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Technology My garage is too small. Am I damaging my pickup truck’s engine by letting it idle during a heat wave?

I love my pickup, but my garage is too small and it doesn’t fit. In a heat wave, I often start my truck for 3 or 4 minutes, drive it into my too short garage and close the door halfway to provide some much needed shade. Am I doing damage to the engine by starting it for only 3 or 4 minutes and moving it into the garage, or should I just let it bake in the sun all day? – Jason

As I respond to this, a snow storm is occurring outside my window, making a summer based question a welcome change. Jason, your neighbours must look at you with a what’s-he-doing look? I’m not sure what you are attempting to achieve? Are you hoping to cool down the interior before you depart on your journey? Regardless, idling for 3 to 4 minutes may add a slight amount of wear, but I doubt will cause any significant engine damage.

Natural Resources Canada states that a 3.0-litre engine wastes one-quarter of a litre of fuel for every 10 minutes of idling. If all Canadians avoided three minutes of idling a day, 630 million litres of fuel would be saved and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.4 million tonnes.

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We should all be paying attention to this.


I have a 2016 Prius C, my first hybrid. I went south for the winter and return in May. Will the battery be all right until I return, or should I find someone who can start the car and let it run for a while? – Patricia

The battery that is part of the hybrid system is not used to start the gasoline engine and does not require any attention while you are away.

Your Prius does also have a conventional main 12-volt battery. While slightly smaller than most cars, it is used in the traditional manner, to start the gasoline engine and for the Keep Alive Memory (KAM) system.

The KAM system on every car stores critical information, drawing a tiny amount of current from the battery to do so. Having someone start the car periodically is not advisable.

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Considering additional energy is further consumed to start the engine periodically, the car would have to idle for a significant time to recharge the battery. The best way to charge the battery is to drive the car.

If your battery is in decent condition it should start up easily after your two-month journey. Next time, invest in a battery minder, which will trickle charge the battery while you are away and give you peace-of-mind.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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