Learn how to stay warm and avoid idling

Snow on car during winter

It’s official. Residents across the Kansas City metro woke up to snow on Sunday, Dec. 15. For the next few months, we can expect cold weather and more snow. To avoid the chill during the first few minutes of your daily commute, you may be inclined to warm up your car while you finish your morning routine. But did you know that warming your car is a costly habit that can hurt your car and the air you breathe? Fortunately, there are options to warm up faster and reduce air pollution.

  • Drive instead of idle to warm up your car. According to the Department of Energy, driving your car actually warms it up faster than letting it idle. This is true for both the interior comfort of the cab and the exterior mechanical functions. In addition to your engine, your wheel bearings, suspension, transmission, steering, tires and catalytic converter also need to be warmed up. When you idle your car rather than driving it, the catalytic converter will take more time to fully heat up and begin operating efficiently, thus releasing more air pollution.
  • Avoid idling at stops. If you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds, turn your vehicle off. You’re not only wasting gas and money, you’re also releasing unnecessary pollution into the air. Whether you’re waiting to pick someone up or running into the store on a quick errand, it’s best to turn your vehicle off to save money and reduce emissions.
  • Try a block heater. Newer vehicles can start when temperatures are minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit, but cars get worse fuel economy when it’s cold out and it can take a long time for the engine to warm up. If this is a concern, a block heater can help. It has an external power cord that can be plugged into any 120-volt outlet to heat your vehicle’s engine block. Normally a block heater is used when the car will be started in temperatures of 5 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
  • Prepare for cold-weather incidents. Unfortunately, unforeseen incidents happen, and you could be stuck in the cold. If you need to drive when the weather is cold, make sure to bring a coat and stock your vehicle with a snow shovel, jumper cables, flashlight, blankets and a cell phone charger. You can’t be too prepared!

To learn more simple solutions to reduce air pollution, visit AirQKC.org, MARC’s Air Quality program website.