Why Should Engine Idling Be Avoided, Will You Be Fined For It And What Can You Do To Avoid It?

Have you ever just sat in your car waiting and whilst waiting your car engine is still running? This is known as engine idling. It is not only harmful to your car engine, but it is also dangerous as gases are emitted from your car, which are harmful for the environment.

What Is Idling?

Idling is the act of leaving your car engine on, while your car is unmoving and stationary. While this is something that cannot be avoided when we are stuck in traffic, it could be avoided when we are stuck in gridlock traffic, or while we are waiting for someone.


Why Is Idling Bad?

An idling car would increase the number of exhaust gases in the air, which includes carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons, all of which are harmful for the environment. Hydrocarbons are especially linked to asthma and other lung diseases. Diesel vehicles are thought to be the biggest contributors to the problem.

How Much Pollution Does An Idling Car Create?

According to research, the emissions that come out of idling cars are enough to fill 150 balloons every minute, all of which are filled with harmful pollutants.

It is always advisable to turn off your engine when you do not need to move and turn it back on when you need to, as car idling is very harmful. No extra amount of fuel is used by doing so. In fact, less fuel is consumed when you turn your engine off and on again than when you keep it running.

Advice To Stop Engine Idling

The Highway Code states that it is an offence to be parked with the engine running. However, considering that idling might be required sometimes, here are some tips on how to stop engine idling, based on necessity:

  1. Turn off your engine if you think you’re going to be stuck in traffic and are unlikely to move for nearly two minutes.
  2. Use the ‘stop-start’ button feature that many modern vehicles are equipped with. Do not manually switch this feature off, as there is no risk in keeping it, and using it often.
  3. For older vehicles, turning off and turning on your vehicles is a little tricky, as you don’t have the ‘stop-start’ feature. Your engine and battery may suffer if you try turning off and turning your engine on within a short span.

Engine Idling Law

Is It Illegal To Let Your Engine Idle When Parked?

The Highway Code has an Engine Idling Law. According to Rule 123 of The Highway Code, drivers 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.

Can I Get A Fine For Idling?

If you leave your car idling, you can be charged a £20 fixed penalty notice (FPN) by local authorities, for emission offences and stationary idling under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. There is also the potential for the fine to increase to £801.

It is also important to note that fines would be imposed only if a motorist refuses to turn off their engine when asked by an authorised person to do so.

Is It Illegal To Engine Idle Outside Schools?

No matter where you may be parked, if you leave your car idling when there is no need to do so, you can be fined by the local authorities, as stated above.

Is It Illegal To Engine Idle In A Driveway?

The rules on whether you can be idling on a private driveway are not clear, as it would depend on whether the driveway would be classified as a road or not. Annex 4 of The Highway Code states that references to ‘road’ “generally include footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks)”.

Can I Keep My Engine Idling In Hot Or Cold Weather?

If you are hit by a hot or cold wave, you can always resort to using the AC or the heater, neither of which need for the engine to be on just the ignition. However, if the engine needs to be switched on, then you should cut down your waiting time.

Can I Keep My Engine Running To Defrost My Windscreen?

Even if you are trying to defrost your windscreen, idling rules would still apply to you. If you leave your engine running and get out to scrape your windscreen, you can still be penalised for leaving your engine running.

It is always advisable to never leave your car idling in any situation, as it could result in your car being stolen away, which would affect your car insurance claim.

What Can I Do About Engine Idling?

There is always some contribution that can be made towards controlling engine idling. Here are a few steps which will help to control engine idling:

1. Evaluating your wait time

As stated above, if your wait time is longer than 2 minutes, then turn your engine off and wait.

2. Stop-start systems

These are the best ways to turn your engine off and turn it back on when needed, by simply pressing the accelerator.

3. Avoid turning your engine on and off

Those without a stop-start system should turn off their engine when stationary but should avoid doing it repeatedly within a short period of time, as it is not good for the vehicle.

What Is Being Done To Solve The Air Quality Problem?

‘Clean Air Zones’ (CAZs) is the solution that the government has come up with, which is expected to play a significant role in addressing the UK’s air pollution problems.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also has made many recommendations about improving road traffic related air pollution, which urges the local authorities to consider introducing more zones like the CAZs.

These measures are expected to reduce the air pollution problem in the UK.

What Can I Do?

What you can do is avoid leaving your engine on, which results in the car idling. This would reduce the emission of hazardous gases. If this is followed by everyone, then that would improve the quality of air.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Stop-start Systems?

The stop-start systems that are found in almost every modern vehicle are a hassle-free form of using our vehicles. Here are a couple of things to know about them:

  1. This system will ensure that the battery is fully charged, even in stationary traffic, with the battery being fully charged at any point.
  2. Turning your engine off while you wait in traffic will not affect your fuel economy. Older vehicles might end up using more fuel when turning off and turning on your engine, however.

Myths Surrounding Stop-start Systems

As is the case with anything, stop-start systems are also surrounded by many myths. Here are some of them:

1. Saves The Planet

They only result in a better fuel economy and the release of lesser amounts of carbon dioxide. In a recent study conducted by the AA, it was found that stop-start systems are able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5-7%.

2. Battery Never Dies

Even if you are stuck in traffic, stop-start systems will ensure your engine is automatically restarted, with your battery life fully charged.

3. Quiet And Peaceful

The main advantage is that you would not have to listen to the engine revving constantly, with the stop-start system, when you’re stuck in traffic, as they let you turn your vehicle on and off instantly, without noise.

How To Report Engine Idling?

Engine idling can be reported in a very simple manner, within seconds. All you need to do is install an app, and you will be able to report engine idling. You can report unnecessary engine idling using the H&F Report Its app on your smartphone, or online.


The conclusion that can be drawn is that engine idling is not good for the vehicle, the environment, or for us either, so it is important to make sure that we do not indulge in engine idling. At the same time, we should also take good care of our cars, and the first step towards doing that is to get a warranty. Warranty Direct offers a very comprehensive warranty for your car, which covers the repairs and replacements of almost all the parts of your car.

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