Posted by: safedriver | October 5, 2010

Idle thoughts?

As a husband and father of 4 kids, our lives are quite busy. With all of the kids busy with activities, plus the extended hours that I work, it makes it difficult to fit everything into our daily routines. We try to plan as best as we can to save time, but some things we do as drivers aren’t really too smart.

One fine morning I decided to stop off at my bank to withdraw some money. I parked my car in the empty parking lot and proceeded to walk toward the mall where the bank machine was. As I approached the mall, I spotted a car, which was parked in the aisle, with the engine running with no one inside of it. What was he trying to save? How long does it take to restart your engine that he would feel that he had to keep it running?

In a lot of jurisdictions, if you leave your engine running and someone steals your vehicle, your insurance won’t accept this as a claim. So, why do it? What advantages do you have for leaving your vehicle and leaving the engine running? If you were asked by the bylaw officer who was about to give you a ticket why you did it, what would you say?

With all that we hear about saving the environment, he wasn’t helping things by idling his engine when he didn’t have to. What a waste of fuel and money. In most jurisdictions, the fine can reach over $300 for idling your engine. So, the time you’re saving will cost you in cash, plus CO2 you’re causing unnecessarily.

I had a neighbour who used to go outside on a cold, winter morning and start his engine. He then would go back inside and finish his coffee before going back to his car. He felt he was warming up his vehicle so it would run better as he drove to work. That not true however. The engine warms up better and faster with the vehicle moving. Your body does the same. Jumping up and down and running on the spot doesn’t warm you up faster than running down the street and back.

But what abut this driver who wasn’t at home, but at the mall? I still don’t have a reason for his actions. He probably doesn’t have a reason either.



  1. I’d like to know why people do that. I take the GO train to work, and there are lots of people who sit in their cars, engines running, waiting for the train. I just don’t get it.

  2. Thanks for the info about warming up the car by driving it. I didn’t know that simply idling the engine doesn’t actually warm it up as well as driving it (slowly, at first, right?) does. Thanks again!

    • Glad I could help. Actually, 10 seconds of idling is enough to get the oil moving around the engine before driving away. In very cold weather, you’ll need to let it warm up for a few more seconds. And yes, starting off slowly will help. The true waste is letting your vehicle sit there, especially when the weather is still mild and the engine is at normal operating temperature.

  3. Now that winter is approaching, this is a GRRRRRRRRRRR8 reminder not to warm up Ur vehicle when U R not in it! Also: B sure 2 back OUT of the garage B/4 idling so fumes don’t seep in2 Ur home & so U R not overcum w/ toxins…

  4. I idle sometimes… but it depends on the situation. Like, when I go to pick up my sister at the Y, I hang out by the doors if there’s nowhere to park, because she’s usually waiting right there, and then I leave it running in case I need to quickly move, or something. However, that’s a habit that I really should curb… In my standard, if I forget to neutral it and put up the brake, it just stalls as soon as I step out of the vehicle. HOWEVER, I was driving an automatic once, stepped out of the vehicle to check something out in front of the car (would have been back inside in ten seconds, tops)… and it started rolling away from me, because I’d left it in Drive. Believe me, chasing after a quickly-accelerating van on a slight incline is NOT fun. You only do that once!!! Lol, and it’s a great excuse to turn it off, too, because unless it’s in neutral it can’t roll away from you if it’s off. 🙂

    • Park may be an even better idea in an automatic. Thanks for sharing the comment.

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