Car idling: is it illegal and why is it bad?

With so many more people using their cars again during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is sure to be a rise in vehicle pollution. A huge contributor to poor air quality, engine idling is just bad news in general, but in a recent study by Renault, they found over a quarter of parents were leaving their engine idling during a school run.

Let’s take a look at why engine idling is so bad and answer some common questions, such as “is it illegal?” and “how can I avoid engine idling?”.


Why engine idling is bad

We all know that the fumes emitted from our vehicles are harmful, but with 62% of parents said to be more likely to use their cars right now than relying on public transport to get kids to school, it’s worth taking a look at how engine idling directly impacts our children.

There are some key emissions which have a huge impact on asthma levels, as well as lung cancer and heart disease. Nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide play their part and affect our health if we breathe them in too much.

So when you’re sat waiting to collect your children, or you’re dropping them off, consider how it might affect them and their friends. By simply turning off your engine, you’re helping to improve the air that children breathe.


Is car idling illegal?

The simple answer is: yes. 

The UK engine idling laws state that “You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road.” This is according to Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, making it an offence to do so. You could be hit with a £20 fine for doing this or, if you’re in London, this can reach up to £80 – another great reason to avoid leaving your car idling at any point.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t warm your car up on your driveway or in a supermarket, since it’s not technically a public road, but it’s obviously best to avoid it at all costs due to the pollution involved. If you’re stuck in traffic, however, and won’t be moving for the next minute or two, it’s worth turning your engine off. Many modern cars have the stop-start system to help with this already, which is one way of avoiding sitting in an idling car. Take a look at the section below for more tips.


How you can avoid engine idling

  • Plan ahead – Rather than arriving somewhere and needing to sit with the engine idling, think about what time you need to be there for and try to limit the amount of time you find yourself sitting waiting.

  • Switch the engine off – It’s not recommended that you turn your engine off and on over and over again, but if you don’t have the stop-start function in your car, try to anticipate how long you’ll be stopped for and assess whether you can turn your engine off (usually during long delays in traffic).

  • Don’t idle when parked – Whether it’s on your driveway or the supermarket car park, if you’re not going anywhere, don’t turn the engine on. If you feel your car needs 5-10 minutes in order to warm up the engine and get going, you may want to consider having it looked at by a professional mechanic, since no car should need this.

If you’re concerned about the emissions your car produces, or you’re simply worried about the performance you get from your vehicle, contact Auto Exhausts & Tyres today. We provide dedicated exhaust services, diagnosing any issues and providing options to remedy the situation where needed.

To book your car in for servicing or to have your exhaust assessed by a skilled mechanic in Lincoln, simply call and speak to our team.