Myth # 2: It takes more gas to restart your car than to keep it running. Shutting it off and starting it again is also very hard on the engine. (See the myth busted below)

Idling is one of the largest wastes of fuel for Canadian drivers and all of that waste is taking us nowhere. In fact you could be spending up to 25% of your time behind the wheel idling. Depending on your vehicle, every 10 minutes of idling is costing you between 1/10 and 4/10’s of a liter of fuel.

Idling is something we don’t often think about – it’s a habit that we do unconsciously. Reducing our idling not only saves us money, but reduces significantly greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) and health-harming pollution. If Canadian motorists reduced their idling by just 3 minutes a day, it would be the equivalent to taking 320,000 vehicles off the road for the entire year!

So do you need to be idling when you are:

  • dropping off or picking up kids school?
  • waiting at a drive-thru?
  • waiting in line at the gas station or car wash?
  • running short errands?
  • warming up car in cold weather?
  • stopped at railway crossings?
  • stopped at construction zones?
  • stopped at red lights?

Myth Busted

While the initial question may involve a “value judgement,” the answer is quite clear, idling wastes fuel and gets you nowhere! The fact is that:

  • anything over 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel that shutting off and restarting you vehicle.
  • the money you save by not idling will more than offset any costs for wear-and-tear on your vehicle.

One of the most important reasons for reduced idling is simply the cost. The fuel consumed in 10 minutes of idling varies between 1/3 and 1/2 of a litre depending on your particular vehicle. Today’s vehicles with fuel injection and electronic ignition start more easily and suffer far less wear and tear on the engine components. National Resources Canada indicates that the break even point to offset any potential maintenance costs is 60 seconds, however other research would indicate that 30 seconds would be more accurate. Some sources estimate the cost of restarting your engine to be approximately $ 10.00 to $ 15.00 per year, which would more that be offset by the fuel saving costs.

And let’s not forget about the idling that many of us do to warm up our cars in winter. The best way to warm you car up in winter is to drive it. Excessive idling can actually be more harmful for your car as the fuel is not fully combusted when your car is idling outside of its peak operating temperature. This fuel residue builds up on the cylinder walls and can also contaminate the engine oil thereby reducing its ability to lubricate. On most days you need no more than 30 seconds of idling before driving away. Your engine, and all the other components that do not warm up while idling, will warm up quicker and more efficiently.

So, the bottom line is that if you anticipate that you will be idling for more than around 30 seconds, other than when you are in traffic, it is best to shut your vehicle off and restart it. Excessive idling wastes money and produces unnecessary CO2 emissions which contribute to climate change. Oil reserves are dwindling, demand is increasing, and costs are rising so why waste this valuable resource going nowhere. Save money now and save the environment for the future!

For more myths, see our Green Myth Busting page.