What is Idling 
Idling Myths and Facts
Q & A

What is Idling?

Vehicle idling occurs when a vehicle is in operation but not in motion. Although the vehicle is stopped, the engine is still running and creating unnecessary emissions. The EPA estimates that an idling vehicle produces about 1.18 grams of carbon monoxide per minute while idling . That means one minute of idling produces more carbon monoxide than the smoke (CO) from 2.4 packs of cigarettes (Chemistry and Toxicology of Cigarette Smoke and Biomarkers of Exposure and Harm)

Our cars cannot longer be seen and used as personal climate devices. Our kid’s lungs, everyone lungs, need clear air to function properly. Let’s work together to stop this unacceptable practice.

Natural Resources Canada  states that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 than restarting the engine. However, to balance factors such as fuel savings, emissions and component wear, 60 seconds is the recommended interval.  (Which is Greener, Idle, or Stop and Restart?)

You have power to ensure that you and your family breath clean, fresh air. 

If you're going to be stopped for more than 60 seconds – except in traffic – turn the engine off.

Reasons for Idling

Idling occurs in many places including roadways, truck stops and rest areas, bus terminals, restaurant drive-through, tourist attractions, landfill and lineups, airport, car washes, company terminals or distribution centres, and school’s zones. 

Warming up or cooling down a vehicle is the most common reason given for idling. Surveys show that Canadians in the Central Okanagan also idle their vehicles for other reasons that include:


Source - Idling and Air Quality Attitudinal Study

Idling implications

Air pollutants of greatest concern to human and environmental health in the Central Okanagan are particulate matter and ground level ozone. Recent emissions data shows that vehicle emissions are responsible for 32% of the sources of smog-forming pollution in the Central Okanagan and personal and commercial vehicles are responsible for 61% of total primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions from community activities in the region.

Every minute counts! In the Central Okanagan there are approximately 123,000 drivers on the road every day. If each of those drivers stopped idling for 6 minutes per day, the region would save 15,142 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Idling Myths and Facts

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Q & A

What about clearing my windshield in winter?

Scrape your vehicle’s windows and don't rely solely on the defrost/defog function. Use a brush and scraper to remove ice and snow and use a block heater (only for two hours) when the temperature is below freezing to reduce fuel use (by about 10%), emissions and provide heat for your defroster faster.

During winter do I need to warm up my vehicle?

The best way to warm up your vehicle is to drive it at a moderate speed after 30 seconds, even on the coldest of winter days. As an added bonus, you save fuel because an efficient operating temperature is reached twice as fast as when the vehicle is stationary.  However, for the first five to ten minutes, drive the car gently, with smooth braking and acceleration, to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the engine. Keep the RPM's low and don’t slam on the brakes—this is enough to allow your car to warm up while in motion.

  • Avoid the use of remote starters - After 30 seconds you are creating unnecessary pollution, wasting your money and fuel. After just a few seconds, the vehicle is safe to drive. The vehicle’s engine warms up twice as quickly when driven.
  • Follow these Warm-up times:  
    • Light duty vehicles (cars, vans, light trucks and sport utility vehicles) -  Gasoline Engines/ Diesel Engines
      • Above 0°C - 10 to 30 seconds
      • Below 0°C - 30 to 60 seconds
    • Heavy duty - vehicles and very specific equipment may need to idle longer to be at operational temperature.  Follow the motor vehicle’s owner manual. Avoid unnecessary idling!

Ensure that oil pressure and air pressure are within the normal operating ranges, and all windows are clear of ice and snow before operating the vehicle or equipment- scrape your vehicle’s windows and not rely solely on the defrost/defog function.
After a short warm up period, and for the first few minutes of use, operate the engine at a gentle throttle until the normal operating temperature is reached.

What if it is very hot or cold outside?

If you are waiting, turn off your engine and seek more moderate temperatures in a nearby building, or in the shade. In hot, sunny conditions, seek a shady parking area and use windshield and window sun shades.

Do not stay in an idling vehicle due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and high pollution levels of toxic substances (measured to be 10x higher than outside). People (e.g. children, elderly) or pets in your care should never be left unattended in an idling vehicle.

What to do instead of idling?

  • Turn off your car
  • Don’t use a remote starter to warm your vehicle; Warm up your car by driving it
  • Instead of using drive-through go inside the building, but if you must, turn off the vehicle while waiting.

How do I cut fuel consumption?

·     Follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule

·     Use cruise control

·     Check fluid levels at least once a month

·     Use your air conditioning sparingly

·     Measure your tire pressure at least once a month

·     Remove unnecessary weight

·     Warm up your vehicle by driving it at a moderate speed

·     Take off the roof rack

·      Adopt fuel-efficient driving habits

·     Avoid speeding

·     Make one long trip instead of several short trips

  • Use a block heater in the winter to warm your engine before starting (only two hours before you plan to drive)

·     Walk, cycle, carpool or take public transit whenever you can (commit to it for rides under2.5 km.

Looking for a new car? 


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Additional Resources 

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Contact Us
Regional Air Quality Coordinator

Regional District of Central Okanagan | 1450 KLO Road | Kelowna, BC V1W 3Z4
Ph: 250-763-4918 | Fax: 250-763-0606 | Email:
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (Closed Holidays)