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Drivers let cars idle for various reasons. Many people warm up a vehicle in the winter before driving it, while others idle a car when waiting to pick up a family member or a friend. Also, sometimes, people have no choice but to idle a vehicle when stuck in a traffic jam. Also, recently, there was a controversy when a mother used an idling car to put her child to sleep during naptime.

The purring hum of an idling car helps a mother’s child doze off to sleep 

Baby rests in child car seat, highlighting mother that lets son sleep in idling car, angering neighbor
Baby in child car seat | Alexander Grey via Unsplash

Young children need a great deal of sleep. For parents, though, it can be challenging to put their kids to sleep — so they get the necessary amount of shut-eye. A mother from Sydney, Australia, encountered this problem with her son, and she chose an unusual method for her kid’s naptime: an idling car. 

The mother claims that in normal circumstances, it’s impossible for her son to have uninterrupted sleep. However, she found that the purring hum of her idling car does the trick for sleepytime. When in the car, her son easily dozes off with consistent sleep.

Neighbor writes an angry note to mother about using a vehicle for kid’s naptime

A neighbor of the mother vehemently expressed their opinions about the unusual naptime method with an angry note. In the digital age, many people voice their options in emails or on social media. However, the neighbor communicated their frustrations the old-fashioned way: a hand-delivered letter, as reported by Mirror

The note is highly critical of the mother:

“I like most of your [neighbors] walk past your house a couple of times a day and notice that you have your car running constantly on some days. I see your child and sometimes you in the car. While I understand you use the car to soothe or put your child to sleep, I am sure you must understand the damage you are doing to the environment.”

The critical letter then questioned whether the mother cared about her kids:

“To have a vehicle like yours running for hours daily for no acceptable reason is beyond comprehension. If you truly cared for your children, you would care about the environment you are leaving them in the long-term, not just your short-term convenience/comfort.”

After that takedown, the neighbor expressed her opinions about parenting while reiterating the damage that an idling car does to the environment:

“I have raised three children and have never had to resort to driving or using a vehicle to put my children to sleep. I understand being a parent isn’t easy but taking shortcuts that damage our planet (the planet you are leaving your children) is not an acceptable course of action by any standard.”

The neighbor then signed the note by writing: “From a [neighbor] that cares about the environment and our future.”

Mother defends herself after receiving the angry note

Instead of ignoring the criticism from her neighbor, the Sydney mother clapped back in a follow-up response. She wrote, “When I find out who this is, they are seriously going to regret starting a war with me!”

The mother then defended her letting her son sleep in the idling car: “We haven’t had one uninterrupted night’s sleep in almost six years, so we do what we have to do to get a well-earned break.” 

She then explained that her child easily drifts off to sleep in the vehicle “for an hour and a half — but will instantly wake up if she turns the car off.” The mother also said that when her son is at daycare for three days a week, she doesn’t use her car

Is it harmful to a car to idle it for a long time?

We won’t cover the ethics or morality of letting a child sleep in an idling car from a parenting perspective. We’ll leave those opinions up to you. However, as an automotive site, we can address whether or not it’s harmful to a car to idle it for a long period of time. 

Idling your car once in a while typically won’t cause any problems. However, as detailed by J.D. Power and WBTV, idling a car excessively for long periods of time has negative consequences. This includes:

  • Wastes gas
  • Burns up oil
  • Harms performance by deteriorating a car’s spark plugs, head gasket, or cylinder rings
  • Drains a vehicle’s battery
  • Harms the environment by unnecessarily producing emissions (for gas-powered cars)

However, there are circumstances where it’s appropriate to idle a car. This includes warming up a car for a short time during the winter, waiting at a stoplight, and when stuck in traffic. Also, it’s appropriate to let a vehicle idle when it’s low on gas — and you’re trying to reach a gas station. In many cases, a car consumes more fuel when starting the ignition versus letting it idle.


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