Idle Thoughts: Solving the Debate on Idling Your Engine
Have you ever wondered if it was safe to let your engine idle? What is all the commotion about anyway? We’re all spending more time in our cars than ever as a part of the New Normal, and at North Hills Auto, we believe that knowledge is power, which is why we want to keep our customers in the know! Read on for everything you need to know about your idle!
What is Idling?
Idling is when a driver leaves the engine running while the vehicle is not in motion. We tend to let the engine idle while waiting in the school pick up line, or for that grocery order to be loaded up. Some times we let it idle while the cabin warms up in the winter, or cools down in the summer. Even sitting in traffic or stopping at a red light is technically idling your engine.
Should Your Engine Idle?
The short answer is, among many factors, it depends on how old your vehicle is.
- Older Vehicles – It used to be debatable whether the engine should idle because it was good to let the engine itself warm-up before starting to drive. An older vehicle in a cold climate would need some warm-up time to heat up the oil and lubricate the parts. An older car in a hot climate could potentially overheat if left idling for too long. Another issue was "how" you let your engine idle. If you pressed on the brakes and let the vehicle idle in the "drive" function for too long, this could damage your transmission. If you were idling in the '"park" function, it did not affect the transmission and was considered safe for your vehicle.
- Modern vehicles – The consensus on new vehicles is very different. Modern vehicles are designed with all these factors in mind. Many new vehicles have an auto shut-off system that allows the engine to shut off when not in motion for a certain amount of time, and then, an automatic restart function when you press the gas pedal. This repeated starting of some modern engines to avoid idling time, however, will likely result in the premature failure of the starter motor and related parts. These are expensive and labor-intensive items to replace, so be aware of this feature when purchasing a newer car, truck, or SUV.
The cost of idling your engine
As mentioned earlier, the cost of idling an older engine could be repairing damage to the engine caused by overheating or damaged engine parts like the transmission.
While it's safer to idle newer engines, it still has a cost. Running your engine unnecessarily affects your fuel economy. Depending on the vehicle, this can be a trivial or significant expense in your budget.
Is It Legal to Idle Your Engine?
Here in Greenville, South Carolina engine idling is prohibited beyond 15 minutes. Did you know that it is illegal to let your engine idle in most states? The states with engine idle laws are:
District of Columbia
You can check the local laws for your area on the EPA’s website here.
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