Is It Legal In Washington State To Let Your Car Idle In Winter?

If you've ever lived in a cold climate, you know the drill: get in your car, turn on the engine, and wait a few minutes for the heat to kick in. But is this legal? More importantly, is it safe?

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Let's take a look at the state of Washington, where winter weather can be severe.

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Yes, it is illegal to warm up your car in Washington State without being in it. If you must warm up your car, be sure to do so only when you are in it and can keep an eye on it.

You'd think the law would be in effect due to vehicle theft but the law has to do more with the environment and emissions.

Hand using brush sweeping snow on car windscreen in winter
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Washington State has an idling law on the books and it might surprise you that most states have a law where idling your car unattended is illegal.

Here is the official statute and law:

“No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine,” the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.600

There are exceptions to the rule but mainly deals with police vehicles and construction vehicles so it's always best to check the law first if you are any doubt about if and when you can idle your vehicle.

It might surprise you that even if you have a remote start, it's still considered illegal to be warming up your car.

car in winter, snow and ice on the windscreen and hood, frozen glass wiper
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Truthfully, I can't recall a time when I've heard of police in Washington ticketing someone for idling but it's within the law for them to do it so it's always good to be aware of the law.

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