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Learn the truth about warming your car

It’s easy to let your engine run to keep warm this winter, but exhaust can harm our air quality and your health. Help debunk the myths about warming up your car or idling in the drive-through lane, and protect our air quality.  

“Idling” is leaving your engine running while your car is not moving. According to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), vehicle emissions are a major contributor to air pollution, and idling can produce more pollution per minute than driving. Studies have linked various types of vehicle emissions to asthma symptoms, cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer and other serious health problems.

Children are even more vulnerable to air pollution than adults because they breathe much more air per pound of body weight and their respiratory defenses are not fully developed. MARC provides free information and “idle-free zone” signs to schools interested in educating parents and drivers, and protecting children’s health. Learn more about idle-free resources for schools here.

MARC also has provided facts that debunk common misconceptions about idling.

MYTH: I need to warm up my engine.

Idling isn’t an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. Your car needs no more than 30 seconds to fully circulate oil on freezing days. The best way to warm up your car is to drive it. An idling engine isn’t operating at its peak temperature, creating residues that can condense on cylinder walls, contaminating oil and damaging parts of the engine.

MYTH: Leaving the car running uses less fuel.

Restarting a V-6 engine uses about the same amount of fuel as idling for five seconds. If you’ll be stopped for more than one minute and it’s safe to turn off your engine, you’ll save more money by shutting it down.

MYTH: Idling a little is a small price for personal comfort.

If you were to idle for a combined 15 minutes every weekday for a year, you’d spend nearly $100 on gasoline that isn’t taking you anywhere. Gloves and warm drinks can make you comfortable without costing extra money.

Beyond children, ozone pollution also affects people with breathing or heart problems, older adults and active individuals such as bike commuters and runners, and even outdoor workers. Businesses are also encouraged to get involved with the metro-wide idle-free partnership. Learn more at

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