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| Grewal Law, PLLC

It’s true that old habits die hard, but this one seems pretty hard to break. While most people think that they’re protecting their vehicles from some kind of unknown hazard by letting them idle before driving, the habit actually doesn’t accomplish anything. And don’t take this news from me; auto mechanics also corroborate this fact. The truth is that idling is completely unnecessary and many communities have even enacted ordinances against the practice.

Rob Maier, of Maier’s Garage in Bridgeport, Connecticut says that idling isn’t necessary because of the efficiency of modern fuel injection. In fact, the only reason to let the car idle is to get the oil circulating, but 30 seconds is all you need. Here are some other quick tips to put the idling habit to rest:

  1. Driving warms the car faster than idling: many people would probably admit that the reason they warm up their car before driving is for the sake of their own creature comforts: it’s warmer. However, cars actually warm up faster if you drive them, rather than letting them sit and idle. Plus, it’s better for the environment not to let the car sit running for minutes before driving.
  2. Ten seconds is all you need: environmentalists warn that drivers should turn their car off if they are sitting idle for more than 10 seconds. It costs more money to keep the car running for more than 10 seconds than turning the engine off and restarting it.
  3. Idling the car hurts it: according to experts, idling hurts a car’s engine over time. In fact, idling causes carbon residues to build up in the engine, which reduces efficiency.
  4. Idling in the garage can kill you: idling in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and can expose the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. Plus, if the garage is attached, the gases can get into the house.
  5. Block heaters beat remote starters: unfortunately, remote starters entice people to idle their cars for way too long. Instead, a block heater, which is designed to heat the engine and costs under $30, does the trick better than remote starters.
  6. Quick errands aren’t quick enough: don’t even think about leaving your car idling outside of a store to run in for a quick errand; they’re never quick enough. Not only is it dangerous to leave your car running for potential car thieves, it’s also bad for the environment.
  7. Idling is bad for your health: if you haven’t gotten the hint by now, idling is bad for your health and the health of the planet. Idling and the resulting pollution can cause asthma, allergies and increased rates of cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.

Let’s break this needless bad habit for good!


  1. Gravatar for Geiger Soto
    Geiger Soto

    You bring up many good points, but I notice when it's cold outside 30 degrees or under, and without warming up the van a 93 chevy asrto, it doesn't have as much power in acceleration. Why is that?

  2. David Mittleman

    Hello Geiger,

    Thanks for for your question, I will have to defer to NPR's car talk:

    You can ask experienced auto mechanics questions. I think it's pretty fair that they'll have a better idea of how to answer your question, since I'm an attorney and don't have much experience with cars. Although, I will say, for what it's worth, that the fuel injection capabilities of a '93 Chevy Astro probably aren't a fair representation of modern technology.

    Hope that helps!


    David Mittleman

  3. Gravatar for Daniel Allen
    Daniel Allen

    If I bought, the car, the gas, and paid my taxes on each, what business is it for ANYONE to tell me I cannot warm my car up before I get inside.

  4. David Mittleman

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for reading and responding. While nobody is "telling" you not to warm your car up before driving, they are merely suggesting that you consider doing it for less time or not at all to protect your health, as well as the health of future generations. In addition, leaving your car "warming up" outside leaves your valuable property, that you have paid the gas and taxes on, open to the possibility of theft--not to mention that "warming up" cars can damage the engine. Finally, improperly warming up your car in unventilated spaces can actually kill you.

    But, nevertheless, it is your choice whether or not to warm your car up prior to driving.

    Best wishes,


  5. Gravatar for LT

    Daniel Allen is an idiot....Stupid comment!

Comments are closed.