Help make PEI an idle-free zone

One easy way to cut fuel consumption, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to avoid unnecessary idling of your vehicle's engine. 

If all drivers avoided unnecessary idling for three minutes a day, we would prevent 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere daily. This would be equal to taking 320,000 cars off of the road for the entire year

Spread the word by downloading, printing and posting a provincial Idle Free Zone Poster

What happens to your car when it idles?

Idling your vehicle in traffic is not good for the environment, but it is also not good for your vehicle. Put simply, your car’s engine continues to run when it idles. Therefore, it still uses fuel to maintain internal combustion. Because your engine continues running, many other automotive processes also continue by necessity. For instance:

  • The battery keeps draining.
  • The AC keeps flowing.
  • The engine keeps warming

Several things might occur if your car idles for too long. Your car’s engine continues to consume fuel so long as it’s powered on. But it also consumes power from your car’s battery because the engine and alternator both run slowly whenever your car idles. The alternator provides enough power to charge the battery by itself. Still, if you’re idling and have other electronic components powered on – such as your radio or lights – you could gradually drain your car’s battery and potentially leave yourself stranded.

Your engine may also overheat if you leave your car idling for too long. However, this particular error often occurs because of mechanical malfunctions. If your engine overheats, get your cooling system or fan belt checked by a certified mechanic.

Your car may run out of gas. An empty gas tank can sneak up on people who don’t expect their fuel gauge to go down when they’re simply sitting and not driving. But it can and has happened to people in the past on multiple occasions.

Why do drivers idle?

Warming up or cooling down a vehicle is the most common reason given for idling‚ in the winter and summer. Surveys show that Canadians also idle their vehicles for many other reasons that include:

  • waiting for passengers
  • waiting to park
  • running quick errands
  • sitting in drive-through lanes
  • sitting in the driveway checking their phones

Isn't it easier on a vehicle's starter to let an engine idle?

There is a myth that turning your car on and off will cause damage to the engine. You may be concerned that turning off and restarting the vehicle to avoid idling will result in higher maintenance costs from extra wear and tear of the starter and battery.

Actually, the break-even point to offset any incremental maintenance costs is under 60 seconds. You'll save money on fuel that should more than offset any potential increased maintenance costs. And your vehicle won't produce unneeded carbon dioxide emissions, the principle greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

As a guideline, if you're going to stop for 10 seconds or more – except in traffic – turn the engine off.

What difference will it make?

Individual actions, when taken by thousands of Islanders and millions of Canadians, can make a big difference. And just like putting on your seat belt, turning off the car sets a good example for your passengers and kids.

For more information, visit the Idle-Free Zone

How can I do more to reduce my carbon emissions? 

If you want to do even more to reduce carbon emissions on your commute, consider choosing more sustainable transportation options more often. Even taking the bus or joining a carpool a few times a week can help. Sustainable transportation options include:

Learn more about the province's Net Zero programs to help you reduce emissions at home and on your commute. 


Published date: 
January 15, 2024
Environment, Energy and Climate Action

General Inquiries

Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action
4th Floor, Jones Building
11 Kent Street
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-5044
Toll-free: 1-866-368-5044
Fax: 902-368-5830
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