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How Long Can a Car Idle and What Happens During Idling?

How long can a car idle? Do you ever think about it when waiting at a traffic sign or warming it up on a chilly morning? Idling is the state when the engine runs but the vehicle is not in motion. You sometimes need to idle the car, especially when you have not used it for a long time. The engine gets jammed when left idle for weeks or months. Idling for a minute every week will keep the engine components and mechanism in shape. Diesel-run vehicles also need a few minutes of idling for clearing the exhaust of its fumes.

How long can you keep your car in this condition? Does doing so burn too much fuel?

How Long Can a Car Idle?

A vehicle actually consumes only a small amount of fuel when idling. So, how long can a car idle? The answer is – indefinitely. However, it depends on a few conditions. The idling will last forever until:

how long can a car idle
You can idle for an indefinite period.
  • Something breaks. Keeping the car standstill with the engine on for a very long time can put stresses on some components and break the fan belt or thermostat. If your automobile is not well-maintained or all the systems are not properly functioning, then it could happen.
  • The car runs out of gas. After that, the engine will stop and the vehicle will cool down to the ambient temperature.

If you are going to leave your car at the idling state for months, don’t forget to disconnect the battery before leaving. Otherwise, the battery will be drained out and need to be recharged. When you need to start the engine, just connect the battery and the vehicle will run without any issue.

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What Happens When a Vehicle Idles for a Long Time?

You can leave your car idling for a few minutes although the modern vehicles don’t need idling to be warmed up. The models running with an automatic transmission also don’t need it. You can just rev up the engine and drive even if it’s a cold morning.

However, you should not leave the vehicle in that state for a long time (more than 30 minutes) because it will burn fuel and cause damage to the environment by releasing exhaust fumes.

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How Long Can a Car Idle: The Precautions You Should Take

In case if you have an intention to leave the idling for a long time, you should take these precautions:

car idling
Car idling is bad for the environment.
  • Keep the car maintained and service on a regular basis.
  • Disconnect the battery. Keep it in a dry place with its terminals oiled.
  • Spray oil on the spark plug sockets after removing them. Then, put them back into their slots. It will prevent the forming of rust on the cylinder head.
  • To prevent rolling, put the car in first gear and use wood or a similar material on four wheels. Don’t make the mistake of engaging the parking brake.

We hope that this information will help you have broaden knowledge about how long a car can idle and what happens during idling. If you have any question about car idling, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below.

10 Comments
  1. Frank says

    This is very educative, please also advise; After a driving for long distance, is it necessary to idle your car and go how long?

  2. Anare Ropate Rarawa says

    Wonderful car tips and maintenance advice. Very useful information. Thanks very much for this advice. I learn a lot from it.

  3. DAVID OBADHA says

    Thank you so much. I have learnt a lot from the tips

  4. Bonface Sindani says

    Thanks very much, am always your follower..What happens to an automatic car idling then you engage parking? That’s what many people do waiting for traffic.

  5. Peter says

    I’m confused by not putting on the parking break and leaving the car in first gear. Wouldn’t it be the opposite?

  6. Jose Gibson says

    Such a great article.thanks for sharing this information. Your suggestion will help us to face those problems. Keep posting this type of articles which will help us in this way. Good wishes to you.

  7. Sadler says

    Thank you very much for giving me this crucial information regularly. It has improved my understanding of my vehicles’ systems

  8. Dennis Nyirongo says

    Thanks for the info

  9. Henriques says

    Obviously the author of this article is NOT mechanically minded and is giving people wrong advise. There is what is called GLAZING of the cylinders caused by idling an engine for too long. When an engine idles for more than 10 min the combustion temperature lowers and carbon builds up ESPECIALLY on diesel engines. This causes high oil consumption and blue smoke on the exhaust. All the stories about causing stress to the thermostat etc is simply FALSE. Never idle an engine for more than 15 min continuously.

  10. Vidhan says

    Thanks for sharing this information regarding car and motorcycle. I really found this very helpful. And your blog about cars and motor cycle is very useful and interesting.

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