Regional Air Quality Officials Ask Residents to Turn Off Their Engines When Idling

 Research Triangle Region, N.C.Triangle Air Awareness and the N.C. Division of Air Quality are encouraging Research Triangle Region residents to turn off their engines when they’re idling – that is, sitting in their cars but going nowhere -- in places like parking lots, drive-through lanes and schools.

Turning off engines is an easy way to save money on fuel and vehicle maintenance costs and help keep the air clean. Pollution from cars and trucks combine to create the largest source of harmful ground-level ozone in North Carolina. The problem worsens in summer because of more sunny days and higher temperatures. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds combine to create ozone during hot, sunny and dry weather.

Idling has many harmful side effects:

  • Damages car engines. Because engines aren’t working at their peak operating temperature when idling, the fuel doesn't undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residues that can contaminate engine oil and damage engine parts. For example, fuel residues tend to deposit on spark plugs. As the amount of engine idling increases, the plugs’ average temperature drops, which builds up additional residue and can, in turn, increase fuel consumption by four to five percent – creating a vicious circle of wasted fuel and increased gas emissions
  • Wastes fuel. Idling a car for two minutes consumes the same amount of fuel as it takes to drive one mile.
  • Harms health. Ground-level ozone, which car exhaust helps create, is linked to respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, and heart disease. Children up to the age of 18, whose lungs are still developing, and older adults are especially sensitive to air pollution and its health effects

Triangle Air Awareness suggests a range of activities, from carpooling to avoiding drive-through lanes, to reduce idling during summer months. The Triangle Air Awareness Web site contains information on idling, air quality and activities to help regional residents learn how to reduce air pollution.

For more information, visit or contact Loyack at or (919) 715-7647.