What happens during car idling and how long can a car idle?

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Have you ever wondered or always wanted answers to the questions: What happens during car idling? How long can a car idle? Click here now to get answers!

Car idling is something that should be understood very well because, at some point, a lot of people ask the question, how long can a car idle? and some ask, what happens during idling? But for a moment, have you ever thought about these two questions maybe when you are warming up the car on a chilly morning or when you are in heavy traffic or you are just waiting for a traffic sign?

Well, the state when your car engine is running but the vehicle is not in motion is called idling. Yes, that’s right. And to pick up and start using a car that hasn’t been in use or that has been left for a long time, you will agree that one needs to idle the car for some time as some sort of warmup for the engine and parts to dust off the sleepiness mode and prepare the car for usage again. But is it scientifically recommended?

Should you leave your car's engine idling? Myth busted!

The answer is not far-fetched. A car should only be made idle for a couple of minutes and advisably be put in motion after a long period of idling. Else when left idle for weeks or months without subsequent putting in motion, its engine will get jammed. And keep in mind that idling for some few minutes always helps clear fumes off the exhaust of diesel-run vehicles. Actually, as the leading automobile listing website in Nigeria, Naijauto.com feels the need to still deeply address these questions – how long can you keep a car idling? Does idling process burn much of fuel? So, read on.

How long can your car idle?

To start with, we need to mention that when idling, a car only consumes a small amount of fuel. So, the real question - How long can my car idle? Well, the true answer is as simple - endlessly. Yup, that’s right.

Image of an idling truck on an icy road

A car can idle for an infinite period of time or to simply put – endlessly

Your car can idle infinitely, mind you, this is still dependent on some few conditions and situations. Some of these conditions are:

  1. Something might break: Yes, this can happen if the idling car is not well-maintained or most of the systems are not even functioning properly because keeping the car in a standstill while the engine is on for a long period of time puts stress on some components and can break the thermostat or the fan belt.
  2. The gas in the car might finish: This is also easy to guess. When you leave a car idling for some long period of time, you should expect that it burns the gas in the tank gradually, even though slower than when in motion. Yet, no matter how slow it burns, eventually the car will run out of gas at some point and then the engine will come to a halt. At that point, your vehicle will start cooling down to its ambient temperature and every other hot part will also cool down obviously.

Remember to disconnect the battery in your car before you leave the car in an idling state for months or even weeks, because if you forget and you leave the battery plugged in, then expect that when you come back after the long period of time, you will see a completely drained out battery and will need to be recharged again before you can use it in your car.

someone disconnecting the battery

If you intend to leave your car idle for months, disconnect the battery!

You can just disconnect your charged battery and leave the car idle for as long as you want. Then, when coming back after the long period of time, you only need to connect the battery back, and the vehicle will definitely run without giving you any issues and without you having to completely recharge the battery for usage.

Frequent long car idlings – what happens?

Well, the thing is, modern vehicles don’t really need idling to be warmed up. And those car models with an automatic transmission don’t even need idling at all, even if it is a cold morning, you are supposed to just rev up your car engine and drive off to your desired destination. So, realistically you should only leave a car idling for just a few minutes. Maybe 30 minutes or thereabouts is okay for idling a car. Anything longer than that will not really be of benefit to your car, rather it will only burn your fuel and the exhaust fumes from your car at that moment will just be causing damage to the environment.

This is why you will find signposts in some areas or car parks, which will indicate a prohibition of car idling, in such places. The government in most nations are making efforts every day to reduce environmental pollution caused by fumes from vehicle exhaust or other poisonous gases from other sources. So, you don’t want to put yourself in trouble if you are in such areas and you are accustomed to leaving your car idling for long periods of time. Thirty minutes is even way too long for car idling.  

a sign post indicating prohibition of car idling at a car park

Car idling has its negative repercussion on the environment

Leaving a car idle for a long time – what precautions should be taken?

We believe you should take the following precautions in case you are planning or you have the intention to leave your car idling for a longer period of time. Here are the precautions:

  1. Keep a regular schedule for servicing and maintaining your car
  2. Disconnect your car’s battery and have the battery terminals oiled as you keep the battery itself in a cool and dry place
  3. After removing the spark plug sockets, make sure to spray oil on them and put them back into their slots to keep them in place. If you do it this way, the cylinder head will be prevented from rust forming on it.
  4. Put the car in first gear and try to use a log of wood or big stone to shock the four wheels of the vehicle to prevent the car from rolling. And please make sure to not make the mistake of engaging the parking brake as you are carrying out the car idling process.

And that will be all from us. We hope that you have read through this short guide and by now you have gained more knowledge about what happens during car idling and how long can a car idle. You can check out some of our other car maintenance posts below this article for more tips and advice. Goodluck!

>>> Also check out this post: Reasons your car engine is idling too low or too high and the solutions

Oluwaseun Solomon

Oluwaseun Solomon is a prolific and diligent automobile writer at Naijauto.com. He's also an experienced digital marketer and a creative multimedia developer that specializes in video editing. He currently contributes articles that are very informative and easy to read on topics covering transportation, traffic updates, auto industry updates, and different car reviews here on Naijauto.
When Solomon is not writing, you will either find him compo ... See more




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