Ignition Off: Does Car Idling Use More Gas?

How car idling poisons the planet

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The average American spends 5 to 10 minutes a day in a motionless, running car, compounding air pollution problems and contributing to global warming. Often we think we’re saving time, money, fuel or engine wear. Turns out that’s far from the truth.

Myth: Drive-thrus are fast. In an informal study by the Kansas City Star newspaper, it took more time to use the drive-thru at 9 out of 10 fast-food restaurants than it did to park, walk inside and order. At some, the time was twice or three times as long.

Myth: Idling before driving warms up the car. Newer auto models don’t need warm-ups. Unless the temperature is below zero, start the car and immediately drive away.

Myth: Idling uses less gas than starting. An idle car gets zero miles per gallon. Ten seconds of idling uses more gas than restarting, according to ConsumerEnergyCenter.org. Two minutes of idle time uses the same amount of fuel as driving a mile.

Myth: Idling is easier on my engine. Restarting causes very little engine wear, but idling wastes more gas.

Fact: If just one car idled 10 minutes less every day, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 550 pounds a year, according to the World Wildlife Federation.