In Carbondale, you’ll have only 2 minutes to warm up your car legally
Carbondale trustees plan to cut the amount of time you can leave your car idling from 10 minutes to just two minutes.
At the same time, the Board of Trustees agreed to reduce the penalty to a $25 ticket that doesn’t increase with repeat offenses. The current idling ordinance calls for a $100 ticket on the first offense, then $250 on the second and $500 on the third, Natalie Fuller of the Carbondale Environmental Board said during the trustees’ Tuesday meeting.
This change isn’t official yet, as the town attorney needs to draft ordinance language, but it is expected to be passed on a future consent agenda.
The board unanimously wanted to focus on educational efforts rather than going straight to enforcement. And police officers will have the discretion whether to issue an offender a warning before resorting to a ticket, said Town Manager Jay Harrington.
The town has already used fliers and other public relations tools to spread the word about its 10-minute idling ordinance, so the same strategy is planned for the ordinance changes.
Most municipalities with idling ordinances have difficulty enforcing them, said Harrington.
It doesn’t seem like Carbondale will be an exception. Harrington noted that in the mornings, when idling is happening most, the town often has only one officer on duty.
Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, too, said the effort will start out as more brochures on cars than tickets.
But when it does come time to write someone a ticket, it will be a lot easier to watch a car idling for two minutes than 10, he said.
“I doubt we’ll have to write a lot of tickets,” said Schilling.
Officers will probably have sufficient time to check idling vehicles, Schilling said, but like everything else, they’ll have to prioritize more serious calls.
Some Carbondalians who drive older vehicles, including Jeff Potter, say that their vehicles need more than two minutes to warm up the engine. It’s not just a matter of having a warm, comfortable cab but getting the engine to run properly, said Potter, who drives a 1986 Toyota pickup.
Fuller, from the Environmental Board, said, “With the invention of fuel injection, we do not need to warm up our cars,” and called the practice a “cultural convenience.”
Some trustees also said their research led them to believe that warming up a car’s engine was no longer necessary.
But Bruce Norris, a mechanic at Carbondale Car Care, says letting your car run for a few minutes can help its longevity. Oil that’s sat all night in freezing temperatures becomes more viscous, and if you don’t let it warm up, that can lead to premature engine wear, he said.
Newer vehicles with fuel injection will start out on cold mornings idling higher and with their engines running richer, said Norris. He recommended letting your vehicle run until the engine starts idling lower before driving. Depending on the temperature, that could be three to five minutes, he said.
“Two minutes seems a little short to me,” said Norris.
Even environmentally conscious people can let an idling vehicle slip their minds.
Kim Gerringer, who left her car running outside momentarily Thursday morning while she popped back inside for something she’d forgotten, said she supports the town’s idling restriction to support air quality. But two minutes isn’t much time for some busy people, like moms trying to get kids into a car seat, she said.
“Maybe we could negotiate that to five minutes,” she said.
Rusty Jones, who also supports an idling restriction to limit air pollution, said that leaving your car running for only two minutes would do little good to heat it up. At that point, you may as well not heat up your car at all, he said.
Jones cited safety concerns as well, noting that some drivers do not clear enough snow and ice from their windshields.
“Two minutes will not be enough time to defrost windshields, though I’m all for limiting idling time to help with the environmental impact,” he said. “I’ve seen people run their cars for 15 to 20 minutes.”
Jones said he let his car run for about five minutes Thursday morning before setting off, a length of time he thought would be a reasonable limit.
“I’ve been an idle stopper for about four years in Carbondale,” Richard Votero told trustees. “We know what clean water is worth and what a lot of other things are worth. But what is clean air worth?”
Votero said he’s seen people in his neighborhood idling from 30 to 45 minutes and that the practice is a year-round problem.
“These are the new days when the planet matters, and we are all responsible every day for a clean place to live in. This is a step to help that.”