How Much Gas Does Idling My Car Use? (And Other Commonly Asked Car Maintenance Questions)

May 07,2019

Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for the best advice on its maintenance.Automotive technology may get more advanced and engines may become more efficient - but some car maintenance questions remain the same. Below are answers to a few of the most commonly asked vehicle maintenance questions.

How often should I change my oil?

Should you change your oil every 3,000 miles? Every 1,000? Can you safely wait until 7,000 miles for an oil change? Proper oil levels keep your engine functioning well, so do yourself and your vehicle a favor and check its owner’s manual for specifics about when to change the oil. Your owner’s manual will have more detailed information about your specific car and its needs than generic advice from a website (or from your best friend or neighbor). Advances in engines and oil have made the “every 3,000 miles or 3 months” oil change rule mostly obsolete, however you should still check your oil every month.

Does running the air conditioning use extra gas/fuel?

Yes. For most passenger vehicles, running the a/c can reduce fuel economy by one to two miles per gallon; running the a/c in larger vehicles or in extreme heat can reduce fuel economy up to four miles per gallon. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, using the AC under very hot conditions can actually reduce fuel economy by more than 25% in some conventional vehicles.

If you want to improve gas mileage, especially in hot weather, try these tips:

  • Don't use the AC more than needed (or set the temperature lower than needed).
  • Combine your errands and make fewer trips.
  • Don’t drive in rush hour if you can avoid it.
  • Avoid idling.
  • Accelerate smoothly and brake steadily.
  • Maintain proper tire inflation

Get more tips on how to use less gas when driving . . .

Is idling bad for my car?

Idling is when a driver leaves the engine running and the vehicle parked - and it’s bad for the car and the environment.

  • Idling can use one quarter to a half gallon of gas per hour.

In addition to wasting fuel, idling drains your car battery, decreases performance, burns up oil, and releases harmful emissions into the air. Turn off your engine if your vehicle is parked for longer than a minute: it only takes about 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle (Argonne National Laboratory).

What do I do if my car starts to overheat while I’m in traffic?

If your engine overheats while driving, you need to draw heat away from the engine:

  • Shut off your a/c if it’s on (and open your windows if needed), as running the air conditioning puts a heavy load on the engine.
  • Turn on the heater and blower; this will blow excess heat from the engine into your vehicle.
  • If you’re stopped in traffic, or pulled over, shift into Neutral or Park and rev the engine a bit. A quick rev or two will make the water pump and fan speed up, increasing liquid and air circulation through the radiator and helping cool the engine off some.
  • If the temperature gauge is firmly set in the danger zone - pull over to the right-hand side of the road, open the hood to let the engine cool off. Do NOT open the radiator cover until the engine has cooled down

What is the correct tire pressure for my car?

The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle can be found in your vehicle’s owners manual and on the sticker located on the driver-side door jamb. Do not go by the tire pressure listed on the white walls of the tires themselves - that pressure is the maximum inflation at a specific load (aka, the “don’t put more than this amount of air in this tire” number).

Under-inflation is one of the leading causes of tire failure which, according to the NHTSA, accounts for about 9% of vehicle crashes. Under-inflation causes too much of the tire’s surface area to be in contact with the road, which can increase friction and can cause the tire to overheat. This combination of low pressure, increased contact with the road surface, and overheating can then lead to premature tire wear, tread separation, and blowouts.

Check out our Tire and Wheel Repair section for additional advice and tips on tire care and maintenance.

How often should I change wiper blades?

Windshield wiper blades should generally be replaced at least once a year. These thin pieces of rubber can sometimes work for hours on end and are ruthlessly exposed to all weather and temperature extremes throughout the year. Most blades are made from untreated rubber, halogen-hardened rubber, or silicone and come in a variety of styles. The most obvious signs that your wiper blades need replacing include streaking, gaps where no water is removed (bad windshield contact), squeaking, or chattering.

Our Parts Team can help answer questions about the OEM parts and accessories in our online catalogs - especially concerning fitment for your specific vehicle; but questions about car problems, especially mechanical issues, should be handled by your local mechanic.

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