Loud Idling

Just out of curiosity, why do some cars idle so much more loudly than others? I have a neighbor who has been idling his car for over an hour at a time recently, though since I complained to the association, he has idled it only for 10 minutes once. I am pretty sensitive to noise and this car is really loud.

It’s only a mid size car, possible even a sports car, and this only happens in the cold weather.

Also, wouldn’t idling it for that long ruin the engine? I sure hope so.

I didn’t talk to him personally, because I suspect that someone that inconsiderate might be dangerous.

Some people idle their cars in cold weather for a few different reasons. They may simply want to bring the vehicle up to temperature so they have cabin heat when they drive off. They may be too lazy to scrape frost off their windows, so they warm the car up so the frost melts and they can see without having to spend two minutes scraping frost off their windows before leaving. Others believe they will cause premature wear on their engine by driving off in cold weather while the engine is still cold (they won’t, unless they drive very, very aggressively). Extended idle time will not ruin an engine in the short term, although it could dilute the oil with gasoline, causing ring and bearing damage in the days before electronic fuel injection.

As to why some cars idle louder than others, a couple of explanations come to mind. Some cheap compact cars had rather gritty sounding engines (older Escorts and Accents come to mind), and this grittiness is often considered noisy. If this is an old junker, the car could also have a broken exhaust pipe, causing a leak and a lot of noise. I doubt this is the case, though, since you indicated you live in a community with a homeowner’s association, and those communities frequently house residents who can afford to drive late model cars and properly maintain them. The HOA will often also have rules prohibiting residents from owning vehicles that are not in good repair. I even heard of one HOA that evicted a family for owning a Lincoln Mark LT to tow their ski boat because their charter specifically said no pickup trucks (they kept it in the garage, but that wasn’t good enough since they still owned it, and it could be seen entering and leaving the community). More than likely, you have a neighbor who owns a sports car with an aftermarket performance exhaust system on it. These systems are frequently designed to produce more sound than the original system, which is considered a good thing by the people who buy and install them. Personally, I love the sound of a well tuned performance exhaust system, as long as it’s attached to a V8 or 45 degree V-twin (Harley).

As far as talking to your neighbor about it, they may actually appreciate you dealing with them directly rather than going over their head and trying to get them in trouble with the HOA, as long as you are polite and civil about it. Driving a loud car does not mean the owner is dangerous, or even inconsiderate. They probably don’t even realize the noise bothers you that much. There is a 99.99% chance that the worst that could happen from talking to your neighbor about it is they are rude to you. My truck is pretty loud since I just installed an aftermarket muffler on it, but the only reason I could be dangerous to someone is if they are posing a direct threat to my well-being or the well-being of my family, certainly not for someone complaining to me that my truck is too loud.

Loud Idling? I dont really know that idling has any affect on the tone of the exhaust… Does the car have a loud exhaust to begin with? It must as idling would be no louder than the cars normal sound emissions when running. Who knows what you may be describing…sometimes the buildings that the car is in or around may amplify the sound of the vehicle at idle…like some sort of harmonics issue at idle…but like I said the car prob has a loud exhaust system to begin with methinks…

While there are a lot of design variants that go into how an idling engine sounds, there are Department Of Transportation regulations governing the noise levels of over-the-road vehicles. Loud vehicles are generally the result of a worn out or modified exhaust system, sometimes in conjunction with a modified engine.

I think Mark has given you good advice on dealing with it.

Regarding idling damaging a modern engine, it will not. In the old days of carburators and no concern for emissions, engines idled “rich”, which means a high portion of gas to air. This was necessary because carburators have a difficult tine creating a sufficient surface-area -to-volume ratio, and good surface area to volume of gas is important for effectively accessing the power contained in the gas with minimum emissions In addition, engines ran colder, exascerbating the problem. Thermostats used to be typically 165F, about 30 degrees colder than they run now. Thus, engines put out a lot more gas that wasn;t fully burned. The not fully burned gas became carbon deposits and could build up on valves, piston heads, and cylinder head surfaces. In addition to affecting the ability of valves to close fully, and causing spark plugs to not fire properly, these carbon deposits could retain heat, causing preignition problems.But modern fuel metering is so precise, and modern fuel delivery systems so able to maximize the burning of the fuel, that these carbon deposits are no longer an issue.

In short, in the old days idling could cause problems, but in a modern engine ite will not.

Having said that, we know not the engine, year, or condition of your neighbor’s car. If it’s old or modified, idling might be bad for it.

You’re Fortunate That I Don’t Live In Your “Association” And I’m Glad That I Don’t.
Everybody does their own thing where I live and they mind their own business.

Get a loud hobby.

Interesting thought about the “association” thing: I live in a 100 year old farmhouse on about three acres of land, surrounded on three sides by farmland. The non-farmland side faces a highway; the other side of the highway was once more farmland, but is now home to a recently constructed subdivision (I call it an eyesore), which has a lot of big, fancy houses, wealthy residents, and a HOA. I moved into my house primarily for the space, the garage size, and the fact that it is outside the city limits. I have no qualms about opening my garage doors on a nice, warm day and dragging my air compressor hose into the driveway to work on cars out there, by the light of the sun. I have gotten some interesting looks from residents across the street for using my air tools outside, but I am not within their “association” or even their city. I have also been toying with the idea of building a backstop behind the machine sheds for some plinking fun with the twelve gauge. I wonder what they will think of that…