Is it worth turning the engine off between delivery stops or can I just let the engine idle?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Now for a "dumb blonde" question: I deliver from 17 to 20 meals once or twice a week for my town's "Meals on Wheels" program. Each stop takes from 30 seconds to a minute (except for one that requires five minutes for three apartment deliveries). My question is should I turn off my motor while making these deliveries, or is it OK to let the engine idle? I do turn it off at the longer stop. I have a stick shift 1986 Honda Accord. Thanks!

TOM: I don't understand what's "dumb blonde" about this question, Jean. I would, however, watch out for one of my brother's patented, "dumb, bald-headed" ANSWERS.

RAY: I'd say it's a toss up, Jean. From the point of view of the car, it's probably better to just let it run. The amount of wear and tear it gets in less than a minute of idling is negligible... certainly less than the wear and tear you'd put on the starter and battery when you restart the car. But you're wasting fuel and polluting the environment. So for that five minute stop (or even a three minute stop), you're right to turn it off.

TOM: But I'd vote for turning it off at every stop, Jean. And I'll tell you why. We've got a friend named Alan Nissenbaum, who runs Nissenbaum's Junkyard.

RAY: "Automotive Recycling," he likes to call it.

TOM: It's a junkyard! Anyway, one day, Alan Nissenbaum stops at the corner mailbox to mail a few letters. He puts his Buick Century in Park, and hops out to mail in his overdue veterinary bill or something. He opens the slot, drops in the mail, and when he turns around, some kid is taking off with his car!

RAY: Apparently, the kid was hiding in the bushes. He figured that 100 people a day leave their car idling while they mail a letter, so he lay in wait, and when he saw Nissenbaum's Buick, he pounced.

TOM: Nissie took it pretty well. He gave the kid points for cleverness. But I'm not sure you would be so happy if that happened to you, Jean. So because of the "Nissenbaum Factor," I vote for shutting off the car and taking the keys with you every time.

RAY: And just imagine how happy the kid would have been to get your car, Jean. He'd get an '86 Accord AND 15 turkey-pot-pie dinners!

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