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Keeping It Cool - And Idle-Free - In the Summer

Stop Idling
Photo: iStockphoto

We drove the dog to the park the other day for some frolic in the hot summer sun and as we parked (in the shade! Score!) I noticed a van idling in the parking lot with a gentleman inside. I assumed he'd just arrived and hadn't turned off his vehicle yet. So you can only imagine my horror when I returned 45 minutes later and found he was still there and still idling.

"Wow," I thought, as I stuffed my heavily panting dog into the car, "Clearly, this man is made of money." I waved at the man to try and get his attention, but he pointedly ignored me. Then, before I could call the bylaw officer, (idling is illegal in Vancouver) he drove off, leaving his 45-minute-long cloud of exhaust in his wake.

We've talked about idling in a few posts here on PumpTalk, but often in regards to winter idling. When it's cold out, it's tempting to idle more under the guise of "warming up the car". Of course, in the summer, you have the opposite problem - you may be idling the car in order to cool it off, or, like the fellow in the park, running the car to keep cool when parked.

For those of us who don't have a garage or underground parking, getting into a red hot car and burning our hands on the gear shift is not a great way to start a trip. But sitting in your vehicle and blasting the A/C for ten minutes isn't doing your fuel efficiency, your engine or the planet any favours either. When you're out and about this summer, here are a few tips to help keep your car cool and your "cooling off" idling at a minimum.

Try to park in the shade. It may mean a longer walk to your destination, but exercise is good for you! Plus, that way you can justify the slush you bought at the convenience store. If there's no shade available, try to park so that the sun is coming in the back window so that the driver's area isn't in direct sun.

Use a car sun shade. They may not offer the classiest look, but using a car sun shade (the foldable cover with shiny silver on one side that you place inside of your windshield) can help keep you from burning your fingers on the steering wheel. Plus, it protects your car's interior from fading or cracking.

Vent your windows. Cracking the windows about half an inch can help keep the air moving in a hot vehicle. Roll down the windows for a few minutes before you get in and open and close the doors a few times to fan the hot air out. Letting out that initial blast of hot air can go a long way in cooling down a hot car. Some newer vehicles have a neat feature on the key FOB that allows you to hold down the unlock button and it will roll down all your windows! Check your owner's manual to see if you have this cool little option.

On these hot summer days, keeping the car cool is a top priority. Avoiding the idling/A/C-blasting combo can be a challenge, but with some planning, you may be able to save yourself some pain and some cash. Cutting out the idling can mean saving money on gas AND on tickets (as idling is now illegal in many places in Canada). For more info about idling reduction tips and idle-free campaigns in your area, visit the Natural Resources Canada's Idle-Free Zone. And be sure to share your car cooling tips in the comments!

- Rose R.


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Annson Tannen

Great advice. I can't recommend using a sun shade enough. You are correct, they not only protect your dashboard and fingers but can also keep the interior from ageing.

Idling is not cool and it is good to hear that in Vancouver you're not allowed to do it.

Some useful stuff here:

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