Why you shouldn’t idle your car, even if it’s frigid outside

Winter is upon us, and it’s not an uncommon sight to see vehicles in driveways across Canada idling to warm up. But experts say that’s not really necessary anymore, due to the technology used in vehicles these days.

READ MORE: Winter driving: tips for tackling snowy, icy roads

From bylaws to harming the environment, there are a few reasons why you should cut the idling habit.

It’s just not necessary

Unless you’re driving a 20-year old car or a diesel, your vehicle needs less than a minute before it’s road ready.

“New cars are not like the old vehicles,” said Mohamed Bouchama, consultant for Car Help Canada.

“With the new cars, you don’t need that at all — 30 seconds at the most.”

Story continues below advertisement

Warming up your car “is not as critical as it used to be,” Chris Pouliot, service adviser at Integra Tire Auto Centre told Global News last winter.

READ MORE: How to properly secure your child in their car seat this winter

“The emissions systems that we were concerned about in the past operate much more efficiently than they ever have before.”

Letting the engine run for any longer than that, and it’s for your own comfort. However, the car warms up much faster when it’s driving than when it’s idling, Bouchama said.

As long as your windows and mirrors are clear of snow and frost, you’re good to go.

Bouchama does recommend taking it easy for the first 10 minutes or so, driving 50 to 60 km/h if possible. If you’re getting straight onto the highway, try to cap it at 70 to 80 km/h for the first few kilometres.

It might be banned

Excessive idling is banned to some extent in some Canadian cities.

In Toronto, more than a minute of idling is prohibited. In Ottawa, a three-minute ban is in place when temperatures are between 5 C and 27 C. Calgary restricts idling for trucks, and Edmonton restricts idling in school and hospital zones. Vancouver has a three-minute idling rule.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Mississauga mayor wants stricter enforcement on drive-thru idling

“By reducing unnecessary idling to just one minute, we are helping to improve the quality of the air in Toronto,” states the City of Toronto’s website.

It’s a waste of money

Gas is expensive, and set to creep up even more as carbon pricing is rolled out across Canada.

Ten minutes of idling uses between a quarter to half a litre of fuel, depending on the size of your engine, according to Natural Resources Canada. At the same time, idling your vehicle for 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine.

WATCH: Tips to keep your vehicle running smooth in the cold weather
Click to play video: 'Tips to keep your vehicle running smooth in the cold weather'
Tips to keep your vehicle running smooth in the cold weather

It’s awful for the environment

Vehicles produce CO2, which contributes to global warming. In Canada, nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are blamed on transportation emissions.

Story continues below advertisement

For every 10 minutes your engine is off instead of idling, you’ll prevent a pound of carbon dioxide from being released, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

READ MORE: Earth on track to heat up to devastating levels by 2100, scientists say

The City of Edmonton summed it up pretty well:

“Idling your vehicle less will save you money on fuel, improve air quality in your community and reduce emissions contributing to climate change.”

WATCH: Lafarge commits to reducing emissions with idle-free zones in Western Canada 

Click to play video: 'Lafarge commits to reducing emissions with idle-free zones in Western Canada'
Lafarge commits to reducing emissions with idle-free zones in Western Canada

It leaves your car at risk

If you’re leaving your vehicle to warm up and pop back into the house or even the garage, it’s at risk of being stolen. Police warn that if you idle your vehicle, be sure to take measures to reduce the risk of theft.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: 8 idling, unlocked vehicles stolen in Red Deer in 1 week

“Police respond to a higher number of vehicle thefts where the owner has left the vehicle warming up with the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked during the winter season,” RCMP in Alberta stated last week.

“Vehicle owners are encouraged to mitigate risks of thefts by using spare keys and keeping your vehicle locked, using steering wheel clubs, or remote vehicle starters.”

— With files from Margeaux Morin

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to remind drivers that their windows and mirrors should be free from frost or snow before driving.

Sponsored content