Zero Miles to the Gallon: Behind the wheel but going nowhere.
Written by Chris Hagerbaumer, Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), Clean Air Campaign Partner
We've all had the misfortune of being stuck in traffic behind a "smoker"—a car that belches exhaust like a carton-a-day Camel addict. Our cars spew out a toxic brew of benzene, formaldehyde and other chemicals that are known carcinogens and a hazard to all of us. When you're stuck in line, apply the golden rule, and turn off your engine.
Contrary to popular belief, idling your engine is not good for your car. Incomplete combustion while idling leaves behind fuel residues, which can spark plug fouling and engine oil contamination. Idling can also corrode your exhaust system by generating water condensation in the car's exhaust. You don't need to idle your engine to warm it up before driving—just drive.
Think about it. Getting zero miles to the gallon is like tossing dollar bills out of the window.
Multiplied millions of times over, the idling each of us does on a daily basis can end up being a significant contributor to air pollution, and needlessly so. Your car's engine runs at a lower than optimum temperature while idling, so fuel does not fully combust, which leads to increased emissions of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds from gasoline engines, as well as particulate matter and smoke from diesels. The extra fuel consumed (appromately. 03 gal/min) by idling, rather than shutting off the engine, also increases emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.