Techniques for Turning it Off

If you know it takes only 10 seconds worth of gas to start your engine, you will discover a lot of times when it makes sense to turn it off. Here are some of the obvious ones:

• Anytime you’re at a curb or in a parking space
• When you roll down your window to chat
• When you drop off your kids at school, and pick them up (with the added benefit of not polluting their growing lungs)
• When you come to a light that is just turning red (most stay red for at least 30 seconds)

There are other situations where you might have to stop and start a few times, but if you pay close attention to traffic a few cars ahead, you can save minutes or even hours of gas:
• When you’re waiting at the drive-thru (especially if it's got a slope!)
• When you're waiting for a train to pass
• When you’re in a long line of cars leaving an event
• When you’re hopelessly stuck in traffic that's going nowhere.

• Keep your eyes on the traffic ahead. When the cars two or three ahead of you start to move, turn on your engine.
• Get to know the lights on your route. Some are short. Some are long, especially the ones with separate left-turn arrows.
• Experiment. The 30-second rule might work better for you than the 10-second rule. But any little bit helps.
• Talk to your mechanic. They will know about the specific needs or special talents of your car.

• Gun your engine to “catch up” or accelerate out of an intersection. This will use up all the gas you just saved!
• Get into the habit of turning off your engine every single time you hit the brakes. Be mindful and pay attention!


In some foreign cities, it's required to turn off your engine at stop lights. This idea elicits a knee-jerk reaction from most Americans. But think it through, and decide for yourself. Are those fears rational? Obviously, there are times and places where you don’t want to have a “dead vehicle.” When traffic starts up. When an emergency vehicle approaches. In an intersection. But it only takes 2 seconds to start a car, so there’s no need to freak out about the idea. The worst thing that could happen, in most cases, is that someone could honk at you.

Ease your way into the hybrid habit. Start with situations where you feel comfortable and get to know your vehicle. Don’t take stupid risks, but don’t be afraid to take control, either.

REMEMBER: Turn your motor off, but keep your brain on.

Share your own tips below!


Anonymous said...

Here is a turning it off tip.
Don't use the car for trips less than two miles, use your bicycle instead!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about turning it off and on. The starters in cars aren't really designed for this and are only good for x number of starts. I'll estimate maybe 2,000 at best before they need replacement or a rebuild. Assuming the starter is about $200.00 or so, you're talking 10 cents per start. 10 cents will buy about four ounces (half a cup) of gas these days at a little under $3.00/gallon and even big suvs only burn about half a gallon per hour at idle so I'd say the light has to stay red for a little under 2 minutes before you reach the economics of breaking even in an SUV. Probably closer to 4 minutes in a smaller, less thirsty vehicle.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're absolutely right. Saving the world just isn't worth the inconvenience.

mrs. id said...

Ooh, heavy sarcasm! (I hope.)

The EPA has actually done some research on light trucks - see what they say.

Anonymous said...

I'm a master Automotive tech and 2000 starts and you need a new starter is far from true. Thats only about a years worth of starting. Most starters on modern cars will last the life of the engine.

Anonymous said...

Transportation Departments should stop installing traffic lights that are triggered by cars on side streets. Many times I have observed traffic lights that stop 10's of cars to allow a single car to turn left from a side street. In fact, I have read that UPS saves time and fuel by planning routes with a minimum number of left turns. Left turns are the problem! Roads without left turns don't have cars sitting Idle. Replace intersections with round-a-bouts and U-Turn lanes. One should note that three rights make a left. Think about that and plan a route before going out on the roads. Lastly, lobby for traffic lights to be synchronized in order to reduce idling pollution, reduce road rage and save time.

Anonymous said...

Any easier solution then turning your engine on and off is to upgrade to a mild hybrid. The Saturn Astra, Vue and Chevy Malibu all come with this system. It boosts city gas mileage pretty well by not burning gas at idle. The system is also a lot cheaper then buying a Prius. Check it out at GM.COM

mrs. id said...

Hey, I'd love to buy a new car, but since I don't have an extra $30,000 laying around turning my engine off seems a little easier.

I am so suspicious of the new hybrids - they boast getting 25 miles per gallon HIGHWAY - I now have my sights on a $2000 1993 Acura, which gets 40!

These new emission standards seem wimpy in comparison to some of the hybrids they drive in Europe, which get 90 mpg. A plug-in electric car gets way over 100 equivalent MPG. That's what I'm saving up for!

mrs. id said...

By the way, here's another fuel-saving technique for the adventurous driver: activate your car's hyper-gravity drive!

larry said...

I have been following these tips for 3 weeks now and for the 1st time ever I actually attained my camry 2007's rated 6.0 liters/100km!!!(39 mpg US) Another trick is to drive at about 10-15km slower than the max (6-10 mph). I could never get get better than 8.3 /100 29 mpg before. My wife gets impatient as we are regularly passed as drive along in right hand lane but I just say soothingly "Carbon footprint" and I hear her resume breathing normally again ;)

mrs. id said...

Here's an amusing link for tinkering readers who want to cut the engine but it's too HOT to turn off the air conditioning:

How To Make Your Own Cooling Vest.

© 2007 Kristen Caven

Please let me know when quoting, referencing, or reprinting, thanks! Creative Commons License