Can You Legally Let Your Car Run to Cool Down in New Jersey?
We all know that New Jersey has some tough laws in place that prevent you from warming up your car when it's cold out, but what about just the opposite?
In the Garden State, can you legally let your car run with its air conditioner on so it cools down?
You know the drill -- in the middle of August, it'll be 97 degrees outside and since your car windows have been up all day, the inside is like an Easy-Bake Oven, reaching 130 or 140 degrees.
So, can you start your car and let it idle for a few minutes with the A/C on?
First, let's look at the overall picture since that's the basis of what you can get away with around here.
The official definition of idling in New Jersey is when your "vehicle engine is in operation while the vehicle is stationary at any location."
How much idling is allowed?
From our friends in Trenton...
No person shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit the engine of a diesel or gas powered motor vehicle to idle for more than 3 consecutive minutes if the vehicle is not in motion.
To that law, there are several exceptions. For example, you don't have to turn your vehicle's engine off if it's being worked on, if you are stuck in traffic, or if you are waiting in a horrifically long drive-thru line at a fast food place or bank.
Here's the wintertime exception: you can idle for up to 15 consecutive minutes when your vehicle has been stopped for three or more hours and only if the temperature is 25°F or lower.
And then they say this: "no exception in New Jersey for high heat."
If there are no exceptions for hot weather, you are breaking the law by running your car for more than three minutes in an attempt to cool it down.
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel told NJ.com back in 2019 the law merits additional education and enforcement.
It’s violated all the time, even in the summer. As you’re idling, you’re polluting the neighborhood for no reason.
Can you be fined?
You betcha! After all, this is New Jersey.
The first slap on the wrist is a $250 fine, followed by $500, and then $1,000.
And New Jersey's idling laws can be enforced on both public and private property by the DEP and/or law enforcement agencies.
In true Jersey fashion, the state has a way to report people that are violating the idling laws. You can call the NJDEP at (877) 927-6337 anytime, any day.
Meanwhile, if you have one of these vehicles, it's probably best not to let it run because it might get stolen...