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It's Better to be Idle-Free

Don’t be idle about smog!No Idling symbol

It’s something we’ve all experienced – walking past a parked vehicle with its engine running but going nowhere.

An idling engine releases twice as many exhaust fumes as a vehicle in motion, polluting our air for no good reason. This pollution is a significant contributor to environmental and health problems like climate change and smog.

Air quality is getting worse every year, and with the increasing number of smog days just breathing becomes a health risk. Vehicle idling also costs Canadians millions of dollars in wasted fuel and is damaging to your car.

The good news is that idling is one environmental problem and health threat that is easy to fix – all it takes is the turn of a key. Anyone who drives a vehicle can be part of the solution. The goal is to get drivers to spare the air by turning their engines off when stopped for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic.

Become part of the solution and put a stop to engine idling. All it takes is the turn of a key.

Check the facts … vehicle idling does have an impact

  • Idling creates unnecessary pollution
    A vehicle idling for five minutes produces more than a quarter kilogram (271.4 grams) of the greenhouse gases that are destabilizing our planet’s climate patterns. According to Natural Resources Canada, if every driver in Canada avoided idling for five minutes a day, we would prevent 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (the principle greenhouse gas) from entering the atmosphere.

  • Idling wastes fuel
    Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it, according to Natural Resources Canada. One vehicle idling for five minutes burns just over one-tenth of a litre, or about eight cents worth of gasoline. Idling is an enormous waste of money because it burns fuel but doesn’t get you anywhere.

  • Idling is a poor way to "warm up the car" in winter
    You don’t need to idle for more than 30 seconds to warm up your car. The best way to warm up your car in the winter is to drive it. Many components of the vehicle including the wheel bearings, tires and suspension system will only warm up when the vehicle is moving. No more than 30 seconds of idling is needed to get the oil circulating through the engine.

  • Idling can damage your car’s engine
    Since an idling engine is not operating at its peak operating temperature, the fuel is not completely burned. This leaves fuel residue that can damage engine parts, including cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems. It can also contaminate engine oil.

What you may not know about vehicle idling

  • Profile of an idler
    Research shows that the amount of idling a driver does tends to increase with the number of people in their household. A driver living with children is more likely to idle. The frequency of idling decreases as a person ages, with retirees least likely to idle. People in rural areas are more likely to idle than urban drivers. Regionally, our B.C. cousins are least likely to idle, according to Natural Resources Canada.

  • Restarting a car many times has little impact on engine components
    Studies have shown that restarting the engine numerous times has little impact on components like the battery and starter motor. Restarting a vehicle engine does cause some degree of component wear but is only estimated to add about $10 a year to the cost of driving – money likely recovered several times over in fuel savings enjoyed by motorists who don’t idle, Natural Resources Canada reports.

  • Diesel engines stay warmer when turned off instead of idling
    Idling a diesel-powered vehicle actually lowers the coolant temperature faster than shutting off the engine. So turning off the engine keeps it warmer longer than idling does.

  • Idling has seasonal peaks and valleys
    Idling is a problem year-round. A recent study revealed that in the peak of winter, Canadians idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than 75 million minutes a day – equal to one vehicle idling for 144 years. In summer, Canadians idle about 46 minutes a day – the same as one vehicle idling for 89 years, according to Natural Resources Canada. The problem is worse in the winter, but there’s never a good time to waste fuel and generate unnecessary pollution.

  • The economic costs of idling
    The chart below displays the amount of carbon dioxide and cost savings that could be achieved within Durham Region by having every driver of a light-duty vehicle reduce idling time by 5 minutes per day.

Idling Calculator New

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For more information about the impacts of idling and what you can do, visit