Limit idling your car as much as possible. It's something that produces unnecessary greenhouse gases, gets you nowhere, and ultimately wastes fuel. If you're going to stop your vehicle for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine.
The only time you shouldn't do this with a stopped vehicle is when you're in traffic. Do this in spring where the temperature is mild. However, in the winter, don't idle your cold engine for more than 30 seconds before driving it. This is true for many modern vehicles.
Idling Your Car During the Cold Can Hurt It
- Stop Idling and Only Use It When Necessary: Even though spring is here and various mammals are waking up from hibernation, some parts of the country are still experiencing winter. After all, wasn't it just a few months ago that we went through a polar vortex? Regardless, the remnants of winter are already hard on your modern car, so warming it up before driving off might spell doom to it. Don't idle your car and let it sit in the cold. This will damage your car, especially now that it's already spring.
- Old Practices Don't Apply to Modern Vehicles: It might seem a little mild to cold out in spring but that doesn't mean you should idle your car to avoid a cold start. Even those in colder climates know better than to put their latest-model car on idle to make it easier to start, like preheating an oven. According to Stephen Ciatti, a drag racer with a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, what works for a vintage car doesn't work with your economy car or hybrid.
- How Does Idling Damage Your Car Specifically: Idling doesn't only waste your fuel in order to heat up an engine that doesn't need heating up. It also strips oil from critical components of your vehicle that help it operate, specifically its pistons and cylinders. However, in wintry conditions, older or vintage vehicles might require more idling time. They need it to warm up and ensure full defogging of the windshield. However, in the summer? Forget about it. Limit your idling more than less.
- Idling in Spring versus Summer and Winter: For areas in the U.S. where all vestiges of winter is gone and spring has really sprung forth despite the imbalances of climate change, you should definitely limit your idling now. The myth behind idling combustion engines to heat your engine should only be done for cold starts. The damage that idling does to engines in winter is significant, but it's even more so in spring when it's much hotter. This goes quadruple for summer, where idling plus the summer heat can outright evaporate your car's internal water supply.