Have You Started Turning Your Car Off At Red Lights To Save Gas?


----------- Sponsored Links -----------
----------- Sponsored Links -----------

L.A. Traffic

Don’t worry, most people haven’t – most of the time I don’t either. But if I know a light is really long, or I am stuck in traffic or in a construction zone, I will turn off the Subaru and sit in silence for a few minutes, trying to save a few more drops of gas. At $4.79 a gallon here for regular unleaded, it is getting to be quite expensive just to go to the grocery store. Luckily for my wife we don’t carpool; I am sure my new driving habits would drive her bonkers – slow starts below 2,000 RPM’s, coasting up to yellow and red lights, and now turning the car off at long stops – it truly would be enough to drive someone insane. But it has become a game for me, as I want to see just how many miles I can get out of a tank of gas. Unfortunately I only get the car during the week when I have an appointment somewhere outside of my neighborhood and on weekends, otherwise this game would be a lot more exciting. It’s hard when you go days between driving to see how far you can go!

I had always thought that turning off the car at a light and restarting it would use more gas than just leaving it running, but I guess those days are long past. If you are at a light for longer than 30 seconds, you do in fact use less gas by turning it off and restarting it than you do by letting it idle. It is a little disconcerting sitting there with the engine off, as thoughts of “is this thing going to start when the light turns green?” start turning in your head, but really – when was the last time your car didn’t start? I cannot remember the last time I needed a jumpstart. So it really is nothing to be concerned about.

Many cars are already built with this feature included – the Prius, the Civic Hybrid, some Mercedes and I think even a few more – on a newer, solidly built car I cannot see this having a detrimental effect on the engines. The first generation Prius’ have been doing this for over 10 years now and are no worse for the wear. What are your thoughts on turning off the engine at really long stops?

Photo by respres

----------- Sponsored Links -----------
----------- Sponsored Links -----------


  1. I have heard that this is common practice in Europe where gas prices have high for years. I think tonight the news with charles gibson is suppossed to cover, some type of questionable driving techniques, I do not know if stopping red lights is on that list or not.

  2. I don’t know about this one.. I wonder how much gas you really save by doing this. I know every little bit helps, but wow.. 🙂

    Then again, I’ve been doing the whole coasting to red/yellow lights, not idling in a parking lot, slow smooth acceleration/etc etc etc. So this isn’t that far off from what I’ve been doing. I think i’d just be afraid the car wouldn’t start again or something – like you said..

  3. my husband’s been doing this for a while and he still feels more comfortable than i do. but if it’s a light i know well, and i can remember the order of the other lights, i switch off. we’ve got one left-turn light near our house that we’ve gotten to know really well.
    i do always switch off in situations where i’ve noticed other folks idling: the drive-thru at the bank, picking up a friend at the train station, any time i’ve got it in park, basically.

  4. Any time I am in any sort of drive-thru situation, I turn the engine off (banks, pharmacies, “restaurants” (which we try to avoid because of the disposable packaging anyway)…) I’ve often contemplated it at traffic lights, but considering that I live in Houston where sometimes tempers, especially in the summer, can flare in traffic over extremely minor irritations, it makes me too nervous. I have two small kids and the last thing I need is some wacko losing it on us because I had to take a fraction of a second to turn the engine back on (not to imply we’re all gun-toting, hair-triggered nut jobs here. The most likely reaction would be fist or finger-waving, horn-honking, and tail-gating, but still…)

  5. I tried this in my car a few weeks ago, and found it doesn’t really work. My car forces me to put the car into park before I can turn it back on, which means I’d have to shift in and out of park to do it – way too nervewracking for me to do! But I do turn my car off when waiting in line at a drivethru (the very few times I go through one!) or waiting in line for gas at a busy pump.

  6. We should get involved and change public policy. Individual gas saving actions just make room for more demand. The world population is growing by one New York City a month. China is putting 2,000 new cars on the road every day. We need to stop subsidizing the auto and sprawl, make public transit free, and give the suburbs to the organic farmers.

  7. Funny, we all seem to be writing on this topic lately. We all need to do something. Using tricks like this, and leaving a lot of space between myself and the car in front of me, I have increased my mpg by almost 10 mpg. I guess that actually shows how bad I was before. Have you also found that you make a great deal of friends this way? I know I do, but I have also found that I create my own current in traffic that counter-acts the traffic waves of stopping. So much so, that I have found some people purposely follow me every day.

  8. Actually, if the car is fuel injected, I’ve read on cleanmpg that 5 to 10 seconds is the cutoff point. I recommend coasting down hills too…as safely as possible. And make sure you only click the key one click back and then one click forward again, so the lights work. make sure you know how your steering and brakes work this way. brakes will be much stiffer after a few pumps.

  9. I think I’ve read somewhere that “cold starts” emit a lot of pollutants. So while the gas savings may apply, perhaps you’re putting more emissions into the air? Possible unintended consequence? I’m not sure.


  10. Stephanie PTY, if you shift into neutral, it will start. Just coast into the light in N and turn the engine off. Restart and shift into D!

  11. ……I still think turning off your car in traffic is crazy. You’re putting so much stress on your starter, if you’re willing to pay $250 to replace your starter ($400 if you don’t so it yourself) I would suggest not shutting your car off….

  12. I’ve been doing this for a year or so. Makes intuitive sense. I’ve googled it and not yet found whether good studies have shown it to be true and how much is saved. Let me know if you have seen any.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *