Yesterday I posted an article stating why I will never again idle my car in the winter for 10 or 15 minutes before driving.  15-30 seconds tops.

Many responded to this with fiery, rainbow-colored hate and skepticism.  Understandably!  Idling is something that I myself have done since I owned a car.  My parents did it.  Everyone on my block does it.  It's habit.  It's ingrained.

So I did some more reading and research and phone calls (I even checked with my Napa guy here in Twin Falls... I promised I wouldn't use his name).

I am STILL convinced.  Even more than yesterday.  By the way, have I mentioned, you should absolutely definitely seriously read yesterday's article and the accompanying one by the Post.

Important point of clarity that several rightly made on Facebook: we're talking gas-powered engines here!  Diesel engines operate differently.

Here are the reasons people were upset about this on Facebook:

  • "I like my car to be warm, and the windows defrosted."  Fair enough!  The spirit of this particular conversation is different, though -- we're talking about engine safety, including pistons, cylinders, and piston rings (i.e. engine wear over the long run, etc.).  Bear in mind you may actually be causing faster engine wear
  • "Piston rings will wear much faster if you DON'T idle because metal expands and contracts."  This strikes me as a false claim for several reasons.  One, ALL the metals expand and contract, including the cylinders that house the pistons and rings.  Modern fluids and modern engines (since the 90s or so) are designed with tolerances and made with materials to accommodate.  Unless you're able to show that IDLING for 10-15 minutes is better than gentle DRIVING for 10-15 minutes, there's simply no reason to believe this.  In fact, engine wear may actually increase from daily idling since engines operate less optimally when idling.
  • "Oil takes longer than that to thin out."  False.  Modern oils in modern engines thin out in 10-15 seconds, maybe 30 in the cold.  See below articles.
  • "Sub-arctic Alaskan tundras at -40 degrees require a few more minutes of idling."  Agreed.
  • "That's BS!"  You may be right, but it would help the rest of us if you substantiated your claims with things like evidence or reputable sources.

There are actually several additional points in favor of not idling for 10-15 minutes:

  • There's evidence to suggest it actually may be worse to idle your engine everyday because engines are operating less optimally when idling.  See the below articles for more info.  Some cars are even equipped with a "start-stop" feature that automatically turns off the engine while waiting at, say, a traffic light (idling).
  • Carbon monoxide is a harmful gas to breathe in.  Less idling = less fumes in your lungs.
  • Less idling is better for the environment.  Again, see articles below.

Here are five more outside sources that are in favor of the no-long-idling-time thing, not the least of which is a column by Car Talk's Tom (Rest In Peace, Tom!) & Ray.

***Super important disclaimer: Please check with your local mechanic and car manual for your specific make and model.