Stop with the stop-starts in older cars

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Golf cart with a Great Dane

Stop-start technology started in battery-powered vehicles such as golf carts. Image: Flickr / sergemelki / CC-BY-SA

Many of the newest hybrid vehicles make use of a basic-but-revolutionary concept. When the vehicle isn’t moving, the engine shuts off, saving power. Some are now suggesting that shutting off a gas-powered engine could be a way to save significant amounts of fuel.

The idea of stop starts

Called “stop starts” or “stop-start technology,” the idea of turning off a vehicle while it would normally idle is very popular in most electric and hybrid vehicles. By preventing idling, which is tough on most engines, this method of saving fuel also helps prevent wear and tear on the engine. Stop-start technology started in small elecric vehicles, such as golf carts.

Using stop-start on older vehicles

Some extreme fuel-saving enthusiasts have started advocating for everyday drivers to start shutting off their vehicles at every stop. There are automatic systems in the works for non-hybrid vehicles, but right now, a stop-start means physically turning the key off and back on. This has long been recommended as an environmental move when there will be periods of long idling, such as when waiting for a train. It is technically possible to shut your vehicle down every time you stop and re-start it every time you need to move. It will save you in fuel costs, but it will not necessarily save you money.

The danger of manual stop-start

If you are planning on trying manual stop-start methods to save fuel, you could be putting your vehicle in danger. If you have an in-town commute or come to a full stop more than three times a day, you could be putting very significant stress on your starting system. The battery-and-starter motor system in most vehicles is simply not set up to turn over dozens of times a day. Extended periods of stop-start activity will eventually damage the battery, alternator, flywheel gear and starter motor. All of these are expensive to replace and will likely cost more than the small amount of fuel you will save. Unless your vehicle is built with a alternator starter, rather than a flywheel, you should only turn off your vehicle if you will be idling for a long period of time.

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