Idling a car is not an odd habit. We do it all the time—whether we’re heating it up on a winter morning, sitting at a red light, or traveling at a snail’s pace on a heavy volume highway.
Sometimes, idling a car is hard to avoid. Unfortunately, idling can be bad for your car, as well as the environment. There are many parking lots and streets that do not allow idling for more than two minutes.
Idling wastes as much as 3.9 billion gallons of gasoline each year.
Government laws have become stricter in terms of fuel economy and emission rules. As a result, many new models have come out with this start-stop feature.
Automatic start-stop can be found in hybrid electric vehicles, but there are some non-electric vehicles that also have the feature.
The automatic start-stop system was created to shut down and restart a car’s internal engine on its own. By doing so, a driver would be able to cut back on their fuel costs, as well as emissions.
Benefits of the Automatic Start-Stop System
- Cuts back on fuel costs
- Lowers emissions
- Great for cars in high traffic areas
- Great for drivers who are on the road a lot
Concerns About the Start-Stop Feature
Because auto start-stop vehicles are turning over their engines a lot, many people worry that this is doing greater harm to their engines.
While it’s true that the starting and stopping of the engine are what causes the most wear and tear, this only occurs when the engine is cold.
For example, if the car has been off for more than a few hours, then it’s engine start will be cold. However, with auto start-stop technology, the engine is still hot during the drive.
This helps to make the autostart “easier” on the engine, and it can be done many times without great effect.
Also, auto start-stop technology will restart a still car if the engine temperature drops.
Slow Response Time
The technology sounds like it’s a no-brainer for drivers. However, there are some worries about how helpful the system is and whether it will damage a car.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was curious about how efficient non-hybrid cars were with the feature. The questions came about in February 2001 and looked at non-hybrid Hondas.
Their worries were based on the fact that non-hybrid Hondas tended to lurch forward when the auto start feature kicked in. The cars were not supposed to lurch forward, but rather gradually creep forward smoothly.
The electric hybrids that have the auto start feature had almost zero delays between stationary and moving. This is believed to be because of the instant power sent from the battery to the electric motors.
Gasoline and micro-hybrids, on the other hand, were experiencing slight delays that created a much more obvious lurch back into movement.
The fear was that the cars could actually lurch into other vehicles ahead, creating accidents and longer idling for other cars as a result.
Wear Over Time
It has also been argued that a lack of oil lubrication might also be an issue for the auto start-stop feature. After long-term use with auto start, it’s possible for extra wear down to occur.
This would be a result of the crankshaft bearing half shells and big end bearings moving into high-speed movement before they’re given enough film.
Without the proper lubrication, before movements are made, metal ends up rubbing against metal without the right protection. During research, traditional bearing shells showed serious wear down after only 100,000 starts.
Poor Battery Power
Much research has been done around the topic of the auto start/stop feature. One issue that has risen was the problem of battery power.
Start-stop features rely on the power of the car’s battery. The most common battery used in vehicles today are AGM batteries or Absorbent Glass Mat batteries.
Unfortunately, after a great deal of testing, AGM batteries prove to lose their ability to support the start-stop feature over time. There are other battery options, but most car companies still use the AGM lead-acid batteries.
Solutions to Auto Start-Stop Problems
As was stated, many car designs began to experience a wearing down with the auto start/stop.
As a solution, future engines with the start-stop feature would need to be designed for 200,000 to 300,000 starts. This could help to avoid early wear.
More Powerful Batteries
The traditional AGM battery no longer supports the power of the auto start/stop feature. One vehicle that does utilize other batteries is Suzuki, which uses one lithium-ion battery inside its cars.
Fuel Efficiency Testing
Many drivers are still unsure about the benefits of an auto start/stop vehicle. However, some fuel efficiency tests suggest that there are financial benefits to applying this feature.
Three cars were tested, including a 2014 Mini Cooper, a 2014 BMW and a 2015 Jaguar. In the end, all cars saved on gas if they were used with the auto start-stop feature.
Extra costs were saved if the car ran without its air conditioning or heat on. One key to getting the most out of the feature was learning to start and stop properly.
Those who slide through a stop sign as opposed to fully stopping or those creep up slowly at red lights won’t get as much of a benefit from the feature. Patient drivers will likely get the most from the start-stop detail.
It seems that the newer the model of a car, the better its auto start-stop feature will run. As a result, the vehicle is even less likely to have any kind of long-term damage.
Some wear may occur in non-electric cars, which seem to struggle a little more with the technology. However, most agree that the auto start-stop was designed with long-term driving in mind, and doesn’t create much damage.