The weather in Ontario has reached record lows this winter and many of us are reaching for our remote car starters to warm up the car before driving. When temperatures are low, do cars need to idle before driving? We look at the benefits, and costs, of idling your car below.
Does Idling Your Car Have Any Benefit?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department, cars are at least 12 percent less fuel efficient when in really cold weather conditions. It takes the engine longer to warm up and reach an optimal driving temperature in cold weather, but for modern cars, idling in the winter has no benefit for the car. The car does not need to be warmed up for more than 30 seconds before you start driving and actually warms up faster being driven.
Older vehicles relied on carburetors and needed to warm up to work well but, during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the auto industry traded carburetors for electronic fuel injection. Since electronic fuel injection uses sensors to supply fuel to the engine that adjusts to temperature conditions, the problem of warming up your car is now irrelevant.
The Costs of Idling Your Car
The more time your car idles, the more fuel you waste. A study by Natural Resources Canada found that when cars were frozen to minus 18 degrees Celsius and idled for 5 minutes, fuel consumption increased up to 14 percent. When the cars were idled for 10 minutes, fuel consumption increased up to 19 percent. When looking at the cost of fuel in 2008, another study in Energy Policy suggested that by stopping unnecessary idling, consumers as a whole would save $5.9 billion per year on fuel costs.