Reducing Idling in Ottawa
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Reducing Idling in Ottawa

What is idling? Idling happens when your car’s gas-powered engine is running but the vehicle is not moving. Most of the time idling is simply a bad habit: waiting to pick up a child, pre-heating your vehicle, or sitting in your driveway listening to the end of a song. It wastes fuel (and money), causes air pollution and is harmful to our health.

The City of Ottawa’s Idling Control (By-law No. 2007-266) prohibits idling for more than three minutes in any 60-minute period when the outdoor temperature is between 5 °C and 27 °C. But in any temperature or situation, idling should be kept to a minimum.

Beyond the by-law, idling is a bad idea because it’s your hard-earned money coming out of the tailpipe. It doesn’t matter how fuel efficient your vehicle is, it gets zero kilometres per litre while idling.

Here are some tips to avoid idling:

  • Always dress for the outdoor temperature, even if you’re doing a quick trip, so you don’t have to idle in case you are delayed.
  • Unless it is below – 15 °C your vehicle doesn’t need more than 30 seconds to circulate the oil and become fully lubricated and ready to go. Your vehicle warms up best by driving it, assuming the windshield is defrosted (a good scraper helps with that).
  • If you’re using a drive-through automated teller, you’ll be there more than 60 seconds so turn off your engine. Likewise, you might turn off the engine when you pull up to a fast-food pickup window.
  • Idling for 60 seconds wastes more fuel than stopping and restarting the engine.
  • You might think turning your engine off and on results in more wear and tear and higher maintenance costs but in fact for most vehicles 60 seconds is the break-even point where you’ll save more money in fuel than you’ll spend on extra maintenance.
  • Use a block heater on cold winter days to warm the engine before you start it. You can install an automatic timer to turn on the block heater two hours (or the heater’s recommended time) before you plan to start the vehicle.
  • If you have a remote car starter, please use it wisely to avoid excessively long warmups.
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