Dear Car Talk:
I have a job (insurance adjuster) that requires me to sit in my vehicle with the engine running at idle with the AC on. I'm currently driving an early-model Toyota Tundra that is getting old. I would like to buy a more-efficient vehicle, but its ability to sit and idle for long periods of time is hugely important. I like the Subaru Forester, because I can get all 6 feet 3 inches of me into it comfortably, and I can get a ladder on the rack. But that car's head gasket issues scare me. Do you have any recommendations?
I recommend Starbucks, Richard. I assume you're sitting in your car to fill out your paperwork after making a client visit. Wouldn't you rather do that over a Frappuccino? I'm not excited about encouraging anyone to sit in his idling car and let the AC run for long periods of time. Of course you're wasting gas when you do that. But you're also sending unnecessary heat and pollution into the atmosphere.
It'd be as if every worker in every cubicle across America plugged in his or her own window air conditioner and hung it over the side of the cubicle. It's not a great practice.
But setting my environmental preferences aside, you can let any car idle with the AC on for a long time without doing any harm. As long as the cooling system is working properly, you should be able to sit in any modern car you buy and let it idle indefinitely. Or at least until you run out of gas. Or need to pee. Hey, another advantage of Starbucks!
Subaru has had head gasket issues for years, and we replace a lot of them at around 100,000 miles. We still like Subarus, for a lot of other reasons, and recommend them. But their head gaskets have been an issue, and we don't know if Subaru has fixed them in the cars they're selling now. Only time will tell, as our customers get 100,000 miles on their newer Subarus and we see what happens.
But if your primary criterion is finding a car that can idle with the air conditioner on for long periods of time, you can pick any car that appeals to you, Richard.