Anti-idling - The Facts

What is idling?

Idling is when an engine is left running when the vehicle is not in use. When the engine is idling you're wasting fuel and adding to CO2 emissions which contribute towards climate change. If you're likely to be at a standstill for more than a minute or so, simply switch off the engine. Many new cars are now fitted with a feature that does this for you automatically commonly known as stop start. 

Do you ever leave the engine running unnecessarily?  This can usually be avoided. Could you switch your engine off in any of the situations below? Switching your engine off will have a positive impact on air pollution levels, and will save you fuel too.

  • to keep warm
  • to keep cool
  • to warm the engine
  • while waiting for passengers
  • stopping at railway crossings
  • waiting to park
  • waiting at traffic lights for a minute or so
  • sitting in heavy congestion
  • running quick errands
  • waiting to order at a drive-thru restaurant
  • waiting to refuel or to have the car washed
  • stopping to talk to a friend
  • preparing to leave the house
  • Defrosting car windows

The Highway Code states that you must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road. You can read more on the Highway Code here.

Why is it bad?

As well as wasting fuel, unnecessary engine idling means vehicle pollution is released into the atmosphere, which is bad for the environment and our health.

See our section on Health for more information about the impact vehicle pollution has on our health.

What can you do?

Many newer cars automatically turn off when stationary and in neutral. If yours doesn’t, turn off your engine when you’ve stopped for a minute or so. When you first start the car, drive off as soon as possible. It will warm up faster when the engine is in use. If your car is fitted with a stop start feature please ensure that this is switched on.

With modern vehicles, the cost of switching off the engine and starting up again after a minute or more will be less than the cost of leaving the engine idling. This technique not only saves fuel but will reduce the amount of harmful pollutants entering the air we breathe.

You could save on fuel, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality by following the Energy Saving Trust's driving tips.

The Clean Air Day team at Global Action Plan have come up with information about how to reduce and avoid outdoor air pollution.