Getting into a freezing car can be daunting during the cold winter months.
To avoid inconveniences, some drivers may leave their vehicles running in the driveway or on the street while they remain indoors.
But is it legal to do this?
While there is no national law against idling a vehicle, some states have anti-idling laws to prevent air pollution. The punishment and exact anti-idling measures vary from state to state, and even city or county, with penalties ranging from fines to written warnings.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a list of idling laws for 30 states and the District of Columbia, both existing and proposed. If it's on the list, you can click here to find out more about your state.
In Washington D.C., if your car is left running for more than three minutes while parked, you may face a fine of up to $5,000.
According to the City of Portland, Oregon, idling your car is expensive and harmful to your engine. When your car engine is idling, it is not running at its optimal temperature, which can cause fuel to not fully combust, leading to potential damage to engine parts. Plus, restarting the engine after turning it off for 10 seconds uses less fuel than idling.
Additionally, keeping the engine running for an hour without driving will consume about one gallon of gas without any mileage. Therefore, it is best to turn off the engine if you are stopped for more than 10 seconds.
Idling myth vs. fact
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has provided a list of myths and facts about idling to help better educate drivers:
- Myth: I must warm up my vehicle’s engine for several minutes before driving. Fact: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 30-second idle at start-up to properly circulate engine oil is sufficient.
- Myth: It takes more gas to start my car than to let it run. Fact: Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting.
- Myth: Repeatedly turning my engine on and off wears out the starter. Fact: Idling is harder on your engine than restarting. Frequent restarting causes only about $10 a year of wear and tear.
- Myth: I should leave a diesel engine on when it is stopped for delivery.Fact: Deliveries often take longer than expected. It makes sense for drivers of all vehicles to turn off their engines during deliveries.