What Happens if You Leave Your Car Running for a Long Time?

What Happens if You Leave Your Car Running for a Long Time

Proper maintenance of a car is every car owner’s duty. Your car requires adequate care and maintenance for it to work optimally. The engine is a very vital component of the car and it is important it does not get damaged.

Assuming you need to go into a shopping mall hurriedly to get some groceries and you think that you will be back in a few minutes, you leave your car running in the parking lot and dash into the mall. Is it okay for you to do that?

So, what happens if you leave your car running for a long time?

When you leave your car running for a long time, the engine will keep running while more gas and engine oil will be circulating and getting burned up, your car may overheat, and your exhaust emissions will continue to circulate into the air which may cause environmental pollution.

Even if you are using an electric car like the likes of Tesla or Lucid Air, leaving your car running for a very long time can drain your battery leaving you with no other option but to start charging your battery again.

Can You Leave Your Car Running for a Long Time?

You can keep the engine of your car running for a long time when you are in certain situations. It is not advised to do it excessively because there are disadvantages to doing that.

Some appropriate instances where you can leave your car running for a long time include:

  • When you need to warm up the engine of the car. In cold seasons like the winter period, you might need to warm the engine of the car for some time before you drive off in it.
  • When you are at a traffic light. Some traffic lights take too long to change and you cannot be blamed for thinking they will change faster than they did.
  • When you need to get to refill your fuel tank because you are low on fuel. Every driver should know that it takes more fuel to start a car than it takes to keep it running. It is okay to leave your car running for a long time when you are hurriedly in search of a gas station to top up fuel in your car.

How Long Can You Safely Leave your Car Running?

It is not a new thing for people to be scared of leaving their cars running for long periods of time. A lot of myths about the engine of your vehicle wearing down when you turn on the ignition key have been going around for ages. But is that true? Let’s consider it.

Idling is referred to as leaving your car running after starting it. It is all about leaving it to run without moving it. While in this state, it is on but not in motion. It does not move because of some parts of the engine like the transmission and brakes.

Many drivers have idled their cars at different times just because they had to. There are so many instances when idling just has to occur:

  • When you park your car and go quickly into a store without switching the engine off.
  • When you warm your car’s engine before driving off in the morning.
  • When you get into traffic and you know you can move off soon so you do not switch off the engine because you will need to turn it on soon
  • When you get to a red traffic light and you have to wait some seconds before it switched to orange and green.

All these instances of idling all show that it is a common occurrence.

Leaving your car’s engine on for a long time will not hurt the engine definitely but you should not do it unreasonably. Limits exist on how long you can leave your car’s engine running before significant damage occurs to the car.

Do not forget that this process is known as ‘Idling’. Idling is defined as when your car’s engine runs uninterruptedly at low power.

All things being equal and constant, your car’s engine would run forever if you do not turn it off. But in real life, a lot of things are bound to occur if you leave it on for too long.

In order to avoid leaving your car’s engine on for a long period of time, you need to turn it off after some minutes or move it.

Some people prefer to leave their car’s engine on for a long time when they think that they may need to switch it on and switch it off in succession.

For instance, on a backed-up road in busy places. Such people think that turning the engine of the car off and on severally might damage the car but that is untrue.

In situations like traffic, if you find yourself in a really snail-pace gridlock, and you see that you will need to move slowly every few minutes, you do not need to leave the engine of your car on. You can switch it off and on when you need to move.

Cars manufactured in recent times have been equipped with components for fuel injection. These components help to transport fuel to your car’s engine efficiently and they help in averting the dilution of the oil.

Vehicles made since the 1990s have these components. So far you use a car in that range (1990 – date), you should not be worried about your engine getting damaged from turning it off and on severally.

What Happens if You Leave Your Car Running for a Long Time?

When you leave your car running for a very long time, a slight amount of fuel is consumed to continue the internal combustion process. The fact that your car’s engine is switched on means that other processes in the car will continue running. For example:

  • The engine keeps running and warming.
  • The battery keeps draining.
  • The AC keeps running.

Many people think that these automotive processes will damage the engine but it is not true.

Is it Bad to Leave your Car Running While Parked with AC On?

It is not bad to leave your car running while parked with the air conditioner on. However, if this is done for too long, you risk having an overheating engine, increased fuel consumption, and increased battery usage.

Pros of Leaving Your Car Running

There are some benefits of idling your car. They include:

Warming Up the Engine

In cold seasons, it is important that you warm up the engine of your car because the inside components could get frozen overnight. Warming it up before driving ensures that the car performs optimally.

Getting to a Gas Station to Refill Fuel

Sometimes, you might need to top up fuel in your car and it is advised that you leave the car running for as long as you can till you get to a fuel station.

This is because the engine consumes more fuel to start than it consumes when it is running.

Cons of Leaving Your Car Running for a Long Time

Of course, there are downsides to leaving your car running for a long time. There are many things you will experience when you do that.

1. Increased Fuel Consumption

When you leave any mechanical engine on for too long, more fuel will be consumed. It’s simple logic. If you leave your car running for a long time, it will consume more fuel and you will need to refill it in less time than you would have.

2. Overheating of the Car’s Engine

Running the engine of your car for a long time can lead to overheating. It is not common but it is possible. Overheating is caused by malfunctions of the mechanical parts of the engine which may cause a check engine light warning to be flashing.

Parts like the cooling fan or the fan belt are known to cause overheating. When this happens, make sure you visit a mechanic to get it repaired.

3. Loss of Gas

Since the fuel is consumed faster when the engine is left to run for a long time, do not be surprised when you encounter an empty gas tank in your car.

Because you were not expecting it, you probably did not bother to check the fuel gauge so when you do, you become so shocked. It simply happened because you left the engine of your car running for too long.

4. Increase Battery Usage

The battery of your car is used to start and keep the car running. Asides from the fuel consumption, the alternator of your car are kept active and running when you leave your car running for a long time. The alternator will keep running, though at a slow pace but it will.

What the alternator does is provide power to the battery for charging purposes. If you leave your car on for a long time and the electronic components in the car are left on such as the inner lights, radio, and other things, your risk draining the battery of your and you might get stuck along your journey.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, you are not doing bad by leaving your car running for a normal and reasonable period of time but you should not do it excessively. It might lead to problems in the car.

Leaving the engine on for a long time does not benefit the car maximally in the long run but it has the capacity to cause damage and other issues to components of the engine.