Last Updated on September 11, 2021 by Joe Regan
Sometimes you want to leave your car idle, and this article explains how to idle your car properly. You would want to idle your car, especially during the winter to keep the engine warm. However, you must not idle it for too long so that you do not forget you left the car idle.
It is easy to idle your car. You are allowing it to run while stationary, and this produces energy that keeps the car warm. In some states, leaving your car in idle is Illegal, so you want to confirm your state laws to avoid committing a misdemeanor. You do not want to pay the fine over what you could have possibly avoided.
Is it bad for a car to idle?
No, it is not exactly bad for a car to idle. It does not exactly harm your car, however, idling your car can waste a gallon of gas if you leave it for over one hour. Idling a car also burns up the oil if you leave it idle for too long.
How to Idle a Car
Generally, to idle a car, you simply turn the ignition on, leaving the vehicle in a stationary position. The steps for idling a car are also different in automatic and manual cars. Let’s cover both transmissions, beginning with the manual transmission.
Put Your Car in Parking
First, you can confirm if your car is in parking before you start the car engine. Typically, a manual transmission vehicle is parked in neutral and the parking brake is engaged. Where the parking brake is positioned is different in many cars, but you will typically see it on the center console.
Apply Light Pressure on the Brake and Hold Down the Clutch
You will find three pedals under the steering in your manual transmission vehicle. These pedals each control the screen accelerator, brake, and clutch (looking from the right to the left). You want to hold down the clutch while applying pressure on the brake gently.
Start the Engine
To start the car, turn your car key in the ignition. You can locate the ignition on the right side of your steering column.
While holding down the brake and clutch, turn the key halfway to the right to power the engine. When the vehicle starts, let go of the key. Note that it can harm the engine if you continue holding the key while the engine is running.
Ensure that the Shifter is in Neutral
When the engine starts, ensure that you have the shifter in neutral. A shifter in neutral position can be able to move from left to right. You can now release the clutch with the shifter in neutral. If you engaged the parking brake, release the brake.
Keep the Stationary Car in Neutral
You can downshift to neutral. If your car is in motion, hold down the clutch and get the shifter in the neutral position. Make sure to engage the brake by holding it down to keep the vehicle from rolling.
Allow the Car to Run
Allow the car engine to run while the car is stationary. After some minutes, the engine temperature heats up, allowing the car to operate at a normal temperature. Your RPMs will increase as the engine becomes warm while idling.
Below are the steps to put an automatic car in idle:
Turn on Your Car
To turn your car on, insert it in the ignition slot and turn it halfway to power the engine. In most automatic transmission cars, the ignition slot sits on the right of the steering column. Keep turning the key until the engine starts. You can then release the key. Do not hold the key after starting the engine to avoid damaging the car engine.
Depending on your vehicle make and model, the sequence for starting it may be different. In some newer cars with push button, you have to press down the brake pedal and press the button to start your car.
Halt Your Car
If you are driving, stop the cap by gently holding down the brake to bring it to a stop. Your car will continue moving, but you can put it in the “park” so that it stops moving and you can safely release the brake.
Let the Engine Run
After you idle your car, let the engine keep running. If your car was cold, you have to allow it to reach the idling temperature after a while. The time it takes for your car to warm up also depends on the make and model of your car.
What You Can Do Instead of Idling
- Don’t idle the car for long. Idling can use up to half of gallon of fuel per hour depending on the type and size of your engine. In this case, if you would be idling for more than a few seconds, consider turning off your engine to save fuel. We also mentioned not leaving a car idle as one of the ways to increase your gas mileage. Moreover, idling your car longer than a specific time may be illegal in your state.
- Don’t use drive-through windows at stores. If you use drive-through windows at stores, you have to idle your car while items are moved into your car for a long time. Instead, save fuel by parking your car until you are done. If you have to use a drive-through window, reduce fuel consumption by putting your car off and wait for your order.
- Warm your car engine by driving instead of idling. Instead of idling your vehicle to warm the engine, drive it a short distance to warm the engine twice faster than idling. You also save more fuel than when your car idles to warm the engine. While driving, do not rev the engine unnecessarily to avoid needless waste of fuel.
Idling your car may be necessary, but is not always the go-to thing to do with your car to warm the engine, do a drive-through window, or wait in high traffic.