Most Americans have grown up believing that during the winter months, you need to allow your car to run idle before driving. Whether it’s carpooling to extra-curricular activities or heading to work in the morning, it turns out that on average, Americans thought that idling the car for 5 minutes when the thermometer hits below freezing is good for their cars.
And since Utah is one of the snowiest states in the US, it’s particularly important to uncover the truth behind this age-old myth.
This way, the next time you’re behind the wheel, not only will you not waste 5-15 minutes of your time staying idle, but you can finally manage to get your kids to their orchestra concert on time! (Who would’ve thought!)
Before The 1980’s: The Myth Origination
Of course, like many myths, this started out to be true. Before the 1980’s, a carburetor had controlled the mixing of fuel and air. And due to its inability to precisely control the ratio, car owners had been advised to wait several minutes before driving to prevent engine failure or their car to stall.
Going into the 1990’s, car manufacturers had already switched their carburetors to electric fuel injectors, which allows for the system to measure the outdoor temperature and adjust fuel-air mixtures accordingly. Though the entire system had changed, the myth stuck.
Why Iding in Utah Can Be More Detrimental Than in Warmer States
Because there isn’t any reason to run idle in below freezing temperatures, you’re simply burning fuel for no reason. Once your windshield is defrosted, you can hit the road with confidence, knowing your engine won’t stall. (Presumably that your car was manufactured after the 1980’s!).
In fact, idling your car regularly not only doesn’t prolong engine life, but can take a toll on it. The more you make a habit of it, the truer this becomes. This happens because unevaporated gasoline can wash oil off the cylinder walls, shortening the life of your engine altogether. So, in states such as Utah where it is colder for longer periods of the year, drivers should definitely take heed of this if they’d like to keep their cars’ engines working for as long as possible.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Utah
One of the central parts of improving Utah’s plan to improve overall air quality has been in reducing automobile emissions. One study updated in July 2021 was conducted in Utah-specific conditions to measure how idling can affect pollutants in the air.
It shows that there was a significant drop in emissions from a car that did not idle 10 minutes before driving versus 10 minutes of idling. Though modest in size, there are similar studies, such as one conducted by Natural Resources Canada to solidify these results.
In this study, researchers concluded that with a 5-minute idle time in –18 degrees Celsius, fuel consumption went up by 7 to 14%, and with a 10-minute idle time, an increase of 12 to 19%.
All in all, simply by not idling before driving, you not only will be keeping your engine running smoothly for longer, save on wasted fuel costs, but know that you’re doing your part to help in keeping Utah’s air fresh! That sounds like a win-win-win scenario, don’t you think?
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We look forward to getting to know you and your vehicle!