrelated web-sites to ours, having said that, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  10. find a property

    […]Here are a few of the web sites we suggest for our visitors[…]

  11. More Help says:

    More Help

    […]Here is a superb Weblog You may Discover Interesting that we Encourage You[…]

  12. Queen Hair says:

    Queen Hair

    […]always a huge fan of linking to bloggers that I love but really don’t get a great deal of link appreciate from[…]

  13. 7 color shower

    […]Here is a good Weblog You might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[…]

  14. Sac papier luxe

    […]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they are really worth a go by way of, so possess a look[…]

  15. Soft Tip Darts

    […]we prefer to honor many other net web-sites on the internet, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  16. Boat Shipping

    […]just beneath, are quite a few completely not related websites to ours, nevertheless, they’re surely really worth going over[…]

  17. Ausgetrickst says:


    […]usually posts some quite fascinating stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]

  18. Klepper Faltbootwerft AG

    […]here are some hyperlinks to internet sites that we link to since we think they may be worth visiting[…]

  19. Google says:


    Usually posts some pretty intriguing stuff like this. If you are new to this site.

  20. Google says:


    Just beneath, are many entirely not connected websites to ours, nevertheless, they may be surely worth going over.

Comments are closed.